Napa Valley Revisited

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st. helena

Keep driving north to St. Helena, a charmer with its small-town human scale coupled with sophisticated shops and galleries along a time-trip Main Street. Not one single chain sign here. Suggest clients treat themselves to a killer breakfast complete with buttermilk biscuits, or maybe cranberry-orange-pecan scones, at homey Gillwoods Cafe. Steps off Main Street, Health Spa Napa Valley lures with a de-stress massage.

Among newer stops is Long Meadow Ranch Winery &
Farmstead, opened in 2010 with both wine and olive oil tastings and “farmhouse cooking.” Nearby on Howell Mountain amid
manzanita trees, the architecturally innovative CADE Winery, launched in 2009, is making waves as a solar-powered,
LEED-certified winery.

When luxury is the ticket, you won’t go wrong with Meadowood Napa Valley. Wrapped in 240 forested acres, the property features 85 guestrooms, suites and cottages (most with wood-burning fireplaces; low/winter season rates, mid-November to March, start at $475), a 9-hole golf course, tennis courts, pools, croquet lawns, hiking trails, and an 11,000-sq.-ft. spa, as well as The Restaurant, a romantic dining experience annointed with three Michelin stars.

Meadowood’s Spa Escape package, starting at $675, includes 1-night accommodations, fruit and a bottle of sparkling wine, two 60-minute treatments, and a 3-course dinner in The Grill.

A 2012 bonus: Clients who book three consecutive mid-week nights can score complimentary transportation from regional airports including San Francisco, sipping sparkling wine while a comfy car spins them along Route 29.


Farther north, Calistoga is a haven for its renowned mud baths and restorative soaks in healing geo-thermal springs. Also rewarding: A hearty lunch at the century-old Calistoga Inn, a wine education class at WH Smith Wine Sensory Experience, choosing a hand-crafted piece at Calistoga Pottery, and browsing for a pricey but distinctive art treasure among the whimsical creations of Carlo Marchiori at Galleria Ca’toga de Arte.

On Dec. 1, Calistoga stages what may be the ultimate small-town holiday event—the 17th annual Lighted Tractor Parade that pays homage to the local agricultural heritage.

american canyon

There’s even a relatively new town in the picture. Incorporated in 1992, American Canyon, at the southern end of Napa County, is billed as the gateway to the Valley. Natural, open spaces are a given here, including the spreading Wetland Preserve that
beckons birdwatchers.

Nine miles from Napa, the 132-room Doubletree by Hilton Hotel & Spa Napa Valley (rates start at $179) recently raised its flag over the art deco-inspired former Gaia Napa Valley, the county’s first fully environmentally sustainable hotel.

The Doubletree’s Romance package starts at $169 and includes a 1-night stay, a bottle of champagne and breakfast for two.

in sonoma

Let clients know that the Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley ( has added a new route that begins at the historic Sonoma Plaza, and meanders into the town of Glen Ellen and the Kenwood area, with stops at Benziger Family Winery, Imagery Winery, Paradise Ridge in Kenwood, and Deerfield Ranch Winery. This excursion is offered in addition to the Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley’s
original route, which began in spring 2011 and includes stops at four boutique wineries located in and around the town of Sonoma.

Part of the experience is the trolley itself, a hand-built replica of a California street cable car that was used in San Francisco from the late-1890s to the early-1930s. It’s an open-air cable car, allowing for a more sensory experience with unobstructed views, and the aromas of the vineyards, especially during crush. Both tours are $99 pp and include a gourmet lunch.

take the wine train

Prefer to park your car? The Napa Valley Wine Train is the way to go. All you need to do is relax on a 3-hour ride in handsomely restored antique rail cars, enjoying a tasty meal with perfect pairings. Beyond windows curtained in gold velvet, vistas of vineyards vibrant with seasonal golden mustard blossoms roll by while you kick back in solid comfort.

Passengers may opt for onboard dining in either the Vista Dome ($139 pp), Gourmet Express ($109 pp), or Silverado ($99 pp), each with its own style and menu. Also on tap for the ride along 25 miles of track through the heart of the region is a roster of themed journeys ranging from Moonlight Escape, $169 pp (dinner for two in a private booth in the moonlit glass-topped Vista Dome) to Murder Mystery, $155 pp (come prepared to mix, mingle, and help solve the case).

Andrea Guzman, promotions and partnership manager for the Napa Valley Wine Train, cites the winery tour package as a visitor favorite. “We offer three winery tours a day that include a multiple-course lunch on board, plus a tour and tasting off the train at one or two vineyards. Also, we know that children love trains and we have specific packages suitable for children, such as the Silverado in our casual dining car. It’s child-friendly with a 3-course BBQ menu, priced at $65 for kids 12 and under. In December, there’s a Santa train Monday through Thursday.”

She adds, “Also popular are our interactive packages that offer personal engagement with a winemaker or our chef. An example is our Sip and Supper experience that begins in the lounge car with a 90-minute tasting led by a guest vintner.”

The travel agent commission is $5 pp, Guzman says. “If the travel agent rides the train, we offer the agent a special rate of $54.50 for the Gourmet Express, and we increase the commission to $10 pp.

“Our Vista Dome sells out rather quickly, so be prepared to book months in advance to secure your special spot.”

getting there

There are four international airports that offer access to Napa
Valley: Oakland (50 miles); San Francisco (57 miles); Sacramento (64 miles) and San Jose (82 miles).

Archived related articles (available on

Downtown L.A. in the Thick of Things (August 2011)

contact information

Bardessono Hotel: (877) 932-5333;

Meadowood Napa Valley: (508) 520-4114 (travel agent inquiries);

The Meritage Resort and Spa: (866) 370-NAPA;

Napa River Inn: (877) 251-8500;

Napa Valley Wine Train: (800) 427-4124;

Visit Napa Valley: (707) 226-5813; or

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