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Why You Should Go to Napa Valley This Winter

By Lyndsey Matthews & Sara Button

11.18.19

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On the weekends of the Napa Lighted Art Festival, the “Night Bloom” illuminates the valley’s iconic hot air balloons. 

Photo by Infinity VIsuals

On the weekends of the Napa Lighted Art Festival, the “Night Bloom” illuminates the valley’s iconic hot air balloons. 

These are the hotels, events, and museums that will make you want to plan a trip to Napa Valley this season.

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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 to explore beyond the wineries. Even if you don’t win a spot at the pop-up Hotella Nutella this winter, there are several other experiences that are sure to delight in the meantime.

New Ways to Explore Napa Valley (and They’re Not All in Tasting Rooms)

Shop at the St. Helena Winter Market

Holiday gift-giving is all sorted with a trip to St. Helena for the third annual pop-up winter market, held at Native Sons Hall. More than two dozen designers and makers showcase their handcrafted wares for the weekend, including home goods, ceramics, jewelry, tableware, spirits, and shoes. Ornament-making and cookie-decorating workshops for kids will be held on Sunday. November 30 (10 a.m.–7 p.m.) & December 1, 2019 (10 a.m.–6 p.m.); 1313 Spring Street, St. Helena 

The Feast of Seven Cultures takes place this year on one night only at Acacia House.
Celebrate the holidays at the third annual Feast of the Seven Cultures

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Chef Chris Cosentino is hosting the third annual Feast of the Seven Cultures at Acacia House, located at Las Alcobas Napa Valley, a Luxury Collection Hotel. In contrast to previous years when the event ran for a week, the special one-night dinner event features eight guests chefs from the Bay Area who will each create a seven-course tasting menu based on the country they represent. Menus inspired by Mexico, France, Portugal, Germany, Spain, Italy, and Israel will be prepared by the chefs, among them Sarah and Evan Rich of the Michelin-starred Rich Table, Ravi Kapur of the Liholiho Yacht Club, Kim Alter of Nightbird, and more. A portion of the proceeds benefits No Kid Hungry. December 7, 2019; 1915 Main Street, St. Helena, $195 (excluding tax and gratuity), opentable.com

A New Arts District Is Transforming Napa

Castello di Amorosa winery is among the 17 wineries included in this winter’s passport.
Pick up a Winter in Wineries passport

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 more than $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. December 7, 2019–February 9, 2020; $60.

Napa’s Lighted Art Festival illuminates the town’s buildings and public spaces in eye-catching ways.

See innovative art at the Napa Lighted Art Festival

For nine days and nights in January, the city of Napa becomes an illuminated wonderland. During the free festival, local and international artists transform Napa’s historic and modern buildings into canvases for their original lighted creations, video art, 3-D mapping projections, lighted sculptures, and more. Conversations with artists, a community lantern parade, and a 3-D Le Petit Chef dining experience at the CIA at Copia are on the docket, too. January 11–19, 2020; various locations. Donapa.com/lights

“Tuber melanosporum” goes by many other names, including the black truffle, Périgord truffle, and the “black diamond,” so named for its high value.

Savor the Napa Valley Truffle Festival

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January 2020 marks the 10th anniversary of the country’s premiere truffle festival, which brings together truffle growers, truffle-inspired chefs, lifelong truffle fans, and the truffle-curious for a long weekend of truffle fun. No need to be a truffle obsessive to enjoy the weekend’s events; snag a ticket for B Cellars’ All About Truffles experience for a tasty introduction to the sought-after ingredient, or try a wild mushroom foraging foray with some experts. Already fallen for the elusive fungus? Opt for the interactive Dig Truffles? all-day eating, drinking, and learning affair. January 17–20, 2020; various locations and prices (some events are free). Napatrufflefestival.com

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Dine at a Discount During Napa Valley Restaurant Week

Napa Valley’s restaurant week—graciously held during January, when hotel prices are also at low-season rates—might be the ideal time for an epicurean getaway. Some of the Valley’s hottest restaurants (the Charter Oak, the Restaurant at Auberge, and Bistro Jeanty, to name a few) offer multi-course prix-fixe menus.  Lunch goes for $20 or $30; dinners ring up to $38 or $48, depending on the restaurant. January 26–February 1, 2020. 

This article was originally published on December 4, 2018. It was updated on November 18, 2019, to reflect current information. 

>> Plan Your Trip With AFAR’s Guide to Napa Valley

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