Romantic Napa Valley

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Romantic Napa Valley
If wine is bottled poetry, then Napa Valley is an entire book of love sonnets for you and your partner to explore and enjoy. Discover the intimate side to wine country, from clandestine cabins and candlelit dinners to the breezy romance of the road.
By Courtney Humiston, AFAR Local Expert
Photo courtesy of Schramsberg Vineyards
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    Add a Glass of Sparkle to Your Life
    Napa is known for big, bold reds, but large amounts of sparkling wine are made here too. Few things are more romantic than sipping bubbles while watching the sun set over sprawling vineyards from the terraces of Domain Carneros or Mumm Napa. Tour the oldest caves in Napa Valley at Schramsberg Vineyards, and learn how their wines were hand-riddled—a traditional technique originating in Champagne—until recently. Then, discover for yourself how classic champagne varieties gain a unique expression when grown in a Californian terroir by tasting the excellent blanc de blancs and blanc de noirs.
    Photo courtesy of Schramsberg Vineyards
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    The Best Views of the Valley
    Napa Valley is bounded by the Mayacamas Mountains to the west and the Vaca range to the east. Some of the best views are from mountain appellations like Mount Veeder, Howell Mountain, Spring Mountain, and Atlas Peak—especially in the morning when the fog is creeping up out of the valley. But Napa’s most striking view must be earned after a five-mile hike up Mount St. Helena. From the summit—roughly 4,300 feet above sea level—you can see the winding valley and, on a clear day, San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s a breathtaking and toast-worthy view, so bring a bottle of sparkling wine from the historic Schramsberg Vineyards for that perfect romantic moment.
    Photo by Martin Sundberg/age fotostock
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    Red Wine and Candlelight
    There are plenty of cozy, candlelit corners and heated outdoor patios at Napa Valley restaurants for you to enjoy an intimate meal with your loved one. The ambience at Press Restaurant, a modern St. Helena steakhouse with an extensive selection of cabernet, is downright sexy—think leather banquettes, white linen, and mood lighting. Request a table in the back next to the wood-burning fireplace, or secure a spot outside on the intimate west-facing patio, and enjoy sunset over the vineyards and the Mayacamas Mountains. For the perfect accompaniment to the romantic setting, sip a dessert wine and share the restaurant's decadent chocolate soufflé.
    Photo courtesy of Morgan Bellinger/Press St. Helena
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    More Intimate Tastings
    Wine tasting can sometimes be a bit of a circus in Napa Valley, but there are more intimate options than bellying up to a bar next to an entire bachelorette party. Head to Coombsville appellation instead. Just east of downtown Napa along a scenic, winding road, the area still feels undiscovered. The appointment-only tastings are remarkably laid-back, and you will likely meet the winery's proprietor. Meteor Vineyard is among the most modern in Coombsville and serves 100 percent cabernet sauvignon. The tasting at Caldwell Vineyard takes place in a candlelit cave and is accompanied by cheese pairings. At Farella Vineyard, second-generation winemaker Tom Farella shares stories of the region’s history and how it "used to be."
    Photo courtesy of Caldwell Vineyard
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    A Sip and a Dip
    Swimming pools should be mandatory in a place with as many sunny days and awesome views as Napa Valley, and the chance to refresh and relax is especially welcome when most visitors have spent the day indulging at wineries and restaurants. The pool at the Solage Calistoga resort sits on the valley floor, and the expansive deck is framed by mountain views. Order from the Michelin-starred lounge menu to experience the definition of poolside luxury. Similarly, a full-service bar is on offer at the rooftop pool of Bardessono in Yountville. A DJ plays during happy hour on summer weekends, when local ladies turn up sporting stilettos.
    Photo courtesy of Solage Calistoga
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    Clandestine Escapes
    The hills of Napa Valley are dotted with retreats for city-weary lovers seeking refuge in the countryside. At Calistoga Ranch, 48 cedar-hewn bungalows offer seclusion among the peaceful woods. Privacy is equally important at Meadowood resort, where each room has its own balcony, bathtub, and fireplace. Perched on a hillside, Cliff Lede Vineyards' Poetry Inn feels like its own little world. The staff will arrange your every activity for you, from wine tasting to dinner reservations, so you are free to focus on more important things—like the one you’re with.
    Photo courtesy of Poetry Inn
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    Road Trip Romance
    Northern California has no shortage of romantic road trip scenery. Drive north up Highway 128 through the town of Calistoga until you reach the rolling hills and sprawling vineyards of Knights Valley and Alexander Valley. Cross into Sonoma County and stop for a snack and a souvenir at the Jimtown Store, a cheerfully thriving relic of the pioneer days. Then stroll through the Sonoma hub of Healdsburg to get a taste of Napa Valley's wine country rival. End the day with a cocktail at the open-aired Spoonbar on the edge of the town’s bustling plaza.
    Photo by Rachid Dahnoun/age fotostock
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    Napa Valley Bicycle Tours
    The image of riding bicycles through sun-drenched vineyards is a romantic one, but the reality of biking in wine country is that it’s a rigorous, athletic endeavor. Thankfully the rewards—fresh air, stunning views, and flights of wine on cool terraces—are well worth the effort. Napa Valley Bike Tours organizes two-wheeled excursions on a private or group basis; casual tourists can hop on an afternoon jaunt, while serious cyclists can tackle a multi-day trip. Their Classic Napa Valley tour is aimed at tourists rather than pros. It begins and ends in Yountville—so you can bookend your day with a croissant from Bouchon Bakery, and oysters and sauvignon blanc at Bistro Jeanty—and includes fuel stops at three wineries in the valley.
    Photo by age fotostock