The first time I visited Napa, I was a 20-year old college sophomore at UC Berkeley. It was a Saturday morning in the fall, and my friends and I had left the house to pick up a greasy take-out breakfast, when we ran into some acquaintances who invited us up to their parent’s house in Napa for the day. Throwing caution to the wind – and ourselves into the car – we hopped onto the highway and headed up to wine country in our sweatpants. I don’t remember wine tasting (pretty sure we were drinking Natural Light beer), or having a gastronomical experience of any kind, but I do remember the landscape, the warm temperature, and the house on the hill with a hot tub surrounded by fragrant eucalyptus trees.
I have returned to northern California wine country (Napa and Sonoma Valleys) many times since. To be clear, my idea of experiencing wine country does not involve visiting five tasting rooms a day, the wine train, or even hiring a driver. When I go to Napa and Sonoma, my stay is all about waking up when I want, taking in the views, eating wonderful food, drinking good wine, exploring the slow roads, and taking time. I have become this kind of visitor to the area thanks to a dear friend who has a small house on the Napa River, where magical sunrises, long walks, and home cooked wine dinners come easy. Don’t get me wrong, I also love the high-life where breakfast comes to my room, the spa is world class, and a waiter delivers my cocktail to me in the pool (a glass of wine at sunset on the deck of Auberge du Soleil isn’t a bad way to go either!). After all, there are two sides to every coin!
So with all of that in mind, here is my take on a visit to wine country, and whatever you choose to do, don’t try to do too much.