After a tragic October where forest fires burned more than 161,000 acres of land throughout Napa and Sonoma counties, claiming thousands of buildings, tourists are now returning to return to wine country. The valley floor remained mostly untouched and thanks to the efforts of Cal Fire personnel and law enforcement, the town of Calistoga was spared. Recent tragedies notwithstanding, the Valley has no shortage of exciting new hotels, restaurants and wineries to explore. We had the pleasure of spending a recent weekend in Napa, arriving from Sausalito in a rented Chevrolet Traverse, the automaker’s new mid-size SUV. As parents, this car is amazing as it fits up to eight people over three rows and the third row is easily accessible. But the most user-friendly amenity of this vehicle is that it’s wifi equipped (as locals can attest, the cell service around Napa is inconsistent so this feature made navigating the area much more seamless).
Here are the hotspots we hit during our visit.
The Resort & Spa:
Meadowood, the premiere luxury resort in St. Helena, with its three-Michelin star restaurant, luxurious accommodations and nine-hole golf course will debut top-down renovations to its three pools, fitness center and spa facilities by the end of the year. A new Pool Café will offer California cuisine in a less-formal setting, whether you’re relaxing in a robe post spa treatment or fresh from a dip in the pool. We loved our lunch at The Grill overlooking the verdant golf course.
The Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa is a new 50-room property in Calistoga, which has been reimagined by New York-based design firm AvroKo. The accommodations are modern interpretations of a camper van and harken back to mid-century motor lodges. A color palette of navy and light blues, mustard yellow, and shades of green are mixed in with woven and striped fabrics and simple wood furniture and lighting from mid-century through the 1970s. The renovation also introduced three geothermal pools fed by the town’s natural spring water, and a remodeled spa with a “mix-your-own” mud bar (we enjoyed The Wine Country Scrub, a body exfoliation with crushed grapes).
Since 2002, Cliff Lede in Yountville has produced some of the most highly-rated red wines out of their Stags Leap District vineyards. Its tasting room also boasts an impressive collection of rock n’ roll art and other contemporary art on display—one vino lover even purchased a Frank Stella painting off the wall along with his wine.
Baxter Winery, run by father son duo Phil L. Baxter and Phil T. G. Baxter in the Northwest town of Philo is a great tasting room option. The single vineyard wines, known primarily for its pinot noir, focuses on the Anderson Valley and surrounding Mendocino appellations (the Oppenlander Pinot is a fan favorite).
First established in 1882, the Spottswoode estate in St. Helena features a stunning historic Victorian home and is certified organic. The second-generation winery produces mainly award-winning cabernet sauvignons and sauvignon blanc.
Winemaker and proprietor Cathy Corison produces some of the best cabernet sauvignon in Napa Valley today (both single vineyard and multi-vineyard offerings) at her Corison winery. Since 1987, Corison has been at the forefront of the region’s development and also produces a beloved Gewürztraminer varietal called Corazón.
For the recently debuted renovation of The French Laundry in Yountville, Chef Thomas Keller tapped hip Nordic architecture firm Snøhetta (known for its new San Francisco MoMa building) for its new kitchen and courtyard. This is the first design overhaul to the three-starred Michelin restaurant in over two decades in business, and doubles the size of the landscape for guests and gives the chefs a stunning new 2,000-square-foot space in which to craft their tasting menu. A new kitchen annex houses the butchery and 14,000-bottle wine collection while a curvaceous kitchen ceiling is patterned with subtle wrinkles in the gypsum fiber-reinforced panels and flanks long skylights to let in floods of natural light.