It’s May, which means that in addition to being a peak time for flowers, tequila, and Star Wars, the countdown to Memorial Day weekend—aka the unofficial first weekend of the summer—has begun. And whether you live in the Bay Area, or will just be passing through, a trip to Napa and Sonoma is an excellent way to celebrate our favorite season. Here are the experiences you need to book now.
Now in its fifth season, Napa’s BottleRock—the ingenious festival of wine and music that runs from Friday, May 26, through Sunday, May 28—has really hit its stride. This year, the lineup includes the Foo Fighters, Tom Petty, and Maroon 5, while the food talent ranges from Ayesha Curry to Martha Stewart. And, of course, wine from Napa’s top wineries will be flowing freely. Tickets are still available on the BottleRock exchange and Stubhub. Don’t forget to book your lodging ASAP: The Harvest Inn still has a few available rooms, as does Airbnb.
Napa Valley Wine Train
In addition to regular vineyard tours and a murder-mystery series, the venerable train now offers a Meet the Maker series that pairs wine-lovers with their favorite winemaker. Picture a four-hour, multi-course meal with wine pairings—and the maker of those wines talking you through each sip as you pass Napa vineyards at sunset. The food is farm-to-table fresh, the wine flowing, and the setting unbelievably romantic. Upcoming featured wineries include Rombauer Vineyards and Inglenook.
For many us here at AFAR, Single Thread was the single-most exciting restaurant opening of 2016. The restaurant is now accepting reservations through June 30, so don’t waste a moment if you want to dive into the meticulous world of Kyle and Katina Connaughton. After living in Japan for three years, the couple leased five acres of abandoned land in Sonoma and cultivated it. Katina, the farmer, grows by the microseason; Kyle, the chef, combines her produce with local meats and seafood to create dishes such as Sonoma coast sea urchin with caviar and roasted heirloom potato puree. If you can, book one of Single Thread’s five plush rooms.
Sonoma’s most Instagrammable winery and picnic spot is visitable by reservation only—so book now to snag a spot on that picturesque lawn. Run by brothers Andrew and Adam Mariani, Scribe also offers a pretty sweet membership program—the Scribe Viticultural Society—which sends you anywhere from 4 to 12 bottles of their curious, sometimes obscure wines every quarter and offers complimentary tastings for members and up to five of their friends.
The CIA at Copia
Napa’s new Culinary Institute—formerly the Mondavi-seeded Copia, which sat empty for almost nine years—will kick off its hands-on cooking and baking classes this summer. (It currently offers pairing classes, interactive demos, and the wine-oriented Somm’s Class). Anyone is welcome—this outpost is geared toward the public rather than wannabe professional chefs. Or skip the work and just pop by the new facility in downtown Napa to eat beet-cured hamachi and duck fat potatoes at the Copia restaurant or shop for cookbooks and locally made ceramics at the on-site store.