Everybody knows why to go to Napa Valley, right? Wineries. Lots and lots of wineries. It’s the most famous wine region in America, and it’s the second most popular tourist attraction in California after Disneyland, with over 3.3 million visitors per year (probably the first most popular, if you just count adults). You go to Napa Valley to taste great wine in a beautiful location. Year after year, the place is always great, and what more is there to say?
The thing is, though, if you spend more than a day there—a given if you’re coming from farther away than the Bay Area—you need a place to stay, restaurants at which to have meals, even, possibly, places to shop. And since an unusual number of excellent new places to stay or dine or spend your hard-earned cash have recently opened in Napa Valley, now—not next year, not five years from now—really is the time to go.
1. Cadet Wine Bar
This laid-back winemaker hangout hidden in an alleyway in downtown Napa serves wines from around the world (not often the case in a valley that produces more than 8 million cases of its own wine each year), as well as local bottlings from some of the region’s more adventurous vintners; plus a lot of terrific craft beers. And, if you buy a bottle, you get to play an album on the bar’s turntable from the co-owners' wide selection of old vinyl records. cadetbeerandwinebar.com
When chef Curtis Di Fede, cofounder of downtown Napa’s incredibly popular Italian trattoria Oenotri, left the restaurant last August, everyone wondered what his next move would be. No one guessed it would be an izakaya (a casual pub-style Japanese restaurant). When it opens in late 2015 or early 2016, Minimashi, also in downtown Napa, will offer plenty of ramen, yakitori and other small plates, plus drink choices spanning the Pacific: from Napa Valley Cabernets and Chardonnays to Japanese sakes, shochus and whiskies. miminashi.com
3. Meadowood Spa
As if Meadowwood weren’t luxurious enough already—its immaculately appointed rooms are incredibly peaceful and private, and its three Michelin star restaurant is helmed by chef Christopher Kostow, a 2009 F&W Best New Chef—now the resort has built an ultra-luxe spa with eight suites and two relaxation gardens. Among the treatments is “From the Earth,” which utilizes a gentle scrub made with black walnuts from the estate, aromatherapy oils and other natural, stress-reducing strategies inspired by Meadowood’s environment. meadowood.com
4. Harvest Inn by Charlie Palmer
Chef (and part-time hotelier) Charlie Palmer opened this 74-room inn a little more than a year ago in hotel-starved St. Helena, a perfect mid-valley point for winery visiting. To increase the draw, he also hired chef Levi Mezick (formerly of Monterey’s acclaimed Restaurant 1833) to run Harvest Table, the inn’s new restaurant. Look for seasonal, superlocal ingredients from the restaurant’s gardens in dishes like roasted carrots with vadouvan and poached sole with lemon thyme and garden beans. harvestinn.com
5. K. Laz Wine Collection
Kerrin Laz, the longtime head wine buyer for Dean & DeLuca, left earlier this year to open this exquisitely designed tasting room and wine store (and online wine shop) in the heart of Yountville. Laz’s longtime connections with the valley’s most sought-after producers give her access to bottles that many people never get a chance to taste, names like Bryant Family, Schrader and Maybach. “I’ll be pouring wines from the places you’d never usually have access to,” she says, along with up-and-coming, boutique stars such as Kesner and Auteur. Bespoke tastings run from $35 to $165 per person, depending on the wines; the online store features 150 to 200 curated, hard-to-find selections at a time. klazwine.securecheckout.com or 707-415-5040
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