Napa Valley is such a dreamy destination. I have fallen in love with Napa Valley as much as I’m with Paris, and that means I will have to go back at least once per year.
We have been to Napa Valley so many times but this is our first real trip with thorough research and planning. With more than 400 wineries and so little time, the theme of this trip is to find photogenic places but honestly anywhere in the wine country is a photo opportunity.
Four days is a great length of time to discover Napa Valley. If you have four days, I recommend following this itinerary and adding a spa, hot springs, or hot air balloon for a truly romantic weekend getaway.
Table of Contents
- Day 1
- Day 2
- Day 3
- Day 4
- Day 5 SFO TO LAX
We flew to San Francisco from Los Angeles and rented a car to get to Napa Valley. Our flight got delayed twice plus with San Francisco rush hour we didn’t arrive until 8 PM, just in time for our 8:30 PM dinner reservation on-site at Redd Wood.
Check-In: North Block Hotel
We were greeted with super friendly valet attendant and front desk who welcomed us with sparkling wine to start our tasting bud.
It may not be a 5-star hotel, but the service and hospitality throughout our stay were outstanding. Every single one with an exclamation point was well trained to treat us like royalty and make us feel belong.
North Block Hotel is a small boutique hotel in Yountville right on Washington St with only 20 rooms.
They partner with some tasting room nearby that you can literally walk to and show your room key to get free wine tasting. Girard was mentioned along with another one I didn’t quite catch the name. Our weekend was packed with plans we didn’t have time for it.
The lobby is compact and cozy reminding me of a model home style.
Dinner at Redd Wood Pizza Restaurant
Redd Wood was one of our favorite meals during this trip. The anchovy pizza and pasta are house-made, the chopped salad was equally fresh with locally sourced ingredients. My favorite was the Bucatini pasta that I couldn’t recommend enough. I regret not eating it again on this trip. The pasta was cooked to perfection with a chewy soft texture.
It was a time-unrestricted day, we didn’t have any wine tasting appointment but I know a few places that we could walk in or go there just for the view.
Address: 1 California Dr, Yountville, CA 94599
Hours: Monday-Sunday 10 AM – 5 PM
Phone: (888) 242-6366
Domaine Chandon was the first one we visited. A French-owned sparkling winery in California, easy-going and flexible atmosphere for first-time Napa visitors. Beautiful grounds that you can roam around without buying a tasting, and a lot of seating outdoors. You can order a cocktail or buy a bottle to share. I bought a mini bottle which can fill two glasses.
Artesa Vineyards & Winery
Address: 1345 Henry Rd, Napa, CA 94559
Hours: Monday – Sunday 10 AM – 5 PM
Phone: (707) 224-1668
Up next is Artesa, where I already did a tasting at my sister’s bachelorette, and taking advantage of the clear sunny sky we only came for the view. It is said you can see San Francisco skyline from here but I’m not sure I was able to spot it, or the sky was still not clear enough.
Far Niente Winery
Address: 1350 Acacia Dr, Oakville, CA 94562
Hours: Monday – Sunday 10 AM – 3 PM
Phone: (707) 994-2861
We came here to explore the grounds but it was gated and you need an access code to get through.
Nevertheless, the road leading to it was stunning and beautiful with trees fully lined. Uber quiet and beautiful. We pulled over to take some photos.
Picnic at Napa Cellars
Address: 7481 St. Helena Highway South, Oakville, CA 94562
Hours: Daily 10 AM – 6 PM
Phone: (800) 535-6400
This was the same day we ate at Meadowood so we went around town to buy picnic supplies. I bought a charcuterie package, bread, and Kollar chocolates, and brought them to Napa Cellars to use the picnic area for a light lunch, and saved our stomach for the big event.
You don’t need to buy a tasting, however as a courtesy, we bought a glass of Merlot to pair with the food.
3-Star Michelin The Restaurant at Meadowood
Dining at The Restaurant at Meadowood (TRAM) was the main highlight of our trip to celebrate our 6th wedding anniversary. The service and food were phenomenal, and the perfect wine pairing from start to finish. No foie gras, truffle, or caviar, the delicacies that typically epitomize Michelin dining, but the specialty here is local, sustainable, Californian cuisine.
Address:1240 Duhig Rd, Napa, CA 94559
Hours: Daily 10 AM – 5:30 PM
Phone: (707) 257 – 0101
A reservation is required to go inside. There are several tastings to choose from. I did a flight of sparkling wines; it is great for beginners and on a light stomach at 12 pm with no lunch eaten prior.
It was so nice to be seated by the window for the view but even better outside if not for the rain. Not captured in photos but it overlooks CA 29. If you are ever driven by and want a photo postcard souvenir to bring home, the chateau is a great backdrop.
Newton Vineyard, A Mountain Cave Winery
Address: 2555 Madrona Ave, St Helena, CA 94574
Hours: 10:30 AM – 5:30 PM
Phone: (707) 204 – 7423
Later in the afternoon, we visited a vineyard in the mountain. An exclusive secret gem entered via St. Helena but technically outside of St. Helena after you drive long roads with many turns and pass two gates to finally get to the parking lot, park your car then pick up the phone inside the red telephone booth to call for your buggy ride up to the top.
You will soon see a garden like a mini Versailles of France built on top of the wine cave and ask yourself, am I really in Napa? My overcast pictures do not do it justice. The rainbow came out at last but you have to be there to hear the water fountain trickling and see the marvelous immaculate garden.
Must have a reservation and it includes a tour & tasting. Be prepared to spend at least two hours. We spent three because we stayed back to take photos. Each time slot is limited to 10 people but I feel they can fit two more people at the tasting table if you call and ask. The online reservation system does not allow exceeding the limit of 10.
Dinner at Thomas Keller Ad Hoc Restaurant
For dinner, I introduced my husband to Ad Hoc, a prix fixe 4-courses family-style menu that changes daily. You have no idea what you are going to eat that night and everyone is going to eat the same thing on the table. However, they do email the daily menu to your inbox in the morning if you choose to subscribe. I subscribed weeks before my arrival to gauge what could be expected on the menu.
You too can check the daily menu to make sure you will like what they are going to serve that night. Advanced reservation is highly recommended and you could always cancel later if you change your mind.
From observations of the daily menu, pork and chicken were on the menu at least once any given week, and all the other days were beef.
Even though the menu changes daily, you can always expect a salad, entree with two sides, cheese board, and dessert. All the dishes are served family-style while the dessert is individual.
Here is our menu that night.
Ad Hoc Dinner Menu – May 26, 2019
Dungeness crab, hobbs’ bacon, cherry tomatoes, breakfast radishes, red onion, creamy avocado dressing
Snake River Farms Black Label
Wagyu New York Strip Loin
creamy pearl barley, sautéed broccolini
‘looney-bin’ crackers, fig jam
Ice Cream Sundaes
vanilla ice cream
chocolate, butterscotch & strawberry sauces
toasted pearson pecans, whipped chantilly
It was my second time here. Fantastic service and delicious comfort food, however, it is casual dining with an upscale price. Dinner for two including wine plus tips is an easy $200. If you are a big fan of Thomas Keller, it is a chance to experience how he cooks at home.
Thomas Keller’s Buttermilk Fried Chicken at Addendum
Address: behind Ad Hoc, 6476 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599
Hours: Thursday – Saturday 11 AM – 2 PM
Order online: https://order.tkrg.com/menu/ad-hoc
So glad we got to try his famous buttermilk fried chicken. Luckily, it was open on Memorial Day otherwise I wouldn’t have any other chance on this trip.
I knew exactly what I wanted and ordered online for pickup to be time-efficient as our schedule was tight between lunch and a wine appointment.
We got a small bucket that includes about six pieces of chicken, and thoroughly enjoyed the lightly seasoned chicken with a nice crisp on the outside and tender meat inside.
Caymus Vineyard in Rutherford
Address: 700 Conn Creek Rd, Rutherford, CA 94573
Hours: Daily 9:30 AM – 4:30 PM
Phone: (707) 967-3010
Caymus Vineyard is owned by the Wagner family and the best tasting we had on the trip. We had a relaxing and intimate tasting in the tranquil garden.
The wines were being served to us one glass at a time. They are famous for Cabernet Sauvignon which was what we came for and it was amazing especially the Special Selection that costs twice as much than their regular cabernet sauvignon.
We also tried some of their other labels, Sea Sun Chardonnay, Mer Soleil Pinot Noir, and Red Schooner Malbec. Chardonnay and Malbec were really good.
The tasting fee is $50 per person and can be credited to any purchase. We bought two bottles to have shipped home.
Castello di Amorosa Castle Winery in Calistoga
I guess the famous Napa castle is known for its tour of the inspired Tuscany castle more than for wine. It’s definitely a tourist attraction with many foreigners and families with kids.
On Memorial Day, it felt like a tourist trap, way too crowded and hectic even the workers acted out of stress. I think we would enjoy it much more when it’s quiet.
Model Bakery in St. Helena
Address: 1357 Main St, St Helena, CA 94574
Phone: (707) 963-8192
On the way back to Yountville, we stopped at St. Helena, cute little town, for a bathroom break but merely an excuse to stop at Model Bakery for the WORLD FAMOUS hand-griddled English muffin, slightly crusted outside, soft and fluffy inside, the texture of a mochi donut.
Not a care for English muffin until I had a bite of love at first sight. Promise.
I bought a bag of six to bring home. Then days later, put in the toaster and spread some butter, and it still tastes as good.
It’s carb dangerous now that I know I could order more online from their website.
There is another location in Yountville but a grab and go version called Mini Model and only open until noon.
Up for baking? You can get The Model Bakery Cookbook: 75 Favorite Recipes from the Beloved Napa Valley Bakery on Amazon, which includes the English Muffin.
Dinner at RH Yountville
Address: 6725 Washington St. Yountville, CA 94599
Hours: Mon-Fri 11 AM – 10 PM, Sat-Sun 10 AM-10 PM
Phone: (707) 339-4654
Owned by the home store Restoration Hardware, RH Yountville is an indoor/outdoor compound consisted of a design gallery, outdoor lounge, restaurant, and a wine tasting room.
Imagine the big crystal chandeliers sparkle and dim at night, it is more romantic but impossible to capture, feel, and see via an iPhone camera. A 6:30 pm reservation was perfect for us to get some natural light and a little bit of golden ray through the glass roof. We were well shaded under the olive trees.
Even if you don’t plan to dine here, RH Yountville is worth a tour. You can walk around the hall to see its glamour and appreciate the incorporation of natural elements in the design.
The food was not exceptional and pricey, however, I highly recommend the Gem Lettuce salad. I love eating salad in Napa Valley. I can taste the freshness of these greens sourced directly from the local farms.
Day 5 SFO TO LAX
Breakfast at the hotel then headed to the airport. Lesson learned: we took CA-29 and got stuck in slow traffic because the road has only one lane in each direction though we left in the morning for a 12 PM flight. It took us two hours to arrive at SFO car rental and adding transit time to the terminal, we missed the cutoff for baggage check.
To make sure baggage is checked on the same flight, you must arrive 45 minutes prior to your flight time. So much for checking in early on Southwest for an A boarding, when we got to the gate, half of group B have boarded.
So, make sure to check traffic and get on an alternate route such as 80-Interstate.