The harvest between August and October of every year is peak season to visit California’s Napa Valley wine country. But if you go in the winter (also known as Cabernet Season, because that’s when the region’s famed cabernet sauvignons are released), you will find fewer crowds, better rates at hotels, and much more beyond the wineries to explore. And while there’s no word on exactly when Thomas Keller will open La Calenda, his upcoming restaurant in Yountville serving Oaxacan fare, there are several other new culinary experiences that are sure to delight in the meantime.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Francis House was originally built in 1886 as a family home for a local merchant, James H. Francis. As of September 2018, the landmark building is now a five-room inn with a stone fire pit outdoors, plus a heated pool and an infrared sauna and salt room. 1403 Myrtle Street, Calistoga, thefrancishouse.com
Chef Chris Cosentino is hosting the second annual Feast of the Seven Cultures at Acacia House, located at Las Alcobas Napa Valley, a Luxury Collection Hotel. The special dinner series features six guests chefs who will create a five-course tasting menu for one night only based on a specific country’s cuisine in the weeks leading up to the holidays. The series began on November 29 with Alon Shaya of Shaya in New Orleans cooking an Israeli tasting menu and continues with the likes of Stephanie Izard (December 11; Germany), Chris Cosentino (December 13; Portugal), Ray Garcia (December 18; Mexico), and Paul Kahan (December 20; Spain). A portion of the proceeds benefits Chefs Cycle: No Kid Hungry. Through December 20, 2018; 1915 Main Street, St. Helena, $165 all inclusive (optional $95 beverage pairing), opentable.com
The Culinary Institute of America at Copia opened the Chuck Williams Culinary Arts Museum at its campus in early November 2018, with more than 4,000 items of specialty cookware. Casual and professional cooks alike will enjoy checking out the historic culinary and bread baking tools, tableware, and appliances that are all part of this exhibit open daily between 10:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. 500 First Street, Napa, Free, ciaatcopia.com
Every good shopping trip needs a lunch break for sustenance. Enter RH Yountville, a food, shopping, and design experience rolled into one beautiful space that opened in October 2018. Restaurateur Brendan Sodikoff (the one behind Chicago’s famed Au Cheval burger) is at the helm of the indoor/outdoor restaurant here where you can dine on burrata and shaved rib-eye sandwiches underneath 100-year-old olive trees and dozens of chandeliers. You can taste limited production wines at the two-story wine vault at the historic Ma(i)sonry building next door or in its outdoor living room, which is decorated with, yes, more chandeliers. 6725 Washington Street, Yountville, restorationhardware.com
Both a winery and an olive mill, Rutherford’s Round Pond Estate recently introduced a new “Vino & Olio” experience so that you can partake in both wine and olive oil tastings during the same visit. In addition to a private guided tour of the estate’s olive grove, you’ll also get to taste fresh olive oils paired with wines and small bites at the winery. The two-hour experience is available at 10 a.m. Wednesday through Saturday and must be booked in advance. 875 Rutherford Road, Rutherford, $85, roundpond.com
If you purchase a Winter in Wineries passport for just $60 this winter, you’ll get free wine tastings at 17 different wineries in Calistoga (valued at over $400). You’ll find everything from well-known spots like the Castello di Amorosa winery (modeled after a 13th-century Tuscan castle) to smaller properties like Tank Garage Winery, which is located in a repurposed 1930s-era gas station. Passport carriers are also entitled to discounts at hotels in Calistoga like 15 percent off at the Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa. Through February 3, 2019; $60, visitcalistoga.com
If you’ve never been to Napa, it’s likely you only have wine on the mind. But in the past year, the area has made a name for itself with its growing craft beer scene. Recent openings in downtown Napa alone include Trade Brewing and Stone Brewing Napa; St. Clair Brown Winery even started brewing beer in 2018, too. Beer-minded travelers can book the new “Napa Brews” package at Carneros Resort and Spa, which includes a welcome flight of local beer instead of the regular glass of wine, plus a chauffeured tour of several local breweries with a picnic lunch from the property’s general store, Market. 4048 Sonoma Highway, Napa, “Napa Brews” package from $595 per night, carnerosresort.com
From January 23 to January 25, 2019, AFAR Experiences is heading to Napa. Register now for exclusive, invitation-only entry to some of the region’s most prestigious and memorable places, alongside local winemakers and artisans, renowned chefs, and cultural experts.
>> Plan Your Trip with AFAR’s Guide to Napa Valley