Photo by David Escalante
Photo by Bob McClenahan
Springtime mustard blooms in the Napa Valley, where there are plenty of things to eat, drink, and do.
Whether you want to shop for local souvenirs, relax at a newly renovated hotel, or, of course, drink wine, here are six ideas to get you started.
Drinking wine is likely on your agenda if you’re heading to the Napa Valley in any season—but there are plenty of other things to do in the area this spring for those who like to shop, eat, listen to music, or simply enjoy the sunny weather and blooming flowers. Whether you’re planning your first trip to Napa Valley or your 40th, here are six things to do while experiencing Northern California wine country in one of its most beautiful seasons.
The latest Yountville restaurant from the Thomas Keller Restaurant Group (known in Yountville for The French Laundry and Bouchon) is helmed by chef de cuisine Kaelin Ulrich Trilling, who brings his native Oaxacan roots—and other flavors of Mexico—to life with his team. At La Calenda, sip a mezcal or margarita on the patio, share totopos (tortilla chips) and guacamole with friends (or don’t share—it’s heavenly), taste Oaxacan mole negro, and enjoy the eatery’s casual atmosphere, made cheerful with colorful decor and crockery crafted by artisans in Mexico. And for Cinco de Mayo, listen to live mariachi music during a family-friendly celebration.
Drink and test your palate every Wednesday at Sky & Vine, the rooftop bar atop the Archer Hotel in downtown Napa. Through a new promotion dubbed “Brown Bag Wednesday,” guests can do a blind taste test for wine. Here’s how the game works: Every week, the staff picks a bottle of wine. Once players have agreed to purchase the bottle (which ranges in price), a staff member hides it in a brown bag and pours it in a blind tasting format; guests then try to guess the “three Vs”: vintner, varietal, and vintage. Guess one of three correctly and get 10 percent off the bottle; two of three correctly and get 50 percent off. For those who guess all three correctly, the bottle costs only $1. Not a bad deal at all. Pro-tip: On May 1, Sky & Vine will open at noon instead of 3 p.m. for even more time to enjoy the sunshine.
Homemade flavored vinegars. Ultra-rare olive oils. Artisanal jams. These are among the high-end epicurean delights you’ll find at Napastäk Napa Valley’s new location in downtown Napa, which opened in early 2019. The goodies are a fitting way to extend and amplify the food-and-wine experience you’ll have in many tasting rooms and restaurants around town. The shop, created by Lusine and Arthur Hartunian (who also co-own the Napa Valley Distillery), has amassed a cult following over the years out of its original stall in the Oxbow Public Market, which is still going strong. This new spot has a selection of grab-and-go foods, high-quality teas, and Napastäk wines from their cellars (including the “Bella Blanc,” named for the couple’s daughter, Isabella). Our advice: Go here for souvenirs to bring home to your foodie friends.
The newest tasting room in downtown Napa is pouring several familiar brands: Alpha Omega, Tolosa, and Perinet. The room is run by the Alpha Omega Collective, the parent company of all three wines. Decor inside is comfortable and not at all overbearing; the place kind of looks like someone’s living room. The focal point: a mahogany bar with a brass footrail from the original Carriage House Restaurant, a companion structure to the circa-1902 Noyes Mansion elsewhere downtown (that building now serves as Napa headquarters for Wine Spectator). The wines themselves are quite different—Alpha Omega’s wines are inspired by Bordeaux, while Tolosa spotlights Burgundian varietals and Perinet focuses on Mediterranean reds. All tastings are available in flights as well as by the glass and bottle.
After undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation, the Hotel Villagio (formerly Villagio Inn & Spa) has opened its doors in Yountville. The vibe is decidedly young and industrial chic—distinct from its elegant sister property, Vintage House—and showcases metal and brick textures, as well as a dark color palette throughout the property. With 112 guest rooms, 22 suites, and a brand-new five-bedroom villa, there’s plenty of room for relaxation (soaking tubs and fireplaces in every room definitely help). The lobby, though, entices those who want to mix and mingle: a pool table, board games, and craft cocktail menu that features ingredients from the hotel garden beckon travelers and locals alike. Get a 15 percent discount on room rates if you stay three nights or more this spring.
The seventh annual Bottle Rock Napa Valley music festival arguably marks the end of spring (or beginning of summer, however you prefer to look at it). This year, it’s slated for May 24–26 and the 2019 concert looks to be the best yet. The musician lineup is one of the most diverse in the crowded festival arena, featuring everything from legends such as Neil Young and Santana to some of the hottest musical acts today: Imagine Dragons, Mumford & Sons, Pharrell Williams, and more. The festival is smaller than most, so it feels more intimate; a dedicated culinary stage at which celebrities cook with famous chefs also makes the vibe more convivial (one year Snoop Dogg rolled sushi with Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto). Perhaps the best part? The festival grounds are a five-minute walk from the restaurants and tasting rooms of downtown Napa.
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