For a long time, there was one way to do Napa, California. It involved reservations at Napa Culinary King Thomas Keller's remarkable French Laundry and Ad Hoc + Addendum, restaurants that had paved the way for the Northern California region to become the culinary destination it is today and spearheaded the country's farm-to-table movement. It also involved visiting wineries whose bottles are just as recognized by locals in Napa as they are in wine stores nationwide. And while we see nothing particularly wrong with indulging in Keller's artfully prepared Wagyu beef and caviar pierogis (should your budget allow it), nor in dropping Sideways-esque insults about Merlot (although, IMO, the 2004 film unfairly slandered the varietal), we must say we've been glad to see a considerable shift in the last few years, with the region becoming more accommodating to the millennial set, who are interested in more varied experiences than what used to be available.
Now there are new, hip wineries that don't speak down to their young but educated consumers, as well as established spots that are leading the way in terms of Gen Y-valued factors like biodynamics and sustainability; affordable restaurants that put out delicious, unfussy, seasonal food; and boutiques whose lineups include unexpected and cool designers that could rival those found in the city. Ahead, our insider's guide on where to stay, eat, do wine tastings, and shop while in Napa.
Where to Stay
Vista Collina Resort: A brand-new addition to Napa, Vista Collina is a resort that makes it hard to leave the grounds, thanks to its adjacent "Village," a courtyard-like area that comprises nine wine and beer tasting rooms, an artisanal market, a food and wine center offering culinary classes and drink seminars, and a lawn space that will play host to events and live entertainment year-round. The 145-room property itself holds 39 suites with fully equipped kitchens (a rarity in Napa), modern furnishings, and a pool area with cabanas.
North Block Hotel: This stylish boutique hotel, located in trendy Yountville, boasts 20 eclectic rooms encircling a communal courtyard that holds a fireplace, lemon trees, and couches and leads to the pool and hot tub area. Amenities include Chandon sparkling wine upon check-in, breakfast featuring pastries from Keller's Bouchon Bakery (no need to wake up early to stand in line!), and Redd Wood's famous charcuterie and breakfast potatoes, as well as electric bikes to explore the area.
The Meritage Resort and Spa: Conveniently situated close to downtown Napa, this property holds its own hillside vineyard and tasting room, two heated outdoor pools and whirlpools, and a bar with a bowling alley. The onsite dining includes a rustic Italian restaurant and a healthy cafe offering made-to-order smoothies and eggs bowls. As if this weren't enough, The Meritage's Spa is situated in a stunning 22,000-square-foot estate cave and offers services like grape seed facials, heated herbal compress massages, and lavender exfoliating treatments.
Las Alcobas: This stunning St. Helena luxury property, located in a Georgian-style farmhouse, will charm travelers with its neutral color palette, stylish decor with lots of wood detailing, and freestanding tubs (some of which are even located on terraces overlooking the vineyards!). Guests also get to enjoy the pool, fitness studio with yoga, barre, and circuit training classes, and food from Top Chef Masters winner Chris Cosentino.
Vintage House at The Estate: Located in Yountville, the refined Vintage House is, erm, home to 80 bungalow-style, (contrary to the name) contemporary abodes, Michael Chiarello's three eateries, luxury spa, and plenty of experiences, like hot air balloon rides and bike rentals with wine tasting and picnic add-ons.