In Travel

Why Napa Valley Is The Perfect Weekend Escape From San Francisco

Among the world’s wine regions, Napa Valley stands as one of the most well-known.

Just a two-hour drive north of San Francisco, it’s a 48km-long scenic valley fringed by two small mountain ranges and home to over 400 vineyards and wineries.

Since opening its first winery in 1861, it’s flourished into a world-famous wine region and a popular weekend destination for San Franciscans and visitors alike.

Image: Pixabay

So, to help you squeeze in a day trip to Napa Valley from San Francisco, we’ve outlined all the basics below.

How to get there

The best way to get to Napa Valley from the city of San Francisco is by renting a car. It’s not only the most convenient option in terms of freedom to explore, but also a great chance to drive over the iconic Golden Gate bridge.

Image: Pixabay

There are plenty of rental car companies in San Francisco, and it’s an easy two-hour drive out of the city and into the countryside. Once you enter Napa Valley, you’ll be greeted by a wooden welcome sign that says, “The wine is bottled poetry.” Time to find that out for yourself.

Drive along Highway 29 as it is the main road from the city of Napa to Calistoga that will give you access to some of the best wines in the world.

If you plan on enjoying a few glasses of wine, consider hiring a private car service to take you around Napa Valley.

What to drink

Where do you even start in such a vast wine region? The region is known for producing bold and rich Cabernet Sauvignon and buttery and full-bodied Chardonnay. You’ll also find varieties of Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. The dry, Mediterranean climate of Napa Valley makes it the perfect spot to grow wine grapes.

While vineyards in Napa Valley began popping up in the late 1800s, Robert Mondavi opened one of the first wineries to offer wine tasting and guided tours in 1966. He aimed to showcase how Napa’s wines stood against the rest of the world. From there, other wineries followed suit and wine tasting became a tourist attraction.

You can visit Robert Mondavi Winery and learn about the history of how he began producing some of the world’s finest Cabernet Sauvignon wines. Walk-ins are welcome for a casual wine tasting experience at this winery.

Napa Valley

Image: Honig / supplied

Most wineries offer a tour of the actual vineyards, which is a great opportunity to learn how wine is produced. Honig is a family-run, sustainable, and solar-powered vineyard and winery that offers a great tour of its property and wine production.

A host will guide you through the wines, and educate you on Honig’s family history, winemaking, and sustainable practices. You’ll have to book this in advance for this experience. Ask to taste the Sauvignon Blanc Late Harvest — it’s a beautiful treat.

Other scenic wineries that offer walk-in tastings include Heitz, Hall and Charles Krug, where you can sample award-winning wines.

What to do

Other than taste stellar wines, be sure to take advantage of Napa’s exquisite culinary scene. For lunch, be sure to stop by Gott’s, located in St Helena or Napa. Order the Ahi Burger — it’s made with thick sushi-grade Ahi tuna that’s seared rare and topped with ginger wasabi mayo, Asian slaw, and cilantro.

Add a side of onion rings for a complete masterpiece. This meal will send you straight to heaven. The venue itself is retro in appearance as it’s styled as a classic roadside burger joint.

Napa Valley

Image: Gott’s / supplied

For a more fine dining experience, make a booking at one of Thomas Keller’s restaurants. If The French Laundry is booked out, try Bouchon Bistro for a French-inspired dinner. It’s not a set menu but includes seasonal offerings. Take advantage of the raw bar while you’re there.

Speaking of Thomas Keller, the Culinary Institue of America is located right in St. Helena. You can stop by to watch a cooking demonstration or stay for lunch.

When you’re not wining and dining, pop into one of Napa Valley’s luxury spas for an hour of relaxation. The Spa at The Estate provides a top-notch, electronic-free experience. It offers specially designed treatments for men, as well as holistic body therapies and advanced facial therapies for everyone. This spa maintains a relaxing environment to disconnect and focus on your well-being while in wine country.

Don’t skip the opportunity to visit Napa Valley while you’re in San Francisco. It’s a great chance to experience a different side of California.

Where to stay

If you’re keen to extend your day trip to an overnight excursion, consider staying in St Helena as it’s a charming town in the heart of Napa Valley. The Harvest Inn is a peaceful property located right on the edge of a vineyard.

The cosy cottages have stunning views of the grapevines and each room comes with a complimentary bottle of wine. The Harvest Inn also offers an adults-only pool and spa, a farm to table restaurant, and complimentary tastings at neighbouring wineries.

(Lead image: Pixabay)

Published 07 October, 2019