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2 Full Days in Napa Valley in Aug - tips?
Old 06-15-2015, 09:01 AM   #1
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2 Full Days in Napa Valley in Aug - tips?

We are driving up to Nor Cal to drop our DS off at college for his sophomore year later in August, then plan a stop in Napa Valley on the way back to SD.

We want to spend 2 full days in Napa Valley.

Any tips on reasonable places to stay, wineries to visit, and modest places to eat?

Thanks!
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Old 06-15-2015, 11:08 AM   #2
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What a great time to be in Napa, harvest is beginning, crush is on. Ok I am packing my bags.
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Old 06-15-2015, 11:52 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by BBQ-Nut View Post
We are driving up to Nor Cal to drop our DS off at college for his sophomore year later in August, then plan a stop in Napa Valley on the way back to SD.

We want to spend 2 full days in Napa Valley.

Any tips on reasonable places to stay, wineries to visit, and modest places to eat?

Thanks!
Napa is a wonderful place, but you don't often see reasonable, modest and Napa in the same breath.
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Old 06-15-2015, 01:44 PM   #4
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Napa is a wonderful place, but you don't often see reasonable, modest and Napa in the same breath.
Agreed.

I'm going to semi-ignore the "modest" part and just throw out some recommendations.

The Thomas in downtown Napa is a great place for dinner. So, too, is Farm at the Carneros Inn.

For a fun lunch, stop by Oakville Grocery. Get a sandwich or some snacks to go and have a picnic at one of the wineries.

Speaking of wineries, some of my favorites include:

Pine Ridge
Pride Mountain
Cakebread
Nickle and Nickle
J. Gregory
Alpha Omega

Have fun.
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Old 06-15-2015, 02:18 PM   #5
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A couple of winery suggestions:

Castello di Amorosa also known as the 'Castle.' The tour is well worth the $ and their wines are excellent.

St. Francis Winery has a wonderful set lunch with wine pairings. $50pp last year. We treated our out of town guests for their anniversary and everyone loved it. They limit the number of people, so advance ressies, especially during high season are a must.
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Old 06-15-2015, 03:06 PM   #6
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Our favorite wineries are Regusci (Cab Sauv), Elyse (Jacob Franklin Petite Sirah & PS Port) and Artesa (Pinot Noir). Very nummy...

We last stayed at The Napa River Inn, reasonable for the area.

We didn't eat at any modest or reasonable restaurants, but there are so many great (some world class) restaurants in the area, it would be a crime to not experience a few of them. YMMV

FWIW. We did a hot air balloon ride there, I recommend it HIGHLY. No really, aside from the double pun...worth every penny dollar!
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Old 06-15-2015, 03:24 PM   #7
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I am a big fan of: Reverie, Merryvale and Casa Nuestra.

And if you like port, finish the day at Prager.
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Old 06-15-2015, 03:32 PM   #8
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It has been years since we did the Napa Valley but remember the Sterling Winery fondly. That winery may have been sold to others.. perhaps someone will know the place I am talking about.

The French Laundry in Yountville is, even for the Bay Area, very expensive. Expense account entertaining only IMHO.
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Old 06-15-2015, 03:48 PM   #9
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The French Laundry in Yountville is, even for the Bay Area, very expensive. Expense account entertaining only IMHO.
Unless things have changed, you get a reservation by calling exactly 2 months in advance of the date you want, and hope your call even gets through. OR you know someone who knows someone. The hardest reservation to get that we've ever experienced...
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It can be very difficult to get French Laundry reservations. In fact, it is often named in the list of top ten most difficult restaurant reservations to book in the world.

So normally, making a restaurant reservation involves simply calling the restaurant or making a quick online reservation request. Generally you can do this a week or less in advance and boom you have a table. Things are not so easy at The French Laundry. It takes precise planning to make your call for reservations on the right date at the right time.

-The phone lines open each day at 10am PST. Translate this time to your own time zone (e.g., 1:00pm in EST) and mark this on your calendar.
-You must start calling at (or a minute or two before) 10am PST two months before you want the reservation.
-Have your credit card information handy to guarantee the reservation. I believe they take Visa, Mastercard, and American Express.
-Be persistent and keep hitting redial when you get the inevitable busy signal. Try using a couple of phones if you can. Elicit help from others to all call until one of you gets through.
Sound like fun?

French Laundry Reservations: Tips and Advice on Getting a Reservation at The French Laundry
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Old 06-15-2015, 04:12 PM   #10
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CIA (Culinary Institute of America) now has a branch in St. Helena, at the Greystone Castle, the old Christian Brothers Winery. It's worth a visit, and if the timing is right, you can attend a cooking demonstration.

For an inexpensive lunch, you can buy cold cuts, cheese, bread, and of course wine at Sattui Winery. They are among the few that allow picnicking on the grounds of their winery.

Besides the French Laundry which is expensive and takes months for advance reservation, Thomas Keller has lesser restaurants called Adhoc and Bouchon. All three restaurants are lined up on the main street in Yountville, about 1/4 mile apart. The walk up/down that street is very relaxing, and lets you see beautifully landscaped homes and shops. Adhoc and Bouchon are also close to a nice shopping complex where celebrity chef Michael Chiarello has his Bottega restaurant.

We are no oenophile, so do not make a tour of the local wineries to sample their wine. We however enjoy strolling through the locations mentioned above, and wineries like Robert Mondavi, Domaine Chandon.

We usually visit out of season to avoid the heat of summer, or to enjoy the flowers in spring. In August, it may be crowded and hot.
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Old 06-15-2015, 04:19 PM   #11
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Wow - great suggestions.


Please add more if you have any good advice, tips, or enjoyable places you remember visiting.


I guess it's a good thing we are only planning for 2 days!
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Old 06-15-2015, 04:41 PM   #12
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For strolling and window shopping, I already mentioned Yountville. The main street of Helena is also lined with shops and restaurants. And we have been to Napa Valley quite a few times over the years, and only in the most recent trip discovered the downtown of Calistoga. More boutiques and restaurants there. Not as upscale as Yountville, but Calistoga is at the end of the valley, and in peak season might be less crowded than the main route through the center of the valley.

And there's the Napa wine train, but we have not taken it.
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Old 06-15-2015, 04:44 PM   #13
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I am a big fan of: Reverie, Merryvale and Casa Nuestra.

And if you like port, finish the day at Prager.
+1
I don't care for port, but I loved Prager. They had a white port that was absolutely wonderful.
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Old 06-15-2015, 05:10 PM   #14
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My two favorite places to eat Mustards Grill for dinner last bill was $172 for two with wine. Domaine Chandon restaurant Etoili for lunch, but sadly closed this year.
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Old 06-15-2015, 05:30 PM   #15
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For hotels, I have stayed twice at the Eurospa hotel in Calistoga. Its location is great - walking distance to downtown Calistoga on a tree-lined street in a residential neighborhood. Very reasonably priced for wine country and the staff is friendly and helpful.

I have a friend who has more than once gotten last minute reservations at French Laundry due to cancellations. The only time I went there was for DH's 40th many years ago. It was very expensive and worth it.
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Old 06-15-2015, 06:29 PM   #16
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My two favorite places to eat Mustards Grill for dinner last bill was $172 for two with wine. Domaine Chandon restaurant Etoili for lunch, but sadly closed this year.
We really enjoy Mustards Grill too. I have a fond spot in my heart for it as a result of it being my celebratory restaurant of choice after completing the Napa marathon.

We came t h i s close to making a reservation at The French Laundry this summer, but two sets of friends that attended said that while, yes, it was excellent, they didn't think it was worthy of the price paid (around $1,000 per couple, including wine). So, we've landed on Greystone Restaurant instead, at the Culinary Institute of America mentioned above.

In Napa we really like Trefethen, and also Folie a Deux, but if you would consider popping over the hill, we're most nuts about Sonoma. Whereas tastings can be $20 on up in Napa, they are often free, or perhaps $5 in Sonoma, often waived with wine purchase. There are no shortage of good eats in Sonoma as well, with The Girl and The Fig being top on our list to enjoy during our visit this summer as well.
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Old 06-15-2015, 07:12 PM   #17
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We really enjoy Mustards Grill too. I have a fond spot in my heart for it as a result of it being my celebratory restaurant of choice after completing the Napa marathon.

We came t h i s close to making a reservation at The French Laundry this summer, but two sets of friends that attended said that while, yes, it was excellent, they didn't think it was worthy of the price paid (around $1,000 per couple, including wine). So, we've landed on Greystone Restaurant instead, at the Culinary Institute of America mentioned above.

In Napa we really like Trefethen, and also Folie a Deux, but if you would consider popping over the hill, we're most nuts about Sonoma. Whereas tastings can be $20 on up in Napa, they are often free, or perhaps $5 in Sonoma, often waived with wine purchase. There are no shortage of good eats in Sonoma as well, with The Girl and The Fig being top on our list to enjoy during our visit this summer as well.
Whaa 1G for the French Laundry?

Scratch that off...
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Old 06-15-2015, 08:09 PM   #18
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LOTS of good suggestions here. Getting into the French Laundry is crazy, and the food is not to everyone's liking. It's a very high end specialty place. Thomas Keller also operates Bouchon, which is more of a French bistro. (They have menus, and you can pick what you would like to eat! Not like French Laundry...) It is often possible to get a same-day weekday reservation at Bouchon, if you don't mind dining early or late. Oh, and their bakery sells retail right next door.

We did an 6 hour tour of the wine country for a visiting couple from NYC recently. They were flying out that night. Anyway, we started with lunch at Rutherford Grill, between Yountville and St Helena. I prefer Mustard's, but DW likes the Grill. (Go to Mustards. Get the pork chop.) Then we hit V. Sattui just up the road toward St Helena. Just left of their 'Wine Club Members Only' place is a huge wooden door that lets into their little museum and an aging room with hundreds of barrels on display. I let our visitors wander in there until the fumes got to them and then we headed for their deli for a look and a few bottles for me. (I like their Gamay Rouge, chilled on a hot day.) We then drove through St. Helena and crossed the valley to the Silverado Trail, and headed south toward Yountville. (So many wineries!) We stopped in Yountville for a walk through shops, and to pick up airplane snacks at Bouchon Bakery. We then headed south on Highway 29 through Napa to Highway 12, and headed west on 12 about 3 miles to the Tattenger winery, where they produce some of their sparkling wines. We treated our guests to a flight of sparkling wines and local cheeses (purely so they'd be ready to face the TSA, of course).


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Old 06-15-2015, 08:34 PM   #19
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Whaa 1G for the French Laundry?

Scratch that off...
The Chef Tasting Menu is currently $295 pp, or just about $400 after tax and tip. Corkage fee for wine brought from home is $150, or @$200 after tax and tip. Wine ordered on site has no upward price limit, of course. (Up to $25,000 a bottle, according to what the restaurant reported out after the infamous Christmas Day wine heist they experienced: Update: Wine stolen from French Laundry recovered in North Carolina : St. Helena Star )

Edit: I rechecked to be sure I had my figures correct, and realized I'd forgotten service is included in the $295 pp price, so make that a more reasonable $325 pp/$650 per couple, plus $200 on up for wine.
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Old 06-15-2015, 08:42 PM   #20
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Many of my favorites have already been mentioned. For wineries, we like Cakebread, Peju, V. Sattui (like MP, I enjoy a glass of their Gamay Rouge, chilled on a hot day). But for the view, my favorite is Mumm Napa. You can get a glass of bubbly on their terrace overlooking the vineyards. A nice way to take a break on a summer afternoon. Last time we were in Napa, we dropped the car in Rutherford and rented bikes to tour the wineries between Saint Helena and Yountville. It's a fairly flat area and it was a very enjoyable way to get around. For a nice drive, I recommend the Silverado trail between Napa and Calistoga. For a nice dinner with your special someone, you can try the restaurant at the Auberge du Soleil. The view of the valley from their terrace is fantastic in the early evening. And the food is not too shabby either. But bring your own wine if you want to keep the cost down.
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