Opportunity can be the silver lining of tragedy, and after the devastating 2018 Napa wildfires, the community quickly flexed its resiliency. Ask any local winemaker or vineyard owner how best to support California wine country, and the answer is simple: Visit. Ninety-six percent of Napa’s wineries are family owned, and as the area rebuilds, this summer and fall harvest promises plenty of tasty discoveries. So oenophiles rejoice. Here’s your cheat sheet to the quintessential long weekend in Napa and Sonoma.
3 p.m. Check into the Meadowood Napa Valley in St. Helena. Known for source-to-fork Napa inspired cuisine by Chef Christopher Kostow, The Grill is your kick-start to the weekend. The resort’s Friday afternoon tradition toasts the weekend with a sommelier-selected glass of bubbly paired with conversation on local vintners.
5:30 p.m. A private driver takes you to Far Niente estate for a wine tasting and vineyard tour. Stroll the property’s gorgeous 13-acre gardens while sipping the brand’s famous Chardonnay, and then visit the historic Far Niente Wine Caves.
8 p.m. Tonight it’s dinner at PRESS Napa Valley—a local favorite. Start with bubbles and bivalves followed by locally sourced, dry-aged prime beef and a robust red selected by superstar sommelier Amanda McCrossin.
6 a.m. Your wake-up call is early, but for good reason. Take a private hot-air balloon ride in Yountville with Napa Valley Aloft, one of the area’s first and most reputable balloon company’s in the region. Get a birds-eye view of the iconic terraced vineyards (Instagram envy a given), followed by a champagne toast once back on terra firma.
10 a.m. Next up, a decadent wine-paired brunch at Yountville’s Ma(i)sonry. Opt for the Morning Flight, which includes a collection of eight wines paired with breakfast selects from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery. Ma(i)sonry’s historic building houses an eclectic art gallery and boutique, so plan time to peruse, too. (*Note: Ma(i)sonry is closed for renovations through late summer, so if visiting before it’s new debut, check out Bouchon Bakery for a post-balloon refuel).
Noon. Time to walk off the morning’s indulgence at Auberge du Soleil. This Napa Valley mainstay features one of the largest outdoor sculpture gardens in the country. After walking the grounds, head to your outdoor table at The Restaurant at Auberge du Soleil, with one of the finest Napa views. Order the Kampachi Crudo, served with sesame crème fraîche, cucumber, radish, and dashi, followed by the Maine Lobster Salad with curry almonds, avocado, hearts of palm, and Moroccan vinaigrette. Considering the resort’s 15,000-bottle cellar, your only challenge may be wine decision fatigue.
2:30 p.m. Drive along the scenic Silverado Trail to Chateau Montelena for a private tasting and tour of the historic vineyard. The serene property features a stone castle nestled into a hillside overlooking a Chinese garden, with vineyards that hug the base of Mount Saint Helena. Leave with a bottle of Chateau Montelena Cabernet Sauvignon, presented exclusively to Sentient cardholders.
4:30 p.m. Time to visit the Napa Valley Museum in Yountville. The permanent “Land and People of Napa Valley” gives insight to the heritage and characters that have created Napa’s unique DNA.
7 p.m. Dinner is at Archetype in St. Helena. Imagined by owner-architects Ann and Howard Backen, the restaurant’s design is as notable as its hyper-local, “clean cuisine” by Executive Chef Anthony Paone.
9 a.m. After a morning hike along Meadowood’s on-property trails through a gorgeous forest, you’ve earned a visit to the Meadowood Spa. Celebrating Napa’s strong sense of place, vinotherapy uses antioxidant-rich grape extracts to combat free radicals with resveratrol and reduce oxidative stress. This three-and-half hour treatment includes a massage and facial.
1:30 p.m. Lunch at the iconic and casual Fremont Diner is a must. Try the signature Nashville Chicken—spicy white chicken, bread, and spicy potato salad. Order wines sourced from Carneros, or if your wine taste buds need a break, order a small-batch Sonoma Springs beer.
3 p.m. Carneros is calling! Enjoy your private barrel tasting with husband-and-wife team Helen and DJ Keplinger. The owners of Keplinger Vineyards and the applauded duo behind Carte Blanche Wine (who’s owner, Nick Allen, is part of the Chateau Haut-Brion heritage), sample current releases and get their insider take on Napa and Sonoma viticulture.
5 p.m. Sunday Funday at Elizabeth Spencer Winery in Rutherford is defined by rosé all day. The outdoor patio draws a mix of locals, tourists, and Napa winemakers—the piece de resistance to a perfect Napa weekend. Cheers!
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