Celebrities Love Napa Valley: Best Wineries, Tours, Accommodations & Dining
You say Napa, we say wine! Napa Valley is one of the premier travel destinations in the world. A favorite of Robert Redford, Jeff Gordon, Joe Montana, Carlos Santana, Mario Batali, Dan Akroyd, Sting, Sir Cliff Richard, Bob Dylan, Gerard Depardieu, Sting, Olivia Newton John and many other celebs – Napa Valley can easily be described as heaven on earth! Whether you are wine tasting, dining at renowned restaurants, pampering yourself at a spa, or just enjoying your stay at quaint bed & breakfasts, hotels or resorts – there’s something for everyone at Napa Valley!
journeyPod is here to give you a few more travel tricks and “off-the beaten path” spots to try when in Napa Valley. The wineries journeyPod visited are off the major roads, they are 6 miles up a mountain, or several miles back a private road. And, there are no signs. No sir! These exclusive, private wineries are by appointment only and definitely worth the extra travel time. This is where you go not to buy a bottle or two–but a case or two.
Gargiulo Vineyards is located in the tiny town of Oakville, on the Oakville Cross Road. If you know Napa, you know the Oakville Cross Road is home to Oakville Grocery–the best place for deli delights for that picnic lunch in the vineyards! Also on the Oakville Cross Road you’ll find a hidden gem called Gargiulo. No signs, and by appointment only, Jeff and Valerie Gargiulo purchased 40 acres in 1992 and the rest is history. They produce only 3,500 cases of wine per year. They schedule only two appointments per day, so call a few weeks ahead to make your appointment, and ask for Sharon. The wine tasting here consists of a relax setting and soft music. Try the Aprile-it’s 96% sangiovese and 4% cab. They only make 1000 cases of it and at $40 – it’s a steal!
Our next stop took us six miles up a mountain and across the Napa County line into Sonoma County. Pride Mountain Vineyards is the only vineyard i the nation that is on a county line. The views from atop the mountain are breathtaking. Even at 10:30am we could still see the fog lingering in the treetops, waiting to be burned off by the sun. While Pride only distributes about 20% of the wines out of state, they do distribute to one major well-known address, The White House! The first vintage was 1991 and they have been producing award-winning wines ever since. Still a small winery at 20,000 cases they have 90 acres of vineyards. Pride is known for its Merlots–and trust us, there is no stigma attached o this Merlot! Call ahead for a 45 minute tour and request a barrel tasting with Tim.
Our last stop was Robinson Family Vineyards and boy did we have a good time here. They produce less than 1,500 cases and it’s 100% family owned and run. This is what wine making is all about. Tom Jinks, owner, manager, winemaker, jack-of-all-trades gave journeyPod a tour of the vineyards–only 7 acres are planted in the Stag Leap’s District and 4 acres are planted in Coombsville. Try the Reserve Cab – they only make 114 cases and they are all numbered.
If you’re looking for a nice place to enjoy a glass, you may find it difficult. One place you can enjoy it is at Chateau Maramont in Los Angeles. Tom took us on a tour of his private cellar where he has bottles from the early 1940′s! The wine cellar is a must-see and Tom could tell you stories all day that will just make you smile and really appreciate the basic, true love of wine-making. Call ahead for an appointment. If you wanna arrive in style, call Classic Convertible Tours for a ride in a 1947 convertible Packard. And if you’re gonna be in San Diego this November for the San Diego Bay Food & Wine Festival, stop by and see Tom and taste his wine!
journeyPod recommends exploring the tiny town of Yountville when it comes to hidden-gem restaurants. We suggest you start off at the restaurant at Hotel Bardessono and try the sweet corn soup. It’s outta this world! Then walk about 300 yards down the street to Redd for the tuna tartare. Now there are two versions, the restaurant version and the bar version. And even if you’re sitting at the bar like we were, order the restaurant style. Pair that with one of their signature drinks, like the “Thyme and Punishment”. Then move along, to Bouchon. It’s a short stroll around the corner and so worth the dessert! Try their signature chocolate bouchon (means “cork” in French) brownies with homemade mint ice cream. And if you like French pastries be sure to come back for breakfast in the morning at Bouchon Bakery. Fresh-baked french pastries and coffees with a line out the door each morning at 7am when they open. Not to be missed. And if you are on your way to Pride Mountain Vineyards, stop at Cook in St. Helena. But be sure to make a reservation as they only have 11 tables! If Cook is full, a great back-up is Press, also in St. Helena. Sit outside and order a big juicy steak!
Located in Yountville, walking distance from Bouchon and Redd, is Bardessono. Billed as the “greenest hotel in the nation,” the property is very unique and unlike anything within miles. The very sleek modern/contemporary design is sure to make you look twice. Most of the materials are reclaimed or recycled. For example, the ceiling in the lounge is made from reclaimed wine barrels–how cool is that! And for all you jet-setters who have been to Toyko, you’ll appreciate the toilets in the lobby.
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