The Best Gardens of Napa Valley

Gardening in Napa Valley is as much about the aesthetics as it is about food production. While it is not unusual to see chefs darting from the back of restaurants for some last-minute chive blossoms or a sprig of thyme, it is just as common to see tourists posing next to an impressive patch of tomatoes or a tidy row of micro greens.

6640 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599, USA
There was a time when the French Laundry actually washed shirts. Now, that is just a bad joke (as in “They were a bit heavy on the starch; I don’t think I’ll be going back”). There are those who say Thomas Keller’s famous flagship restaurant that has spawned an empire (multiple Bouchons, Per Se, Ad Hoc) and earned Yountville the nickname “Kellerville” is merely a shell of what it once was—with all the pomp and circumstance of a triple Michelin, but without the substance. Nevertheless, it is still one of the most coveted reservations in Napa Valley and considered a standard of fine dining around the world. Keller was a pioneer of the extensive tasting menu, even though they are now a dime a dozen (okay, a lot of dimes).
8815 Conn Creek Rd, Rutherford, CA 94573, USA
Before there can be quality wine, or even quality grapes, there needs to be quality dirt. Frog’s Leap Winery is located in one of the most coveted patches of dirt in the Napa Valley — Rutherford. Which is why, when you visit, owner John Williams starts the tour by sticking a shovel in the earth. Dry farmed (no irrigation) and 100 percent organic, the winery is a fully sustainable oasis complete with bees, chickens, and vegetable and flower gardens (they sell what the family and workers don’t eat at local farmers’ markets). The two-hour tour, during which you will learn all about grape farming, concludes with one of the more remarkable tastings in the valley. Overlooking the well-cared-for gardens and vineyards, you feel that you can taste the terroir in their sauvignon blanc, zinfandel, chardonnay, and cabernet sauvignon. Schedule your tour in the late afternoon so you can bask in the setting sun.
849 Zinfandel Lane
Jean-Charles Boisset, the playboy wine tycoon from one of the largest négociant, or wine merchant, families in France has turned a classic Napa Valley estate into a grown-up playground. From the “Theater of Nature” where Joe Papendick’s meticulous garden educates visitors about biodynamic farming to the Crystal Cellar where mostly naked mannequins swing freely from above the fermentation tanks to the Red Room, which you kind of have to see to believe. In the “blending room,” you can play winemaker for a day with the help of Tyson, the Chief Blending Officer (you get to wear silver metallic lab coats!). There are also bocce courts, doves, peacocks, a “winery” for dogs and an entire house where everything is gold. Sound a bit like Willy Wonka’s? Yeah, it kind of is. But for wine, not candy, and lucky grown ups, not children.
875 Rutherford Rd, Napa, CA 94558, USA
Wine, as they say, belongs at the table. Yet most tasting rooms offer only the wine. For a richer experience, seek out wineries that offer food pairings or, better yet, an entire meal. At Robert Sinskey winery, cookbook author and Chef Maria Helm Sinskey pairs bites made with ingredients from their garden with the new releases of Pinot Noir and the excellent Abraxas, a blend of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc and Gewurztraminer. Round Pond Estate takes it a step further — the four-course lunch served on the terrace uses all biodynamically farmed produce, vinegar and honey from the estate as well as olive oil that is crushed by stone just a stone’s throw from the winery.
900 Meadowood Ln, St Helena, CA 94574, USA
The renowned Meadowood Resort mixes the grandeur of a chalet with the amenities of a five-star resort—located in a private canyon within minutes of downtown St. Helena. The shaded, secluded property revolves around 99 rooms, most of which have high and exposed ceilings, private patios or balconies, wainscoted walls, and beds so comfortable you may never want to get up. Other amenities make Meadowood distinctive, too: Many rooms have heated bathroom floors; some also have deep soaking tubs. Elsewhere on the 250-acre property, all guests have access to the on-site spa, which was renovated in 2017; an on-site fitness center; hiking trails; tennis courts; and a daily wine reception. There’s even a croquet lawn—feel free to grab a mallet and hit some balls or sign up to take lessons with the Napa Valley’s only croquet pro. Of course the on-site restaurant, The Restaurant at Meadowood, is another big draw. More casual meals can be ordered from The Grill. Guests are entitled to a complimentary house car for transport into St. Helena or Yountville.
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