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To the Lees

To the Lees

It’s easy to have a crush on California Wine Country.  From sweeping vineyards and picturesque mountains to revitalizing spas, cultural events, and activities, Napa Valley supplies visitors with the finer things in life. Napa Valley, located about two hours north of San Francisco, is one of the smallest wine-growing regions in the world at approximately 25 miles long and only two miles wide. Petite but mighty, the region supports numerous grape varietals and produces 4 percent of California’s wine market, yet is responsible for 50 percent of California wine sales. It’s also known for mountain views, bike and hot air balloon tours, gastronomic pleasures, and an accommodating atmosphere. Leisure-seekers will enjoy the Mount View Hotel & Spa, a boutique hotel located in Calistoga. With luxury suites, private cottages, and an award-winning spa—and breakfast in bed, a heated outdoor pool, and Friday evening wine tastings—it’s easy to appreciate the focus on relaxation and enjoyment.

Make sure to schedule spa treatments: the Mount View Spa enhances its packages with local resources such as mineral-rich mud and crushed grape seed. The menu offers facials, body wraps, hydrotherapy baths, and what just might be the best massage of your life. Luxury and high style abound at the Westin Verasa, located in Napa’s downtown. The Westin is known for high style and convenience, from providing athletic gear and guided trail runs to from the famed Oxbow Public Market, which is filled to capacity with dining options and artisanal shops. You can also experience an award-winning craft spirits tasting at Napa Valley Distillery. Since Napa Valley has approximately 400 wineries and plays host to over 4 million visitors per year, it’s easy to gravitate towards some of the more established and familiar names in business, like Robert Mondavi and Francis Ford Coppola. But it’s worth looking at a few lesser-known standouts. What makes a winery worth visiting? At Tamber Bey Vineyards, it’s a toss-up between the tasting room’s home on Sundance Ranch and the tasting setup itself, which pairs wines with flavored butter cookies custom-made for the winery (yes, the cookies are also available for purchase).

For art lovers, it’s impossible to skip Ma(i)sonry, the region’s only representative art gallery/winery collective. Showcasing about 100 fine artists as well as antiques and a rotating selection of wines from winemaker partners, tastings focus on small production and boutique wines. Paraduxx is a top pick for both ambiance and education. The outdoor tasting area overlooks the vineyards, and the wine itself is an excellent way to learn more about the fine art of blending. While their red blend is worthy of note, their whites have converted more than one admirer to the cause. Etude is a more elegant tasting room and an excellent destination; having built their reputation on the strength of their pinot noir, they’ve expanded to offer a fleet of highly-rated wines and, intriguingly, brandy. Wine is only part of the landscape in Napa Valley: there’s also a thriving culinary scene.

For California soul food, head to Solbar, the Micheline-star mainstay of the nearby Solange Calistoga resort. The seasonal menu offers hearty comfort as well as light, healthy fare, both of which showcase produce from local farms. The wine list is particularly accessible: selections are arranged from lightest to heaviest, and wines on draft and tasting flights are available. Celebrity-minded foodies will do well to gravitate towards Bottega in Yountville. The restaurant is the work of Emmy award-winning chef and cookbook author Michael Chiarello, and focuses on presenting exquisitely-crafted dishes from various regions of Italy—a concept that’s narrow rather than broad, and one that is especially well-suited for groups.

It’s clear why the Napa Valley continues to be a top destination; non-drinkers can enjoy the moderate climate, frequent festivals, and the picturesque shopping just as easily as oenophiles can appreciate the hunt for both unknown and famous labels. And the timing for a visit is just about perfect—Napa’s climate is temperate nearly year-round, with the harvest season falling from June through October.


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