How to Plan a Great Weekend in Napa!

We all have it: that one place we lived or constantly visit that feels like it’s just home. For EJ and I, returning to Napa gives us all the feelings.  You know, when you drive through the city you just know you’re suppose to be there, you’ve got all your favorite spots, and upon turning every corner you see a spot you’ve been, and immediately think about a memory of you being there.

If I could pick Napa up and move it to me, wait better yet, bring everything I love to Napa, I think I’d explode with joy and happiness.

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You might be thinking, “this girl must really love her wine,” and while that may be true, Napa, California brings about a sense of community, a small town feel, beautiful weather, and wide open spaces. Imagine having the nicest people,who will bake you homemade pie, and treat you as their own, all in one town. It’s simply, something special.

That being said, planning a trip to such a bucket list place can be hard to find the gems and sort through the minutia.

Take it from former residents, when we say these are our go-to musts for anyone looking to have the most amazing trip to Wine Country.


WHERE TO STAY:

Archer Hotel, Downtown Napa

Think about the best hotel you’ve stayed at. Are you thinking about it? Okay good. Now picture something 10X better, and you might be close to what it’s like to stay at the Archer. The Archer is located on Main Street in Downtown Napa. From valet to complimentary wine and four-legged friends, this hotel pulls out all the stops to make it the best place to stay in Napa. The hotel is only 6 stories high, with a roof that over looks the entire Napa Valley.

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The Archer is dog-friendly, even providing doggie beds and treats in the rooms for your furry friend’s arrival.

Upon entering your room, you’ll find amenities such as robes, slippers, bubble bath, and maybe if you sweet talk someone along the way of booking, a bottle of wine with a pair of glasses for two.

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Each room has a large bath tube, in addition to a shower, allowing even non-bath lover, like myself, an opportunity to relax.

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The floor you stay on will determine the layout you’ll have. EJ and I stayed on the 2nd floor, the only floor that has massive party size balconies that could essentially hold a yoga class for 8.  Rooms on floors higher in the hotel provide full bars, living rooms, and TVs that appear out of the dresser like magic.  The whole experience is nothing short of 5 stars.

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But wait!

If you aren’t set on staying in your hotel room the whole time, the hotel provides several other luxuries that make it worth the stay!

If you head up to the top of the hotel you’ll find the Rooftop Bar, a spacious low-key restaurant filled with low and high tables, lounging areas, and a separate hidden area for corn hole (with it’s own private bar).  Before you head out on Sunday, head back up to the Rooftop Bar for their Bottomless Mimosas and Buffet Brunch ($45/pp).  It’s spread of food is unbelievable, and might I add, the pours are not stingy by any means.

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On the rooftop you will also find the hotel’s spa with an extensive list of facials and massages, among other things, like an adult lounge pool and state of the art gym.

Poolside there are several lounge beds with fireplaces (all covered) for relaxing and taking it all in.  Stay as little or as long as you want, there’s plenty of space to go around.

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If you are more the fine dining type, the hotel attaches to a Steak House, and has a large menu that you can order from in the lobby as well as in your room.

The Archer is the must stay place if you go to Napa!

My Local Tip: Even if you aren’t staying at the Archer you can still make your way up to the Rooftop Bar! (The elevators do need a key to push buttons so make sure you head to the top with someone else who has a key.)


WHERE TO EAT:

Rutherford Grill, Yountville

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Don’t get me wrong there are several amazing places to eat in the valley, but Rutherford time after time is nothing short of amazing. I’m talking about a place where you can order literally anything off the menu and you won’t be disappointed.  Let’s just say, EJ would eat their Kale Salad w/ a Peanut Vinaigrette for the every meal for the rest of his life if he could, and less than a year ago he wasn’t a fan of having tons of greens.

Our Menu Must-Haves:

Appetizers

  • Spinach Artichoke Dip
  • Cornbread

Even if you aren’t a cornbread lover, this one is to die for. They cook it in a cast-iron, which give it just enough crisp.

  • Kale Salad with Peanut Vinaigrette

You can’t go wrong starting your meal with this!

Main Dishes

  • Barbecue Pork Ribs

This might possibly be the BEST thing on the menu.  I’m talking meat that falls off the bone. I’m not even a big pork lover and this is what I order every time I come!

  • Rotisserie Chicken

My Local Tip: If you are stopping in for lunch or dinner, bring your own bottle of wine! You probably spent all day in Wine Country, which means you picked up some wine that you loved. Rutherford doesn’t have a corkage fee for your first bottle! A 750 ml bottle is about 4 drinks – plenty of wine to go around!

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Sweetie Pies Bakery, Downtown Napa

In my opinion, Sweet Pies is one of Napa’s hidden gems – you’d need to know about it in order to look for it. It’s on Main Street, but all the way down by Angele and the Napa River Inn on the riverfront. It’s a cute little hometown shop – you know, the one that provides you with metal silverware and has antique furniture to sit and enjoy a meal!

We love their breakfast, and of course, their pies!

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Our Menu Must-Haves:

Breakfast

  • Morning Wrap

This wrap is heavenly!  Chorizo, scrambled eggs, queso fresco,
country potatoes, house made guacamole, salsa & sour cream all in a flour tortilla.  I only get the chorizo, scrambled eggs, light potatoes, guacamole and salsa, and it’s probably the best wrap I’ve tried.

And yes – EJ brought me breakfast in bed! 🙂 

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  • Avocado Toast

This is the best avocado toast I think I’ve ever had (and it’s only $10).  When you go to most restaurants and order toast does it really fill you up?  This one will! It’s topped with egg, pine nuts, tomatoes, and mozzarella.

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Desserts

  • Pear and Berry Pie
  • Apple and Seasonal Berry Pie
  • Apple Pie

My Local Tip: Pie! Just order the Pie! It’s in their name after all.  During the summer they make a Berry Peach Cobbler that is unbelievable. The berries give a little tart and nicely balance the sweetness of the peaches. If you eat in the shop they will even warm your pie for you!

Their breakfast also is one of the most affordable options in the Downtown area. Not much is open early besides Starbucks and one or two other spots.



WHAT TO DO:

Wine Taste

I guess you could say this is one of the more obvious things to do in Napa, but what you probably didn’t know is that there are tons of tasting rooms, even in the downtown area!  Several wineries (or I should say wine makers) in Napa have atypical tasting rooms, but nonetheless, host tasting flights.  Jam Cellars, Alpha Omega, Ca’ Momi, and Punk Dog Wines all have store front tasting rooms.  Personally I prefer to be surrounded by vineyards and the ambiance of being on the property when tasting, but it’s not for everyone!  Just keep in mind, when you are making your itinerary, you do have options.

My Local Tip: Nothings worse than spending tons of time in the car! Always start north when you plan your tastings and work your way back to where you’re staying. No one likes a long drive after the 4th winery of the day.

Outlets

Bet you didn’t know Napa has a huge outlet mall full of well-known brand names like Nike, Adidas, Levis, Banana Republic, Michael Kors…the list goes on and on! Believe me when I say, I’ve been to some outlets that don’t offer any deals, and it frustrates me that they call them outlets.  The Napa Premium Outlets are the real deal. I got a pair of Nike Vomero ($140 retail) for $65! (Brand new + the newest version at the time.) These stores deserve a drive by if you have time.

Hike

There are some amazing hikes in Napa Valley!  My two recommended spots are Alston Park and Lake Hennessey, specifically the Moore Creek Trail – both Pup Approved!  Alston has a large enclosed dog park as well as an off leash loop where you can walk or run and the dogs can play.  The Moore Creek Trail runs along Lake Hennessey.  Dogs can be off leash however, the water is protected so they aren’t allowed to swim in it. As long as you have good verbal control over you four-legged friend it should be nothing but a lot of fun!

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Hot Air Balloon

If you haven’t been Hot Air Ballooning, Napa is a pretty good spot for your first launch. Imagine watching the sunrise over the mountains on a peaceful valley filled with green vineyards, small homes, and pockets of little towns every couple of miles. EJ and I launched from Domaine Chandon, and upon returning from our almost hour soar in the air, were greeted with a champagne buffet breakfast.  And, we got it all done before 8:30 am. You can’t go wrong adding this to your itinerary!

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WHERE TO TASTE:

Many wineries in the Napa Valley (including the Yountville, Stags Leap, and St. Helena districts require appointments to visit and taste on the property).  Because of this, you definitely need to map out your trip ahead of time.  However, below I’ve compiled some of the BEST places you can drop-in without a set tasting reservation.  It’s always fun to leave a little room during your trip for a spontaneous adventure.

My Local Tip: EJ used to work in the industry, so he always recommends spacing tastings at least 2 hours apart.  Most tastings can last anywhere between 30 minutes to an hour, so this allows you enough time to also walk around the property, or simply enjoy the serenity the vineyards bring before having to make your way to the next spot.

Pine Ridge, Napa

Tasting Price: $45

Best known for: Cabernet Sauvignon

No reservation needed, but they suggest you try to arrive when they open the tasting room so you can get the full experience.

Pine Ridge does a great job at highlighting how soil and growing conditions can change the taste of a wine.  They produce several Cabernet Sauvignons, all grown from different regions in the valley, which you can definitely taste in each wine.

This past year, they released their first ever Sauvignon Blanc and it was wonderful.  Be on a look out for their next release, and if you like it stock up – they sold through quickly this year!

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Artesa, Napa

Tasting Price: $45-55

Best known for: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Tempranillo

No reservation needed, but reservations are required for certain tours and tastings (including groups of 6 or more).

There are several different places to taste, but I think the view itself blows me away every time we visit. The history of Artesa emphasizes an importance to preserve the natural beauty of the landscape, thus the entire winery is built into the hillside.

Rombauer, St. Helena

Tasting Price: $20 (appointment required)

Wine By the Glass: $12 to $30, includes souvenir stemless glass (and GOOD pours!)

Best known for: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon

Although you do need a reservation for the tasting room, don’t let that stop you from rolling up with a loaded picnic basket in hand, ready to enjoy wine by the glass (or by the bottle) and bask in the beautiful essence Rombauer offers.  Did I mention dogs are allowed on the property (just not in the tasting room).  All the wines, from whites to reds are phenomenal and that’s coming from someone who prefers reds 9 times out of 10.

Take a trip out to St. Helena and enjoy everything this winery has to offer.

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Cliff Lede, Yountville

Tasting Price: $35-75

Best known for: Cabernet Sauvignon

No reservation needed, but reservations are required for certain tours and tastings (including groups of 6 or more).

If you love Rock ‘n Roll, you’ll love Cliff Lede. This “Rock Block” winery features Lede’s favorite rock songs and albums.  Although Cliff Lede is best known for its red (hello, Napa Valley), their whites are incredible, especially their Sauvignon Blanc!  If anything, stop by and take a photo with the signature hearts on the terrace and head on your way.


Napa is simply one of those places where one trip won’t even scratch the surface of what you can do there. Whether you take my advice or choose to go your own route, I hope that your trip to Wine Country brings forth hospitality, good food, enhanced wine knowledge, and a whole lot of smiles.

Explore. Try new things. Go outdoors.

Adventure awaits.

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