Exploring the Unexpected of Napa Valley

It seems like Napa Valley is all about wine, but it offers so much more. Outdoor activities abound as the beautiful mountains and lowlands await exploration under sunny skies. Meanwhile, unique wine and food options tantalize serious foodies. The best way to get the most out of your visit is to balance epic adventures with epicurean delights.

The valley by bike

When completed, the Napa Valley Vine Trail Will offer hikers and bikers a 47-mile route through the valley, from the ferry landing in Vallejo to the base of Mount St. Helena in Calistoga. The first major trail is paved, a 6.5-mile trail from Napa to Yountville that passes through the Oak Knoll District vineyards. The Napa County Bike Coalition recommends a relatively flat 25-mile loop from downtown Calistoga and also lists places for bike rentals.

Don't miss

Guitar and amp

Illustration by Trisha Krauss

In late May, the Napa Valley Fairgrounds hosts three days of live music on multiple stages Bottlerock , an up-and-coming rock festival that also features local food, wine and beer. The Foo Fighters, Stevie Wonder, the Black Keys and Florence & the Machine are some of the recent headliners. Plenty of up-and-coming acts playing, too.

Blending and barrels

Tent Illustration

Illustration by Trisha Krauss

Visitors will have several opportunities to play winemaker that day. Conn Creek Winery makes Cabernet Sauvignon from most Napa Valley appellations. The Barrel Blending Experience is a way to taste them all and see the differences, and even allows attendees to create their own custom blends. At Joseph Phelps Vineyards You can taste four cabins aged in different barrels to sample different oak influences. At Insignia blending sessions, guests experiment with six components to create their own blend, which is then compared to the winery's current release. Franciscan is conducting a hands-on blending seminar based on its Magnificat Bordeaux blend.

What's Cooking?

One of the world's leading cooking schools, the Culinary Institute of America operates two locations in Napa Valley: the venerable Greystone location in a large former 19th-century winery. Century in St. Helena and the new CIA at Copia American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts in downtown Napa. Both offer restaurants, full-service stores and a regular calendar of events, demos, classes and tastings.

Wine and food recommendations

While wineries in the Napa region cannot operate restaurants due to zoning restrictions, many offer extensive food and wine pairings that are educational and entertaining. Domaine Carneros sits down with sparkling wine to accompany cheese, smoked salmon or caviar B Keller focuses on treats from the culinary gardens for a four-course farm-to-table experience. At Signorello Summer The winery's chef prepares five-course meals. The Bistro in Fireplace Corner Here you can relax with wines by the glass and the cafe. At the Hess Collection At the Tour of the Palate, locally grown produce is paired with wines.

Hills and mills

Those looking for majestic views should look to Robert Louis Stevenson State Park in Calistoga and hike to the top of Mount St. Helena. Bothe Napa Valley State Park in St. Helena offers 16 miles of trails through coastal redwoods as well as historic cabins and yurts for camping, a Native American garden, pioneer cemetery, picnic areas and a swimming pool. It's adjacent to Bale Grist Mill State Park , a water-powered facility dating back to 1846 that has been fully restored and is now open for tours. The Granary Gift Shop sells ground whole wheat, polenta, spelt and other flours.

Historic Caves

History dwells deep in Schramsberg , where the caves date to the 1870s, the gritty work of Chinese laborers. The sparkling wine producer still stores and riddles his wines in these caves, where he also offers daily tours and tastings. Nearby Beringer also has historic tunnels that were built in the same era. Legacy Cave Tours are offered daily. For a modern underground design, visit Palmaz Vineyards (by appointment only), which built a Bauhaus-inspired winery with gravity caverns spanning 18 stories under Mount George.

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Where to stay

Hotel Illustration

Illustration by Trisha Krauss

Bardessono is within walking distance of Yountville's desirable restaurants, including the on-site Lucy. At this LEED Platinum-certified hotel, beds feature organic linens and rooms have whirlpool tubs. You can stay active at the rooftop pool and fitness terrace, or rent bikes to explore. The Bonita proves that Napa Valley's most humble accommodations can also be among its most comfortable. It's centrally located off Highway 29 in St. Helena and offers a small pool and art deco style rooms.

The Corner of Napa Valley

The Corner / Photo by Jeremy Portje

Where to eat

Dustin Falcon, executive chef of The Corner spent three years at Thomas Keller Dazu and The French Laundry , where he forged relationships with local purveyors whose richness inspires his globally influenced cuisine. Likewise, one of the region's largest wine lists features Old World classics and California innovators old and new.

Valentina Guolo-Migotto calls herself the 'un-cook' of Like Mama . Instead, she sees herself as a steward of classic and lesser-known Italian recipes, which she obsessively researches and recreates using the best local ingredients. She also runs Ca 'Momi's all-Napa wine arm with fellow Italians Dario De Conti and Stefano Migotto.

Chef's Tavern Napa Valley

Cook Tavern / Photo by Brent A. Miller

This lively gastropub shares an Italian flavor with its neighbor, Cook St. Helena. It serves dishes like pesce fritto, arancini stuffed with epoisses, and phenomenal pizzas. A short but sweet list of easy-drinking, mostly local wines rounds out the inviting atmosphere. Night owls take note: Kochtaverne offers a late-night menu (until 11 p.m. on weekdays, midnight Friday and Saturday).

Located in the romantic new resort of Las Alcobas (next to the historic Beringer Vineyards). Acacia House is the latest from Top Chef Masters winner Chris Cosentino. Like its Cockscomb restaurant in San Francisco, Acacia House balances hearty nose-to-tail cooking with small vegetable plates, all of which complement its extensive list of Napa wines.

Daniel Ha of DMH Napa Valley

Daniel Ha of DMH Napa Valley

Tips from local experts

Daniel Ha, president/founder of DMH Napa Valley

Daniel Ha, president and founder of DMH Napa Valley , curates personalized hospitality experiences throughout the valley, serves as a property ambassador for luxury producer Pulido-Walker and leads other high-end wineries in marketing and sales.

After college in Oklahoma, he worked for a major wine distributor in Texas and as a restaurant sommelier before moving to Napa Valley in 2005.

"Napa Valley is special because you can feel a real sense of a small community while experiencing world-class entertainment and hospitality," says Ha. 'It's as big as country living.

'I prefer to stay near downtown Napa these days because so many more great restaurants have opened and the cuisine is more diverse than elsewhere'.' Ha's favorites include Bui Bistro for modern Vietnamese Miminashi , a Japanese-style izakaya (Japanese gastropub) and The Corner Napa , which he loves for its innovative menu and killer wine list. Cadet Wine Bar This is where Napa's young makers hang out after hours.

"For an upscale dining experience, I highly recommend Torc on Main Street, " says Ha. 'Sean O'Toole is a very talented chef'. His menu is eclectic, featuring dishes with flavors from around the world, made with the freshest ingredients in the region. There are many small plates to share and experience the variety of his cuisine. "

In Yountville, a couple of restaurants, Anxiety and Redd Wood are on his list, as are some other jobs.

'' Atelier by JCB offers the best selection of cheeses and meats as well as imported specialties, and the taco truck outside Pancha is good for lunch or a late-night bite, '' he says.

Ha offers suggestions on two places in St. Helena. While pressing 'Order the carrot hot dog as an appetizer from the bar menu' while saying Bar Terra "Has the best ramen in Napa.

Joe Harden, winemaker, Robert Mondavi Winery

Joe Harden Winemaker Robert Mondavi Winery

Originally from Lodi, where his family grows Cabernet Sauvignon, the 6-foot-7 Harden, winemaker at Robert Mondavi Winery played college basketball at Notre Dame and UC-Davis. After graduating with a degree in viticulture and enology, Harden played pro ball for the Golden State Warriors squad in the NBA Developmental League and in Australia. After an internship at Mondavi, he now manages the red wine program at Geneviève Janssens.

"My wife, Hannah, and I take our French bulldog, Franklin, and our Akita, Sampson, to Alston dog park [Napa] for a romp. On a clear day you can see the entire Napa Valley.

"Many winemakers start their day around Kelly's Gas Station & Wine Shop [in Yountville]. 'I often stop here for a morning coffee on my way to work'.

Coral Brown, director of brand development, Brown Estate, Chiles Valley

'What's special about Napa Valley is its incredible food scene, the combination of country and city life – we have everything we need and nothing we don't – and the beautiful landscape. The rolling vineyards, wooded hillsides and mustard blossoms can't be beat in February.

Coral Brown from Brown Estates

Brown is one of three siblings who run Brown Estate , a Zinfandel-focused winery founded by her parents. She says many of her guests appreciate tips on Napa Valley activities that don't directly involve wine, especially after a long day of tasting.

'Napa Valley reinforces the rhythm of life, which gives you a sense that everything is going to be OK,' Brown says. 'From the bud break in spring to the bloom in early summer to the smells of harvest, we all know that these seasons come again and life goes on.'

A favorite place for Brown is Farmstead at Lange Meadow Farm in St. Helena, "where you can listen to live bluegrass music under the stars. Be on the lookout for my favorite dish: Dungeness crab with chili butter, garlic, peppers and lime. "
Brown also has a favorite spot for a little nightlife.

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