We previously posted on the various Napa Valley wineries we visited when we last visited the area, as well as how to plan a trip to Napa. The agricultural diversity of the Napa Valley is considered by some to be “God’s gift to winemaking” and although it is known for its wine, it also has an amazing food scene and sports many luxury accommodations. There are 4 Michelin one-star rated restaurants and one three-star — Thomas Keller’s (no relation, unfortunately) The French Laundry. Additionally, twenty-five restaurants carry the Bib-Gourmand or L’assitte rating. There are also numerous luxury accommodations of which we were lucky enough to stay at three. We tried to get a reservation at The French Laundry but with a party of 2, the spots were limited. It sounded like a trick would be to find at least a party of 4 to increase your chances of securing a reservation as there were plenty of reservations for tables of 4 and 6 even after the tables for 2 were sold out.
As far as food goes, we found that 2 meals a day were perfect, especially with the small bite pairings many of the wineries gave along with their tastings. Some of this was also likely due to us being from the East Coast and the fact the 3-hour time difference made our 1 o’clock lunches feel like 4 o’clock dinners.
We decided to go with three locations for our hotel stays. We started in Calistoga where we stayed at Solage Auberge for 3 nights before moving to the Hotel Yountville for 1 night then onto the Carneros Resort for 3 nights.
Solage, an Auberge Resort in Calistoga
When we booked this resort, we were deciding between the new Four Seasons Napa Valley and the Solage. They are directly across the street from each other but due to the reputation of the Auberge resorts in the Valley and the fact that Solage has been around for a while we chose to stay there.
We had a studio cabin with a private patio, a separate tub and shower, refrigerator, fireplace, soaring ceilings, and a Nespresso machine. It was incredibly comfortable, romantic, and quiet.
The first night we ate at the Solbar (the resort’s fine dining establishment) for dinner. We were lucky enough to take advantage of an “open that bottle” event the sommelier was promoting as it was the last weekend in February. This special event allowed us to taste a glass of a 1993 Seavey Cabernet. The “open that bottle” idea was started by the New York Times. The idea is if one has an older bottle of fine wine, they tend to hold onto it for a special occasion. Needless to say, the older the bottle becomes the more “special” the occasion needs to be to justify opening the wine. Many wines end up aging past the best drinking period, thus wasting a magnificent wine. This effort encourages wine drinkers and restaurants to open their oldest bottle the last Saturday of the month.
For dinner we shared the roasted octopus and Santa Barbara Sea Urchin. These were both delicious and it was our first-time having umami. I have to say we were pleasantly surprised at how much we enjoyed the sea urchin. We ordered the Crab-o-nara and pan roasted cauliflower for our entrees and were incredibly happy with the size of the portions and how tasty both dishes were. The presentation of the food was also five star.
The restaurant was cozy and relaxed, and the service was fantastic as well. We were lucky enough to score an interesting half-moon booth near the back where we could take in the entire ambiance of the restaurant. After dinner, full and tired from a long day of travel, we headed back to the room after stopping for a moment at the huge firepit to watch the night sky before going to sleep.
We had in-room dining from Solbar each morning calling at 7 when they opened (being on East Coast time still, we were often up at 4 am, so breakfast couldn’t come soon enough). While waiting for our breakfast to arrive, we would relax on the porch, have our morning coffee and tea, and talk about the adventures for the day. It was an exceptional way to start the morning. We had the chilaquiles rojos and breakfast platter all three mornings, as they were delicious. We also had the delicious handmade donut holes twice as well, saving some for lunch or after-dinner snacks.
We spent time at the adult bathhouse, a free amenity for guests to use and full of fantastic experiences. The Bathhouse has three different temperature larger pools, two small cold plunge pools of different temperatures (50 and 65 degrees F), and two saunas. Each pool and sauna had different mineralities, aromas and humidities allowing for everyone to rest, relax, detox, and recuperate. There is also an amazing spa with many treatments, as well as a great juice bar, so you have something healthy to sip while you relax.
The resort pool area contains a nearly Olympic length pool, 2 hot tubs, as well as two bocce courts and three cornhole setups. The pool area also contains the new Picobar where one can get bites and enjoy a drink while watching a game or taking in some sun. The only downside to the Picobar was that it had very limited hours and often closed by 5pm. It would have been a great little bar to get light snacks and drinks at the end of the day.
On our first full day in the Valley we enjoyed the Chef’s Tasting at Brian Arden. We discussed the winery in our earlier post. The husband/wife-owned winery does a food pairing lunch in a special tasting room with an open kitchen.
The food was spectacular and paired excellently with the food. The chef engaged with us individually and really made the experience wonderful. It is definitely well worth getting this on your schedule. This is also an amazingly private way to experience the beauty of the region and learn about the wine. It was also only eight hundred feet from the Solage so we could walk there and back — an added bonus when consuming the larger portions of wine afforded by the lunch tasting.
The day we spent tasting in Oakville (Opus One, Silver Oak, Far Niente) we made a pit stop between Far Niente and Opus One (close enough to the grocery to walk) at the Oakville Grocery for a flatbread and sandwich.
This place is amazingly well equipped with food, outdoor dining space, a pizza oven, full sandwich area, ice cream stand and full-service wine, beer and spirits. Definitely a must-do while visiting the Oakville area. There is also a grocery in Healdsburg if you find yourself out that way. There is a museum also on the property with a separate wine tasting room, but unfortunately, we did not have time to check it out. That will be on our list for next time.
Auberge du Soleil- The Restaurant
Founded in 1981 by visionary French restaurateur, Claude Rouas, as Napa Valley’s first fine-dining establishment, The Restaurant has maintained its legacy as a “must experience” culinary destination for more than 40 years. Executive Chef Robert Curry sources the freshest ingredients from local purveyors, harvested at their peak of flavor to create delicious dishes that showcase the region’s best seasonal ingredients.
The restaurant at the Auberge du Soleil has had a Michelin Star award for fourteen consecutive years, won the Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence 2021 Logo, as well as the Forbes 4 Star Travel Guide 2021 Logo. Robert Curry has served as Executive Chef at Auberge du Soleil since 2005, overseeing the culinary program at The Restaurant, Bistro & Bar, and Private Dining. His experience in the traditions of California and French cuisine inspire the menus at Auberge du Soleil. Curry began his career in LA at Ma Cuisine and Wolfgang Puck. He received his degree from the Culinary Institute of America, Hyde Park, and went to work for Citrus Restaurant in New York after graduation. He travelled to France and worked at Hotel de Paris, Moët & Chandon Résidence de Trianon in Epernay, and in Paris at the two-star Michel Rostang. He then served as Executive Chef at the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant at the CIA in St Helena, California, and at Domaine Chandon in Yountville as Executive Sous Chef then as Executive Chef before arriving at the Auberge in 2005.
We were excited to eat lunch there as dinner didn’t work in our plans. Valet parking is free and with the limited parking spaces is a necessity. The food was good but not great. Perhaps our expectations were too high. We had the Wild Gulf Shrimp and Potato Gnocchi to start, and the Pan-seared Hawaiian Wahoo and Cabernet-dusted Short rib for our entrees. We also had a nice Auberge cabernet which went well with the meal. The view was stunning, and the price was very reasonable for a Michelin starred restaurant. We would definitely recommend lunch or dinner when it stays light later so you can enjoy the amazing views from the patio.
After 3 beautiful days and nights at the Solage we drove our way down to the Hotel Yountville in the town for one night.
We stayed in a deluxe king room, which featured a small private outdoor space and the room was certainly luxurious. We received a glass of wine at check in and then a bottle of Paraduxx Red wine in our room as this is the exclusive wine partner of the Hotel. They also have multiple wine partnerships and deals on numerous wineries in the area that you should take advantage of if staying at this hotel.
Additionally, they will arrange a hot air balloon ride leaving from near the town, as well as a cycling adventure with a packed picnic lunch. Though we only stayed one night, we found the hotel to be a wonderful place to spend the night and explore the town of Yountville.
We, per our usual, ate dinner at the pool and watched the sunset before turning in early. The Hotel does have a fine dining restaurant called Heritage Oak. It is recognized as one of the best restaurants in Napa Valley. They have a farm-to-table menu that you can enjoy indoors, next to an oversized fireplace, or at Heritage Oak’s poolside terrace. You can also hit “The Bar,” located in the hotel lobby for some light bites and specialty cocktails, or for a more romantic experience you can take advantage of private in-room patio or balcony dining supplied to you from the Heritage Oak Restaurant.
The Hotel Yountville is only a 5-minute walk from the Bouchon Bakery run by Thomas Keller. This can be a very crowded spot and friends had advised to get in line early, but, on this day, we arrived 10 minutes before opening to find ourselves first in line. After a delicious selection of baked goods, we were off for another day in the Napa Valley.
We then drove to the Carneros Resort enjoying the scenery along the way. At the Carneros Resort we had an individual cabin setup like the Solage.
We stayed in a cottage. The cottages are set up in a residential setting with several standalone units set up around a central courtyard and green space. Our cottage featured a private front porch with rocking chairs, a backyard garden with a sundeck with a firepit, table and chairs, and two chaise lounges, an outdoor shower, an in-room wine dispenser (for a fee). It also had a gas overhead heater on the patio that kept us plenty warm so we could enjoy the stars and private outdoor space even in early March.
The Carneros Resort is a full-service resort with a spa that offers many treatments and experiences in the serene setting of the Napa countryside. It was voted Best Spa in Napa by Organic Spa. It also has a fabulous country store with lots of wine, beverages, and bites so guests can stock up for a picnic, purchase snacks for their room, or grab a quick meal before you head out for a day of sightseeing.
Carneros Resort, as would be expected, has many places to eat. While staying there we had breakfast twice at the Boon Fly Café. The Boon Fly Café is named for a Carneros pioneer named Boon Fly, who planted orchards and vineyards in the area in the mid-1800s. It serves modern comfort cuisine in a relaxed atmosphere. They serve brunch daily and one can bring a bottle for a corkage fee. We ate the signature Boon Fly donuts, pancakes, and breakfast burritos. The food is delicious, and the portions are generous. You can eat in or take it away to your room which we took advantage of as we had a beautiful porch to relax on.
They also serve dinner which we did not take advantage of because we fell in love with the firepit outdoor area near Farm. Farm is the fine dining establishment at The Carneros Resort. Farm’s menu is inspired by the natural abundance of Napa Valley with Chef John Carney cooking locally sourced produce including vegetables and herbs from their culinary garden, as well as fresh eggs from their chicken coop.
In addition to Farm and Pavilion, resort guests can visit the Hilltop Dining Room for breakfast or lunch. The restaurant sits on a hill overlooking the nearby vineyards and the Napa Valley countryside making it a magical and romantic place to rest, relax, and refuel.
We unfortunately were too tired at night and never took advantage of Farm or the Hillside Dining restaurant which looked amazing as well. We did, however, eat every night we were there at the firepit at the Pavilion at Farm. The menu had numerous bites as well as wonderful wines and cocktails. We ate an absolutely AMAZING flatbread, truffle fries, and potato tostones every night. The wife would get vanilla ice cream with hot chocolate sauce for dessert, and we would unwind as the sunset by the fire. What a perfect way for us to end each day.
Oxbow Public Market
On our last day in Napa, we ventured into downtown Napa for some breakfast, a few tastings, and lunch before heading back to unwind at the resort before our travel day home. For breakfast, we headed to the renowned Oxbow Public Market. As Philadelphia natives, we liken the Market to Reading Terminal Market for those that have been there. It is a 40,000 square foot marketplace with small grocery and produce vendors, artisans and purveyors from the local community. I was able to grab a Pliny the Elder at the Oxbow Cheese & Wine Market to go with my breakfast burrito from C Casa and the wife had some fabulous French Toast with freshly made strawberry jam and berries from Milestone Provisions. There are not many tables and chairs inside, so on a chilly day you may want to get there early. There is outside seating, but we were there on a damp, cool day so we were happy to have found a high top to sit at to eat.
Our trip to Napa was filled with wonderful wine, but the cherry on top was the places we were able to stay, relax and eat. The Napa Valley truly has something for everyone. So whether you visit because you love wine or could care less if you have a glass (though I think it’s worth a taste for anyone who can) no one will find themselves without something to do. It truly is a magical place that will leave you counting the days until you can return.