Napa Valley Rising

Elegant Cabernet Sauvignon, Michelin-starred restaurants, and sweeping estates have always defined California’s most famous wine destination. These days, it’s full of surprises. By Martine Bury

Long before Napa Valley became one of the world’s foremost wine regions, it was the wild west—a land of gold fever, stagecoach bandits, and pioneers. Today, this place that also ignited the era of modern winemaking maintains its coveted status with a fresh spate of restaurants, tasting rooms, and hotels. 

Anchoring resurgent Downtown Napa’s culinary scene, Oxbow Public Market gives visitors a chance to savor the local bounty. Next door at the Culinary Institute of America, The Restaurant at Copia offers lively meals in the eclectic environment of a culinary campus. Head to Kenzo for Chef Kenzo Tsujimoto’s kaiseki and sushi menu, featuring the fresh catch flown in from Tokyo’s famous Tsukiji Fish Market. Opening soon: Charlie Palmer Steak and The Charter Oak by Restaurant at Meadowood alums Chef Christopher Kostow and Nathaniel Dorn. Indulge for now at the chef-driven eateries that opened in 2016, like Morimoto and Michelin two-starred chef Matthew Lightner’s Ninebark. Hear live music at Blue Note Napa on the first floor of the 19th-century Napa Valley Opera House. Try a private tasting at Riverhouse by Bespoke Collection, surrounded by modern art and collectibles. And, if you love craft brews, make plans for Stone Brewing’s Napa Tap Room and Pilot Brewery, set to open later this year.

Beyond the lure of a vibrant hub, Napa’s towns still reign for sweeping natural scenery, vineyards, unique character, and exclusive experiences. Named for the mountain that anchors its north end, St. Helena is an icon by its own right. Major national landmarks and well-preserved architecture mingle effortlessly with Michelin-starred restaurants, beautiful boutiques, charming streets, and hip tasting rooms that give you a sampling of what’s on offer at the 416 vineyards that comprise this local American Viticultural Area. For foodies, there’s no greater place in the U.S. to satisfy your palate than Yountville. The town’s total area of one and a half square miles is home to some of the country’s most important restaurants—many Michelin-starred, like Chef Thomas Keller’s legendary French Laundry and Bouchon Bistro. For the classic California wilderness, Calistoga offers breathtaking, forested vistas, sophisticated retreats, and famous hot springs. While you might be taken with the fresh mountain air and pristine surroundings, downtown Calistoga invites epicures and aesthetes to wander into the shops and eateries for artisanal goods and fresh, local bites. 

On the lodgings front, the Carneros Inn just completed various enhancements, with more to come. Yountville’s Vintage Estate is undergoing a design-forward refresh. Ultra-private, hilltop hideaway Auberge du Soleil recently revealed eight lavish guest rooms and suites. Now open, Las Alcobas—the St. Helena outpost of Mexico City’s swankiest boutique hotel—delivers a chic, serene stay, and bucolic views. Stay tuned for the unveiling of downtown’s Archer Hotel Napa and Four Seasons Resort and Private Residences Napa Valley.

At Meritage Resort & Spa, grab a glass of wine, and then relax at the acclaimed Spa Terra with a treatment 40 feet beneath the vineyard. After, visit the Stags’ Leap Vineyard’s historic manor house winery for a tasting experience. Sip alfresco at Stewart Cellar’s hip tasting salon in Yountville, or hide out in a wine cave at Pine Ridge Vineyards Cellar 47. If you are curious about craft wine, discover exquisite examples at Picayune Cellars in Calistoga.

Be sure to seek experiences where you can meet or dine with local winemakers. Take a bike and tasting room tour, or stay at a private vineyard hotel. Soar above the pretty valleys in a hot air balloon or linger over a romantic dinner in a wine cave. The Napa Valley is an exceptionalblend of American small town charm and European elegance, ripe for the picking.