California’s iconic Napa Valley remains the ultimate spot for travelers in search of rustic-luxe hotels, Michelin-starred restaurants, and cult wineries.
Since 2005, Burgundy-born Gilles de Chambure, director of wine education at Napa’s Meadowood resort, has arranged vineyard visits and tastings for guests and nonguests alike. Arrive during the fall harvest or in early spring for fewer crowds, and don’t miss his top picks.
Sweet Start: The brioches at Bouchon Bakery (breakfast for two $20) lure early risers, but de Chambure goes for the chocolatey bouchon.
Outward Bound: Try the three-hour hike along Calistoga’s Oat Hill Mine Trail. “It’s especially beautiful in spring, when the lupine is flowering,” says the sommelier.
Safe Passage: Napa Valley Tours & Transportation (707/251-9463; half-day from $300) has the best cars—sedans, limos, minibuses—and savvy drivers familiar with the back roads.
Related: Insider’s Guide to Napa Valley
Sips with a View: Head to Howell Mountain and swirl a glass of ‘V’ Petit Verdot at Viader or a Cabernet Sauvignon at Cade. On the valley floor, Gargiulo Vineyards is “a magical place dotted with oak trees.”
Insider’s Lunch: How to avoid the crush at pan-Asian Redd (lunch for two $60): “Walk in at noon and sit at the bar for the hamachi tartare.”
Off-Duty Dining: De Chambure is often on hand at the Restaurant at Meadowood, but for a more intimate meal, he opts for Terra (1345 Railroad Ave., St. Helena; 707/963-8931; dinner for two $132). His order? The cod in shiso broth, with Kurikomayama sake.
T+L’s Hotel Tips: Meadowood Napa Valley (doubles from $625) has epitomized Napa’s laid-back luxury for decades. Calistoga Ranch, an Auberge Resort (doubles from $750) feels like adult summer camp, with spa treatments and 157 acres laced with hiking trails. Or try Avia Napa (1450 First St., Napa; 866/644-2842; doubles from $229), in the city’s buzzing downtown.
The Trip Planner: Deborah Trevino, Travel Adviser, Hobson Travel
Want a table at French Laundry or a tasting with the vintner at Darioush? Trevino, a T+L A-List agent, delivers custom trips that include classic stops and unexpected extras, from a Chardonnay facial at the Carneros Inn to a day at the Audi Forum racing circuits, in nearby Sonoma.
Bouchon Bakery, Yountville
Thomas Keller, the famed restaurateur who made the small town of Yountville in Napa a culinary destination, opened this casual bakery as a way to service the bread and pastry needs of his neighboring restaurants French Laundry and Bouchon Bistro. Locations have since grown nationally with Keller’s continually emerging empire; and thus, this store’s baking operations have been trusted to Janine Weismann, who fills a glass case at the forefront of the store with that day’s treats of scones, lemon tarts, and seasonally changing macarons. Interior seating is limited, so a gravel-laden patio is made available to enjoy breakfast and lunch.
After being open for more than 20 years, Terra restaurant finally acquired its liquor license in 2010. That's whenowners Hiro Sone and Lissa Doumani split the space in two and opened Bar Terra next door for more casual dining. The original restaurant greets guests by way of an aged stone exterior, while the small upscale dining room is lined with stone walls and terracotta floors. Flowers and artwork further brighten the interior. The prix-fixe menu changes often, and dishes like foie gras tortelloni in game sauce with shimeji mushrooms and sake marinated black cod showcase Sone’s American and Asian influence.