- Classic country casual
- A river runs through it
- Cosseting contemporary country retreat
- Hillside perch in rolling vineyards
- Modernist home on the range
- California's bucolic pastures new
Napa Valley Overview
- Californian vineyards
- Country life
- Wine and dine
Producing some of the best food and wine in the United States, the rolling hills of the Napa Valley and nearby Sonoma are a magnet for gourmands and wine lovers.
The vineyards may not be as extensive nor the wineries as grand as their European counterparts, but what Napa lacks in Old World tradition it makes up for in warmth and informality. Forget about snooty sommeliers and their pompous pretensions: here, wine tasting is always a pleasure rather than a trial. Napa has impeccable French-inspired cuisine, a benign climate and some beautiful scenery, so it's hardly surprising that San Franciscans flock here year-round for some refined R’n’R.
Naturally Napa Valley
Yountville is to Napa Valley what Bray is to Berkshire: bursting with culinary excellence. Thrice-Michelin-starred chef Thomas Keller’s restaurant the French Laundry (+1 707 944 2380) has a mighty reputation and a waiting list to match. Skip the wait at Keller’s informal Yountville bistro, Bouchon (+1 707 944 8037); reserve an alfresco table and fill up on flawless French-flavoured fruits de mer. No room? Buy still-warm bread from Bouchon Bakery (+1 707 944 1565) next-door.
- Black Tie Taxi (+1 707 259 1000) operates 24 hours a day and serves the entire Napa Valley area. Keep their number handy, in case you get too tipsy to drive home.
- Tipping culture
- 15–20 per cent is usual for almost every conceivable service – if in doubt, tip.
- Packing tips
- If you plan on hiring a convertible to breeze through the vineyards in, bring a headscarf or cap unless you want to arrive looking windswept and ‘interesting’. A pair of sunglasses is a good idea, to dim the dazzling light on those mornings after you’ve overindulged.
- Recommended reads
- Napa Valley: The Ultimate Winery Guide by Antonia Allegra and Richard Gillette; The Silverado Squatters by Robert Louis Stevenson; East of Eden by John Steinbeck.
- Napa Valley is serious gastro territory, with some of the most sophisticated and delicious food in the States, much of it organic. There’s a strong emphasis on French cuisine – this is definitely one place where you won’t be offered ‘Freedom fries’. As you’d expect, there’s also a big emphasis on Californian wines, too. For some expert cookery demonstrations, visit the prestigious Culinary Institute of America’s California campus in St Helena (www.ciachef.edu).
- US dollar.
- Time zone
- GMT -8.
- Dialling codes
- United States: 1. The area code for the Napa and Sonoma valleys is 707.
- Do go/don't go
- The exciting autumn harvest is known locally as ‘the Crush’. You might want to time your visit and go just after or just before, when the weather is perfect and the crowds less madding.
Don't go home without...
… noticing that not all natural wonders come in bunches: Napa boasts a forest of petrified redwoods (www.petrifiedforest.org); and Calistoga is home to one of only three ‘old faithfuls’ in the world, a geyser that erupts with reassuring regularity. Try a volcanic mud bath while you’re in town (www.calistogaspas.com); it’s more edifying.