Escape to St. Helena
● By David Norby
Photo courtesy of sthelena.com by Bob McClenahan Photography.
Although traveling with family is fun and always memorable, sometimes you just need a girl’s weekend to truly get away and recharge. And when it comes to pal-friendly destinations, St. Helena, “Napa Valley’s Main Street,” takes the cake. Located in the heart of Napa Valley’s wine country, this sophisticated-without-being-stuffy hamlet is filled with eclectic shops, world-class eateries, luxury lodging and spas, and wine…lots of wine.
A stay at the Wydown Hotel, located within walking distance to all the fun and designed with a modern, cosmopolitan take on wine country style, immediately gives lodgers a feeling of comfort. Upon entering, the lobby—fittingly dubbed the “Living Room”—greets guests with comfy couches, a TV, games and books, while the staff makes visitors feel right at home. And speaking of being at home, the luxury boutique property has only 12 rooms, providing a unique feeling of staying in a guest bedroom at someone’s home vs. a stale, corporate hotel chain.
A stop at Beringer Vineyards, located a couple miles down the road and sited in a gorgeous Victorian home prominently situated on top of a hill that’s impossible to miss, is a must—and boasts immaculate, inviting grounds with beautifully bloomed trees. The prestigious estate is open for viewing, as it displays keepsakes from earlier times and—of course—a wine tasting room, where some of Beringer’s finest reserve wines are available to sip.
Escape to the Health Spa Napa Valley for an afternoon of unplugging and pampering. Change into one of the fluffy, plush robes and soak up a few rays poolside before being whisked away to a treatment (both the “Warming Aromatherapy Massage” and “Vitamin C Facial” will have you feeling ahh-mazing). Following an hour of pure bliss, relax a little more before changing and prepping for dinner.
It’s no mistake that PRESS has been in the literal press lately and is the talk of the town; it can best be described in two words: freakingamazing! (Okay, so one word that’s not technically a word, but it’s that good.) Tantalizing dishes like Dry-Aged New York Strip Loin, Pacific Cod, Grilled Wild Shrimp and Banana Cream Tartlet are crafted from the finest seasonal produce (either culled from the restaurant’s two private gardens or sourced from local farmers, markets and neighboring purveyors) and the highest quality cuts of meat, seafood and poultry available. Impeccably paired with some of the finest Napa Valley wines available, dinner here will go down as an epicurean experience to be savored long after your last forkful.
You haven’t experienced life until you’ve wine tasted at 10 a.m.! A class at The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, followed by lunch in the café or dinner at the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant—where the food is magnificently prepared by students and the chocolate is to die for—are definite must-dos. Be sure to arrange for a tour around the amazing fortress and learn its fascinating history from the late 1800s.
In the true spirit of visiting wine country, it’s only appropriate to end your stay with doing nothing more than—you guessed it—a little more wine tasting. A visit to Markham Vineyards and Charles Krug—next door neighbors and across the street from The Culinary Institute—are two personal favorites and always an intoxicatingly good time. Tip: If you find a winery you love and want wine shipped to your home regularly, along with special deals and discounts, then look into their wine club.
There are approximately 400 wineries in Napa Valley and a few hundred more if you include Sonoma Valley. This itinerary is just a small taste of the barrels of fun that are on tap.
To read more about Sonja and her travel adventures, visit her blog: travelelixir.com.