anyone been to Napa, CA lately??

August 18, 2019

we are headin there in September and looking for a place to stay. nothing too fancy $$$$, but something middle of the road. would love to have a vineyard view. we have never been there so its a little overwhelming looking on-line.

anyway, what town? not really loving the idea a Napa City, was thinking St. Helena, Yountville ...a little more on the quiet side, we don't have to be in the hustle and bustle, unless that's the place to be....

thought we would stay in the center of Napa itself and then travel half way up, then half way down, to make it easier, less driving. would lilke to see all of Napa and Napa Valley if possible.

staying for 2 full days but could make it 3 if needed...

also, restaurants recommendations would also be appreciated

TIA :)

Comments (21)

  • Zalco/bring back Sophie!

    Westin Verasa is centrally located, not expensive and decent. For restaurants Bistro Jeanty, and AdHoc are our favorites.

    EDITED to delete Chandon rec, as Elmer notes below, it is closed.

    sprtphntc7a thanked Zalco/bring back Sophie!
  • DawnInCal

    We were in the area back in May and stayed in Calistoga which is a cute little town about 15 minutes north of St. Helena. Calistoga is known for their hot springs and mud baths and has several spas where people can go to experience both. Keep in mind that the spas won't allow people in the mud baths if they have high blood pressure for safety reasons.

    We stayed at the Up Valley Inn and enjoyed it. While it doesn't have a view of the vineyards, it is located on the outskirts of town, but within walking distance to Calistoga. The Inn also has a geothermal mineral water swimming pool and whirlpool, a steam room and a sauna for their guests to use. We made use of all of those facilities while there and thoroughly enjoyed them.

    Nearby is the Sterling Vineyard which ferries visitors by aerial tram to their vineyard that is located is up on a hill that overlooking the valley. Berringer Vineyard is located in St. Helena. Their grounds are gorgeous and it is listed under both the National Register of Historic Places and as a California Historical Landmark.

    Have fun on your trip. I'm thinking about going back this fall for a few days to visit my sister.

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  • sjerin

    I attended a family reunion in Napa, in July. We stayed in town in an area I would not describe as bucolic, but our family tries to keep the hotel prices down a bit. Not that it was cheap--nothing is, up that way. It was the Hampton Inn and appeared to be a recent build, sharing a parking lot with a theater, a farmer's market and a restaurant to two. Doesn't sound like much but I must say, it was quite nice. The hotel itself was great and breakfast was very good. We drove to Sonoma one day and the traffic was awful, of course. Bring your patience with you, because it'll be that way up and down the valley. And have a great time!

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  • sushipup1

    Traffic will always be worst on weekend/holidays. If you are going mid-week. it's a lot nicer. And the Sonoma Plaza area would be by far my favorite destination.


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  • chisue

    Has everything recovered from the big fires?

    Heed the advice about traffic. We attended a wedding near Santa Rosa many years ago. It took us almost as long to drive up there from San Francisco on a Friday afternoon as it had taken to fly to San Francisco from Chicago. (It was a beautiful wedding and reception, cleverly scheduled for an evening with a full moon.)

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  • Elmer J Fudd

    September is part of high season so you'll find higher prices for rooms than at other times of the year. I would avoid Fri-Sun because it will be even more crowded than its peak time normal.

    If you have a favorite winery, check to see if its tastings are by advance appointment only.

    I think people who enjoy the finest of restaurants should experience the French Laundry. A Michelin 3 star holder, it's all you'd expect and more. Same with the price. Reservations are done months in advance (I forget how many) and nothing will be available for September. If it interests you, plan for it for your next trip. Be sure to pass by its veggie/herb garden, it's right in town (Yountville) by the restaurant.

    I second wholeheartedly the suggestions for Bistro Jeanty and Ad Hoc (owned by Thomas Keller), both are excellent and these are our two favorites in the area. I'd be careful to get advance reservations for those also. I looked up the restaurant at Domaine Chandon (where we haven't been in more than a decade) to learn it closed in 2014. I know it struggled for business at times.

    For me, Napa is an uninteresting town trying to be something more. It's a reasonable place to stay, there are some larger, newer, and less expensive hotel chain types than can be found up the valley. And not far from the action. We used to prefer staying at the Vintage House in Yountville on our Wine Country visits but its prices are now very high. Save for a special occasion.

    Enjoy your visit.

    sprtphntc7a thanked Elmer J Fudd
  • Zalco/bring back Sophie!

    Aw, thanks for catching the Chandon gaff, Elmer. Apologies for the bad info. I am seriously bummed. Jeanty was the chef at Chandon, long ago, btw. I will delete the misinformation above.

    sprtphntc7a thanked Zalco/bring back Sophie!
  • Elmer J Fudd

    No harm, no foul.

    As an example of the same thing, I was going to mention that Jeanty had a restaurant in SF. I looked it up first and found that it too closed.

    M. Jeanty is French and so he knows how to do the dishes well that are expected and typical in a French bistro. His name is an interesting homonym, pronounced the same as the French word "gentil", an adjective used to describe a person as being nice/pleasant/ friendly, etc.,

    sprtphntc7a thanked Elmer J Fudd
  • jakkom

    I'm not sure how the Westin Verasa was listed as moderate-priced? Even the Andaz in downtown Napa was only $378/nite for a midweek stay in mid-Sept., with the Verasa at $479/nite.

    Although we haven't tried it, the RiverPointe rates as well as those two on hotels.com, and runs $267/nite.

    Also, I'd call up some of the B&Bs in Napa. Beazley House is gorgeous (we stayed in the Carriage House), as is Hennessy House (which we viewed during the annual Christmas wine walk festival that allows you to visit 13 of the Napa B&Bs. These were all very close to downtown - one is actually in the downtown area - and as long as you look for a private bathroom ("ensuite") they're fine.

    However, as pointed out, much depends on where you're going. Decide on your wineries, make reservations, and it'll narrow down your hotel location. If you're going to visit wineries up in the Calistoga area, it's a tiring drive back and forth from the city of Napa. Even with little traffic it's a 20 min drive and on weekends it can take 45 min to an hour.

    IOHO the best chef at Etoile @Domaine Chandon was Perry Hoffman, who went to SHED Healdsburg after Etoile closed. He left there last year to travel around Europe and is now working with his family who own the Boonville Hotel. He's now the exec chef at the hotel's restaurant.

    We go to Napa fairly often and being retired, avoid weekends like the plague, LOL. Our current favs are:

    1. Gatehouse at Culinary Institute of America (CIA) Greystone, St. Helena, Unfortunately, only open during school terms as this is the restaurant staffed front and back by senior students, 2 mos. from graduation. Small, cheap, and stunning prix fixe. Much better than the Restaurant at Copia which the CIA also runs, but that is a professional operation separate from the school.
    2. Cook St. Helena. We are lovers of French and Northern Italian, but Jude Wilmoth,
      chef/owner, is simply a terrific Southern Italian cook. And the Steve's Hardware has a specialty kitchenwares store a few doors down that is far more pleasant than Shackford's/Napa.
    3. Solbar, Calistoga. A lovely place to eat outside on their very fine patio. It is the restaurant of the Solage Resort, and is actually managed by the Auberge du Soleil restaurant team. They recently hired a new chef who has brought Solbar back from the doldrums. When they lost chef Brandon Sharp the food went downhill, but Gustavos Rios took over in January 2019. He worked under Sharp for years and reviews since he took over have been very favorable.
    4. Carpe Diem Wine Bar, Napa. Hearty servings of amazingly good food (it soaks up all that alcohol, I guess). This is some of the best food we've ever gotten in Napa, where we have too often been underimpressed by over-hyped places. Besides, any place that puts Brillat-Savarin on a cheese plate gets my vote, LOL. Menu changes, but my DH called their shrimp & grits "the best he's ever had", and he has them whenever we find them. He said they ranked with chef Sophinia Uong's version when she worked at Pican/Oakland. Oh, and good wine, too - interesting small producers that are hard to find.
    5. Picnic stuff for lunch? Follow the locals to Browns Valley Market, just outside downtown Napa. Good sandwiches, baguettes; modest but choice cheese selection (the clerk recommended the Castelbelbo, a sheep/goat/cow milk cheese, to us, and it was excellent!)
    6. In the same tiny mall, walk around the corner to La Foret Chocolates, by a French Laundry alumni who still supplies TFL with its mignardises.

    If you are wandering around Napa, we had an excellent time at Prime Wine Bar in downtown Napa. They offer both their own wines and Trahan wines. We preferred Prime's cabs, but it's worth asking if they have any of the Trahan rose made from 100% Pinot Noir. It is the closest thing to liquid fresh peaches I've had. I'm not normally into sweet wines except for Port and Sauternes, but this rose had both the aroma and pure flavor of ripe peaches - lovely to end a summertime meal.

    Have fun! Don't rush around trying to do too much, either. Pick a couple of things, make reservations for everything, and just relax.

    ** Oh, yeah - please DON'T make a restaurant reservation and then blow it off without at least calling. Please, please, don't. Not a nice thing to do when there are 6 parties who would love to not have to wait around and are willing to take your place.

    And yes, you should make reservations even for lunch (unless you're doing the fast/casual thing). You can always call and cancel. We are continually astonished when we walk in and get our [reserved] table, how many people are standing around waiting because they didn't make a reservation somewhere. The Napa Valley gets 11+ MILLION visitors every year, and I swear 75% of them show up between July and mid-September!

    sprtphntc7a thanked jakkom
  • Elmer J Fudd

    I think the peak season extends beyond mid-September. The harvest can extend well into October and for some reason that's a draw. More likely it's because September and October are often the nicest months of the summer weather-wise, still quite dry, warm and sunny. As I'm sure you know jakkom.

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  • sprtphntc7a

    this is great info, thanks everyone!!..

    sushipup: we went to Sonoma last time and loved it. so going to give Napa a whirl...

    yes, planning on being there Sunday & Monday night and head to our next destination on tuesday . this can change if availability and rates are not to our liking... we can go mid-week if necessary...

  • sushipup1

    Sonoma is still my favorite. We have friends in Napa who hang out at Downtown Joe's. They say it's where to go to escape the tourists!

    sprtphntc7a thanked sushipup1
  • sprtphntc7a

    jakkom, are you referring to this hotel/resort

  • sprtphntc7a

    just made reservation for Downtown Joe's!, TY!!

  • Lars

    Sounds like you are already set, butS like Sushipup, I prefer Sonoma.

    For a future trip, you might want to consider Paso Robles, which is about half-way between SF and Los Angeles. It has retained the small town atmosphere that Sonoma had 30 years ago, and it also has over 200 wineries and quite a few olive orchards. I like Paso Robles for the olives, but it has excellent restaurants. It also has hot mineral baths (I guess like Calistoga), but I read that they smelled like sulfur, and so we have avoided them.

  • sprtphntc7a

    Getting close but still need a hotel!

    We actually might be able to make a stop in Paso Robles.... have to check the logistics...we r starting in SLO & ending in SF area... mostly coastal except for Napa.. staying 2 days in Big Sur which is my favorite place!!

  • sushipup1

    Oh, I'd love to come along. When driving up the coast, depending on your schedule, have lunch in Moss Landing. Phil's Fish Market or The Whole Enchilada or the Haute Enchilada (which is also an art gallery).

    ETA: Moss Landing is 1/2 way between Monterey and Santa Cruz.

    sprtphntc7a thanked sushipup1
  • Elmer J Fudd

    Here's another opinion or two to contrast with what's been said:

    Some day the Paso Robles area will be an important wine center, like both Napa and Sonoma are today. It's not there yet. Some good wine is produced there and a lot of mediocre wine too. There just isn't the depth of vineyard and wine-making expertise nor the trial and error for technique and terroir that's gone on in the North Bay for decades and decades, to give them a comparable standing as a region. Also, to show you that glasses can be half full or half empty depending on one's perspective, I agree that Paso has still retained its small town feeling. It's a cow town (literally, the historical ag emphasis was cattle ranching), always has been a cow town, and doesn't have the understated sophistication or great food choices of the world-renown North Bay wine areas. If I were a visitor to the area, I wouldn't lose a day for the Bay Area/San Francisco or even Monterey, by spending time in Paso Robles.

    On the restaurant scene, I think sushipup and I have different views too. I don't think Phil's or the other places in Moss Landing are worth stopping for. There are better choices in Monterey and if you want seafood with scenery, both the Monterey Wharf and the same in Santa Cruz have places with better views, better atmosphere and better food,

    sprtphntc7a thanked Elmer J Fudd
  • sushipup1

    We tried to avoid the tourist areas, altho we did do mid-week lunches at the Sandbar on Wharf #2 in Monterey. As for Santa Cruz, my local friends there did the same, we mainly met for lunches at dive joints.

    sprtphntc7a thanked sushipup1
  • sheilajoyce_gw

    Daughter and SIL join his parents every year for a 4 day weekend in Napa while I babysit the boys. They stay in Yountville and eat at some great restaurants in the area.

    sprtphntc7a thanked sheilajoyce_gw
  • jakkom

    Yeah, sprtphntc7a, unfortunately if you're going to Napa any time during harvest (which is starting earlier and earlier every year, due to....well, you know) hotel reservations are best made months in advance. But for only two days it doesn't seem worth trying to save a few bucks - okay, a few hundred bucks, after taxes - and getting a mediocre place where thin walls keep you up all nite long!

    Yes, Elmer, agree there are still crowds in October. But nowhere near the # of people in August and early September. And if you're midweek, no problem at all after Labor Day - well, except for that pesky hotel problem.

    It can be very difficult in Napa to find a place at short notice, compared to Sonoma, which is so much bigger a county with greater #s of moderate-priced hotels available. Although it should be noted we are still seeing many of those Sonoma Cnty hotels full of construction workers during the week, while the tourists are more weekend visitors.

    sprtphntc7a thanked jakkom

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