For two years, the visitor areas of Shafer Vineyards had been shuttered, depriving guests of idealized Napa Valley vineyard views and the ability to taste the 50-year-old winery’s award-winning wines including a previous Wine Spectator Wine of the Year. Fortunately, it’s open now with tables again set up overlooking the 240 acres of undulating, vine covered hills in the Stag’s Leap District to sample offerings such as the rich Syrah/Petite Sirah Relentless (the previous Wine of the Year) and Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select. For more private viewings and slightly more elevated vintages, there’s also an indoor tasting salon, the Private Collectors Experience, with glass walls providing hillside views. Tastings are available by appointment only Wednesday-Saturday with local cheese and charcuterie platters provided.
Since Shafer’s substantial red wines are over 15% alcohol, using a car service is a good idea after a visit there. It might also be after spending three hours over lunchtime on the Napa Valley Wine Train in a new program launching in May. Tasting on the Rails will set out seven wines from different vineyard areas to accompany a seven course menu while the train, a 1915 Pullman Lounge Car refurbished last year in plush, Orient Express reminiscent style, rolls through five of those areas. The lineup: an amuse bouche accompanied by Chandon By the Bay Blanc de Blanc from Carneros as the train sets off from the town of Napa; a salad of arugula, frisée and chevre accompanied by Sauvignon Blanc from Charles Krug Estate Sauvignon Blanc in St Helena and a soup of the day accompanied by a Chardonnay from Tate, Dillon Vineyard in Yountville as the train rolls through the Oak Knoll and Yountville vineyard regions; herb and garlic prawns accompanied by Pinot Noir from Belle Glos, Eulenlach in Carneros; beef tenderloin with a Private Reserve Cabernet from BV, George de la Tour in Rutherford; a chocolate bar dessert with an Estate Zinfandel from Ghost Block, Pelissa Vineyard in Oakville and finally a duo of cheese with an Estate Late Harvest Riesling from Trefethen in Oak Knoll.
Culinary travelers to Napa Valley have a good reason to stay in Yountville for the array of top restaurants dotted along the streets of this extremely walkable town. Conveniently located in the center but designed to feel like a Japanese garden with stone walkways, small ponds bordered by boulders and budding trees, Bardessono Hotel and Spa is an especially serene base particularly with its latest introduction, the three Maple Grove villas. Spacious, secluded and contemporary with fireplaces, spa bathrooms and stone patios with hot tubs, the villas also include caretaker Docents to arrange insider experiences in the area.
Since the arrival of Daniel Boulud alum Jim Leiken as Executive Chef, the hotel’s restaurant Lucy Restaurant & Bar now ranks as one of the culinary destinations in town for dishes such as ahi tuna carpaccio with K&J Farms Asian pear, avocado, yuzu-prickly pear vinaigrette and crispy wontons and pan seared Liberty Farms Sonoma duck breast with toasted farrotto, delicata squash and red wine poached haskap berries. Hotel guests who drive a Lexus also get a $100 dining credit at Lucy through the hotel’s partnership with the car company. Guests who don’t but want to check out the car can also borrow a 2021 RX 450H, 2021 LC 500H, 2021 IS 350 F Sport or 2022 LX 600 for a two-four hour drive.
13 miles south of Yountville on the southern edge of Napa Valley, Stanly Ranch, Auberge Resorts Collection, was one of the marquee openings in the area last year, a 712 acre ranch with 78 standalone cottages dotted on hillsides surrounded by vineyards. The wellness compound, opened last fall, is a draw for both guests and nonresidents for facilities such as the pre-treatment/post workout Springhouse circuit containing a succession of healing facilities ranging from a hyperbaric oxygen chamber to a cold plunge and salt therapy.
Another major draw, for nonguests as well, is the array of culinary offerings. This week The Window at Stanly Ranch is opening, a more casual, grab and go option for lunch spotlighting weekly specials by Executive Chef Garrison Price such as Sichuan dumplings, Hawaiian ahi poke and Australian meat and vegetable pies. In April, visiting chefs from across the region will be featured in the program Taste of Napa Valley. And its signature restaurant Bear is a destination on any given day for dishes featuring local ingredients particularly in grilled and fermented preparations such as peppercorn roasted short rib, lettuce and herb wraps with fermented chili sauce.
How to Get Around: whether skimming through vineyards or sitting in traffic on Route 29, driving a premium car always enhances the experience here. Exotic Car Collection by Enterprise can provide that through its locations at San Francisco International Airport for those flying in or city locations in San Francisco and Napa (along with locations throughout California and other states.) The range of options extends from classics to fantasy level. Among them: Mercedes S-Class; Audi A7; Lamborghini Huracan; Maserati Quattroporte and Porsche Boxster.
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