In addition to its breathtaking natural scenery, Napa Valley is known for being the country’s premier wine-producing region. Boasting more than 450 wineries and plenty of world-class restaurants, it’s no wonder that the region draws over 4.5 million annual visitors. Whether you’re traveling for work or pleasure, there’s plenty to do and see. Here are some Napa Valley travel tips to help you plan your adventure.
Visit the Wineries
If you’re not a wine enthusiast now, you will be by the time you leave. Napa Valley’s many wineries are the heart and soul of the area, and some of them even date as far back as the 19th century when frontier entrepreneurs discovered that the region’s Mediterranean climate and soil quality supported commercial wine production. Since the 1970s, Napa Valley has become widely recognized as one of the top winegrowing regions in the world, attracting discerning oenophiles and viticulturists in droves.
With so many wineries to explore, planning your trip can be a challenge. Among our Napa Valley travel tips, we recommend you do some preliminary research. Spend some time reading about the wineries in the area, and choose the ones that appeal to you. After all, each estate is going to have its own unique characteristics, and the same can be said for the wines they produce.
Among other varieties, Napa Valley is known for its exceptional Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Some winemakers also use blends of grapes grown on the hillsides and valley floor. Consider your personal taste as you choose wineries to visit, but also try to be open to trying new varieties as well. There are many innovative winemakers in the area, so be sure to try some modern offerings in addition to the classic standbys.
As you try new wines and visit various wineries, you’re going to learn more and more about the growing and winemaking process, as well as the subtleties involved in tasting each wine. One of the best Napa Valley travel tips we can give is to really pay attention and learn – it really adds another dimension to the experience. You may even want to bring a notebook so you can jot down notes. Learning about why and how flavors are developed gives tasters a whole new appreciation for the wine.
Here are some winery recommendations to get you started:
William Hill Estate Winery
The land on which a winery resides often plays a major role in the wine’s flavor and profile. The William Hill Estate Winery is an excellent example. The estate is situated on the Silverado Bench hills, at the foot of the Vaca Mountains in Southern Napa. Benchland soil doesn’t contain as many nutrients as the rich soil prevalent on the floors of the valley, and it tends to be thinner and rockier. The vines become deprived of water, which causes the berries that the vine produces to be smaller and more intense in color and flavor than typical Napa Valley grapes.
The William Hill Estate is ideal for those who want to do some exploring, as the winery allows you to bring your wine with you on a self-guided tour. Take in the natural beauty of the valley’s rolling hills, and enjoy tasting the wine as you admire the grapes that created it. While you will enjoy an upscale experience, the friendly staff and welcoming atmosphere ensure that everyone feels comfortable.
Cuvaison Estate Wines
Cuvaison is another winery that creates distinctive varietals that reflect the grape’s distinct environment. The rolling hills that host the grape vines are cooled by fog from the San Pablo Bay, which gives the cool climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir unique characteristics that connoisseurs and budding enthusiasts alike are sure to appreciate. The estate hosts various events throughout the year, and tastings are available as long as you schedule your visit in advance.
One of the common Napa Valley travel tips that you’ll probably hear a lot is to not forget about the small, family-owned wineries. Sometimes they provide the most memorable experiences. The Hendry Ranch is a perfect example with its intimate setting and friendly, attentive, and knowledgeable staff. As an added bonus, dogs are welcome at Hendry Ranch, making it the perfect location for anyone traveling with their furry four-legged companions.
The Hess Collection Winery
The Hess Collection Winery has been active since 1976 when Swiss entrepreneur Donald Hess established it on the volcanic slopes of Mount Veeder. While The Hess Collection Winery produces three tiers of wines, it’s most famous for its Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays. In addition to offering walk-in tastings (depending on availability) as well as reserved tastings, The Hess Collection Winery boasts an in-house art museum that features a wide variety of classic modern art from Donald Hess’ personal collection that’s displayed in museums worldwide.
Try Local Cuisine
When it comes to Napa Valley travel tips, one of the most important is to remember to eat food and drink water throughout the day. It’s easy to get so caught up in the wine that you forget about dining and staying hydrated! After a long day of wine tasting, there’s nothing better than a hearty meal at one of Napa Valley’s outstanding restaurants. Although wine is the main attraction in Napa Valley, many restaurants offer sumptuous local cuisine that pairs perfectly with the region’s wines. Here are some of our favorite eateries in the area:
Located in Yountville, Ciccio is the perfect destination if you want to enjoy some of the state’s best pizza in a casual environment. This family-owned restaurant offers a variety of pizza and Italian dishes cooked in the restaurant’s wood-fire oven. The restaurant sources ingredients locally and some even come from their own gardens at the Altamura Ranch where they make wine under the Altamura name. As you might expect, the food and wine pair wonderfully, creating a truly decadent experience.
Why eat just one meal when you can indulge in multiple small plates? La Taberna is the place to go for delicious tapas inspired by the Pintxo bars of Northern Spain. Whether you’re starting your evening out with a cocktail or grabbing a quick bite at the end of the night, La Taberna provides a welcoming atmosphere with quality food and drinks. The chalkboard menu is always changing, although they do offer crudo, empanadas, and bocadillos consistently.
Named after the vivid wild mustard flowers that bloom every spring in the vineyards, Mustard’s Grill specializes in large portions of exquisite farm-to-fork American cuisine. The restaurant has been serving Napa Valley residents for over 30 years, and the ribs have become a local favorite. If you’re ever in need of Napa Valley travel tips and food/wine suggestions, just ask a local about their favorite spots, dishes, and wines – it’s one of the easiest and best ways to ensure an authentic experience.
Places to Stay:
After a long day of trying some of the world’s finest wines, you may want to have local accommodations waiting for you. After all, one of the common Napa Valley travel tips you’ll hear most is that drinking a lot of wine in the sun will make you quite tired come nighttime! Fortunately, Napa Valley has plenty of hotels and B&Bs that you can be your perfect home away from home. Here are some of our favorites:
Auberge de Soleil
Auberge de Soleil is one of Napa Valley’s most iconic luxury resorts, and that’s saying a lot. Nestled in a stunning 33-acre olive grove with breathtaking vineyard views, this hotel has a rustic charm that you won’t find anywhere else. Auberge de Soleil is the only Forbes five-star-rated hotel, and it even features a Michelin star restaurant. Other amenities include an award-winning spa, a pool with poolside dining, a fitness center and yoga pavilion, and much more.
Wine Country Inn
The Wine Country Inn is a charming and intimate boutique hotel situated a quick drive from many of Napa Valley’s top attractions, and just a quick walk away from a few different wineries. Accommodations include traditional guest rooms as well as separate lodges and cottages. Amenities include in-room massage therapy treatments and spa services, an evening wine reception, and a gourmet breakfast buffet.
There are plenty of outdoor areas to explore featuring groomed landscaping, shaded nooks, a wide variety of flowers, open lawns, and more. If you want to unwind and read a good book outside, this is the place to do it. There’s also a seasonal outdoor spa facility and a large pool to top it all off. Visually stunning, quiet, and relaxing, Wine Country Inn provides the definitive wine country experience.
Meadowood Napa Valley
Situated on 250 acres of private land, Meadowood is an upscale woodland getaway that you won’t soon forget. This hotel is more than just a place to hang your hat and rest in the evenings. There are many traditional activities available to guests, including golf, croquet, tennis, hiking, swimming, fitness, and more. Guests can enjoy tailored wine experience, craft cocktail classes, and a mouthwatering meal at the hotel’s Michelin three-star restaurant.
You’ve probably noticed that most of our Napa Valley travel tips involve wine, food, and vineyards. That’s not surprising, as those are the primary reasons why people travel to Napa Valley from all over the world. While you should definitely take at least one group or private wine tour, there are plenty of other activities to see and do if drinking wine isn’t your main priority. Here are some of our recommendations:
Take a Hot Air Balloon Tour
Napa Valley’s rolling hills and vast valleys are truly a sight to behold, and what better way to take it all in than from the basket of a hot air balloon? As your balloon soars over waves of fog, lush vineyards, green hills, and rugged mountain ranges, you’ll really gain a new appreciation for the stunning natural beauty that defines Napa Valley. Simultaneously thrilling and relaxing, a hot air balloon is the perfect way to see Northern California by air.
Explore Muir Woods
You’ve never truly experienced a forest until you’ve roamed around a redwood forest. Towering redwoods and lush greenery form the backdrop for this wonderful forest teeming with wildlife. At first, you’ll notice how serene and still the woods are, but don’t be fooled – there are many elusive creatures that call the Muir Woods home.
Some of the most common inhabitants of Muir Woods include the black-tailed deer, Sonoma chipmunk, coho salmon, Northern spotted owl, and winter wren. Rangers and volunteers offer guided tours when staffing permits. Also, don’t forget to check the online calendar for a list of upcoming events.
Take the Napa Valley Wine Train Tour
There’s not a more romantic way to explore Napa Valley than riding through the scenic area in a restored antique train. The Napa Valley Wine Train runs a round trip course to St. Helena, and the views along the way are nothing short of majestic. Enjoy a fresh meal and dessert while you travel, and feel free to visit the kitchen car to watch the chefs prepare your cuisine. The trip lasts three hours, and you’ll have access to all of the cars in case you feel like a change of scenery at any point.
Insider Tip: Save Some Cash with a Priority Wine Pass
If you’re mainly going to Napa Valley for the wine experience, you may want to look into the Priority Wine Pass. Most wineries charge a fee for tastings, and those charges can add up fast if you’re not careful. In addition to receiving discounts at wineries, hotels, winery tours and events, restaurants and more, pass holders also receive VIP treatment. The pass provides access to elevated tastings and barrel tastings, and you may even be able to meet the winemakers. If you really want to make the most of your wine experiences in Napa Valley, signing up for the Priority Wine Pass is one of the best Napa Valley travel tips.
Choose State Van Rental For Your Travel Needs
Now that you have a better idea of places to see and things to do in Napa Valley, you can start narrowing down your options. The most critical of all of our Napa Valley travel tips is that you should consider renting a van. The Napa Valley area is relatively rural and spread out, with little public transportation. Fortunately, our reliable van rentals are an affordable, comfortable solution that allows your group can travel in style without breaking the bank.
We proudly offer a large fleet of well-maintained, modern vans that you can depend on for the entire duration of your stay in Napa Valley, as well as the best amenities and guarantees in the industry. We’re known for our exceptional customer support, so please don’t hesitate to call us at 888-826-5212 for any reason. Reserve your van online now, and get the most out of your adventure in Napa Valley.