These two famous wine regions around the world, which produce the most recognized wine in California and which are an hour’s drive north of San Francisco, take pride in its rolling hills planted with some of the world’s most coveted grapes . The Napa Valley reigns like the land of the big farms, the extended tasting rooms, the picturesque villages and the elegant hotels, many of which are along the Silverado path. Sonoma County tends to look a little more intimate, especially as it moves closer to the north and reaches the Russian River. Whether they are in a renovated castle or granary, the hundreds of wineries in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys hold gold medals and international awards.
When can you visit them? Each season has its charms: spring brings new leaves of bright green vine and lush hillsides; the yellow mustard fields add a bright contrast. Summer becomes warm, both with events and with people, so you should start your day early to avoid both. Autumn brings the crowd, and the vineyards and cellars are filled with workers. The winter brings a fresh silence: the locals know that this is the perfect time to make reservations at the Michelin-star hotels in the region and at the trendy restaurants, buy gifts for parties in decorated villages and relax in the luxurious spas.
Follow the best wine route of the Napa Valley: Silverado Trail
This is the best of all the routes, a rural road adorned with oaks that give a lot of shade and first class wines, with so many wineries that you could travel for a week and not finish visiting all of them. The Silverado trail was the first permanent road that connected the town of Napa with Calistoga about 30 miles / 48 km south and is the equivalent of a rural road to the busy Highway 29, which is practically parallel to the route. Drive (or rent a bike and pedal) along this quiet, scenic route glued to the eastern hills of the valley.
“This is the best of all the routes, a rural road adorned with oaks that give a lot of shade and top-level wines.”
The biggest challenge is deciding where to stop first. Some of the prestigious wineries located on the Silverado Trail include Joseph Phelps, ZD Wines and Miner Family Winery, just three of the dozens of fantastic places to taste the renowned Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and other full-bodied red wines. Fans of sparkling wines will want to visit Mumm Napa, where you can try them on an elegant patio, in a tasting room, or book a seat in the intimate Oak Terrace. Other curves take you to inns and resorts of the land of wine, such as Auberge du Soleil and Solage Calistoga (surely you will think “how can they be so perfect?”). To see one of the most beautiful places in the region, walk the long, leafy road to Meadowood Napa Valley to enjoy an alfresco lunch at The Grill or, if you want to treat yourself, a dinner at the owner’s restaurant of three Michelin stars The Restaurant at Meadowood, renowned for its impeccable service and its organic dishes served, of course, with exquisite wines.
Give yourself the pleasure of staying in a luxury hotel in the land of wine
With such happy surroundings as the Napa Valley and the Sonoma County wine country, it was only a matter of time before hotels began to be built with the same level of joy. In the 1980s, St. Helena’s Auberge du Soleil began to seriously pamper its visitors, offering isolated rooms with wood-burning fireplaces and French doors that led to private terraces, a quiet pool and romantic views of the valley. In Meadowood, a country-style hotel on the Silverado Trail in Napa, the person staying there can use the golf course, play tennis or croquet, or relax in an exclusive spa and then prepare for an elegant dinner at the Michelin-starred restaurant The Restaurant at Meadowood. (The chef’s tasting menu is dazzling).
Sonoma Mission Inn (now owned by Fairmont) focuses on healing waters and lush landscapes, and visitors still enjoy sparkling pools with thermal water in environments surrounded by all kinds of luxuries. In Yountville, relax in the terrace pool of the ultra modern Bardessono, built with salvaged stones and reclaimed wood. In Calistoga Ranch, the 50 independent rooms for guests are among oaks and streams that produce whispers of water; the bonfires heat the salons outdoors.
If you think that all these pleasures are only for couples, think again. Solage Calistoga can be a very refined place, but also offers nice options for the whole family, such as a children’s pool and free bicycles.