A Beginner’s Guide: Napa Valley, USA

By January 3, 2014 city guides, travel, travel diary, usa

Napa is about a 45 minute drive from San Fran, there  are loads of tours but I am a self confessed wine snob and I like to be able to choose the vineyards I go to. If you’re less fussy than me here are a few companies that do great tours:

Tours 4 Fun

Green Dream Tours

And if you’re looking something a bit more pimp (much like this) try Napa Wine Country Limo, where you can be whisked away for a day in your very own limo.

But, unfortunately we were on a bit more of a shoe-string, so we decided to get a car & drive ourselves. Well of course I wasn’t going to drive, not if we wanted to make it there alive.

So…. when we went to pick up our car, we spied this red convertible in the window. After seeing it, we just couldn’t settle for the small plain hatchback we’d booked.

So after a bit of negotiation (my friend has the ability to swindle a good deal but make the person feel like she’s doing them a favour), the keys were ours and we jetted off with the wind in our hair, for a day in the Napa.

My perfect day in Napa | Cream. - 07

Do you likey my necklace? It’s from Diva. It’s an oldie so here are a few similar.

Navy Enamel Scale Necklace

2 Row Chain Necklace

Gold Beaten Multiplate Necklace – on sale!!

My perfect day in Napa | Cream. - 14

We decided to drive straight through to the end of the valley and work our way back. Our first stop was Castello di Amorosa, in Calistoga.

It’s actually a castle converted into a winery and it is simply gorgeous.

My perfect day in Napa | Cream. - 17

My perfect day in Napa | Cream. - 04

My perfect day in Napa | Cream. - 03

And the external grounds are something from a film..

.My perfect day in Napa | Cream. - 28

I’m wearing, gosh that sounds tooly… but I’ve had a few comments about clothes so I thought I’d share…

Top: This is a Tokito top, seriously old, ahem I mean vintage, sounds cooler right? But here are a few similar…

Electric Blue Lace Top

ASOS Crop Top

Target Morona Lace Top

Jeans: BDG Black Cigarette Jean

Ankle Boots: Tony Bianco Santana Boots

My perfect day in Napa | Cream. - 27

My perfect day in Napa | Cream. - 01

My perfect day in Napa | Cream. - 18

After a quick prance around the grounds, we headed inside, stopping for a quick photo at the grand entrance…

My perfect day in Napa | Cream. - 19

My perfect day in Napa | Cream. - 20

The inside is equally as majestic…

My perfect day in Napa | Cream. - 21

My perfect day in Napa | Cream. - 22

My perfect day in Napa | Cream. - 24

My perfect day in Napa | Cream. - 23

Nothing stopping my dear Kristina from getting as many shots as possible… I pretended to be annoyed with her, but I love that she is even more of a shutterbug than me…My perfect day in Napa | Cream. - 26

My perfect day in Napa | Cream. - 25

After a tasting in the basement and a few (too many!) purchases… it was time to bid farewell to our castle and off to the next stop… no rest for the wicked!My perfect day in Napa | Cream. - 02

Owned by the same owners, we stopped at V Sattui, in St Helena, for a tasting and some lunch.

Here you’ll find a full deli, where you can purchase all sorts of lunch time treats & after selecting the perfect matching wine, you can take it all out for a picnic in the garden… perfect!

My perfect day in Napa | Cream. - 30

My perfect day in Napa | Cream. - 29

My perfect day in Napa | Cream. - 05

After lunch, we jetted off for our final winery for the day. We chose Raymond, in St Helena’s.

My perfect day in Napa | Cream. - 31

My perfect day in Napa | Cream. - 36

We did the fancy tasting which gave us access to the crystal cellar… I wasn’t too impressed. It seemed like just a cellar with disco lights…

My perfect day in Napa | Cream. - 32

That didn’t stop us from sneaking in to the private party rooms..

.My perfect day in Napa | Cream. - 35

We were busted by a staff member, who K convinced to take a photo of us, we didn’t have enough as it was…My perfect day in Napa | Cream. - 34

I loved these touch & feel reels for wine notes… perfect for wine connoisseurs in training..

.My perfect day in Napa | Cream. - 33 

We closed the day with dinner at Bouchon Bistro in Yountville, a must-go when visiting Napa.

Here you’ll find traditional french cuisine with a modern twist and a substantive regional wine list.

It was the perfect way to end a perfect day…Bouchon bouchon-food-4967-3

Things to do:

Dah! There’s only one reason you go to Napa & if you’ve got this far, I think you know what that is.

I have listed some companies that do the wine tours above, so just scroll up, go on… up you go.

Food & Drink:

The Napa Valley is home to some 125+ restaurants. Here are my top 6.

French Laundry

Arguably the best restaurant in the valley, we tried to get a table with only a day’s notice. I was almost embarrassed calling. We received a call saying they had last minute availability, just as we sat down at Bouchon Bistro. So sadly we had to decline.

Headed up by chef Thomas Kellar, this French restaurant perfectly matches fine french cuisine with country charm, having been named “Best Restaurant in the World” in 2003 and 2004.

Please note it is very exxy, so keep this for special occasions.


This place, also headed up by chef Thomas Kellar, is a shack in the kitchen garden behind Ad Hoc in Yountville and it serves the best boxed lunch in the Valley.

Pick from two entrees: buttermilk fried chicken (brined to succulence; skin crisped just so) or the meat they’ve smoked and then prepared sous vide–baby back ribs one day, brisket another.

And cross your fingers and hope that they’re serving Keller’s divine take on deli potato salad. All for about $17. Perfect.

Gotts Roadside

Located in St. Helena and previously known as Taylor’s Automatic Refresher. Their two top offerings are the rare ahi tuna burger on a toasted egg bun and the grilled Let’s Be Frank hot dog topped with cheese and house-made chili coming in a very close second.

Kitchen Door

Located in Oxbow’s Public Market, this open-all-day restaurant has a breezy patio and serve family-style food designed to satisfy: duck banh mi, Armenian flatbread, a classic chicken dinner, and root beer floats–all overseen by veteran Napa chef Todd Humphries.


Former chef of French Laundry, Brandon Sharp successfully fuses soul food and spa food at the Solage Calistoga resort.  The menu boasts both hearty dishes like Duroc pork with black pepper gravy, the other with lighter preparations like grilled peaches with house-made prosciutto and charred Vidalia onions. Something for all tastes.


Located in Yountville and headed by chef Richard Reddington. Fusing Asian and Mediterranean flavours, dishes include the likes of glazed pork belly with apple puree and soy caramel, and petrale sole with coconut rice, clams, and chorizo. The bar also has a casual menu with killer cocktails.

For a full list of restaurants, please see Visit Napa Valley.


So as I mentioned, you have a few options for transportation. Hiring a car or a tour would probably be the easiest. However several hotels also offer bicycle hiring if you want to ditch your car and not have to monitor your intake (within reason of course).

Check out Visit NapaValley’s Getting around Napa tool. Or read this for a comprehensive summary of getting around in Wine Country.

The adventure continues:

More on the US adventure here.

Anisa – The Macadames xx

You Might Also Like

Leave a Reply