If you’re visiting San Francisco from out-of-town, plan a quickie one-day getaway to Napa Wine Country. We love playing tourist for the day and driving up to Napa Valley (located about an hour north of SF). It’s one of our favorite getaways, especially now during the Harvest Season or “Crush” (when the grapes are picked) – late Summer into Fall (August-October).
We’ve put together a few tips for a Quickie One-Day Napa Getaway, including some of our favorite restaurants and wineries.
Enjoy a leisurely drive along scenic Hwy 29 and visit smaller boutique wineries dotted along the route. Follow the road from Yountville to Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena, Calistoga… and beyond. Be prepared for traffic, especially on weekends and during peak season. Fun wineries and luxurious resorts can also be found along the Silverado Trail that runs parallel to Hwy 29.
Breakfast stop on your way up to Napa
Hwy 29 Cafe (located about a 10-minute drive from 37 and Hwy 29)
Whenever we drive up to Napa, we like to stop by this glorified truck stop for breakfast. It has all the right ingredients for a great truck stop – good food, enormous portions, cheap prices, casual atmosphere, and fast service.
Morning Wine-Tastings & Tours
Chateau Montelena, reminiscent of a French château or stone castle, sits on a hillside overlooking a Chinese garden and serene Jade Lake (pictured above), with vineyards as far as the eye can see – it’s one of the most picturesque wineries in Napa Valley. Many of you may remember that Chateau Montelena was featured in the 2008 movie “Bottle Shock” – their 1973 Chardonnay won top prize at the 1976 Paris Wine Tasting (much to the amazement of everyone, esp the French!) We highly recommend taking “Bottle Shock : Behind the Scenes” Tour – it’s especially fun if you’ve seen the movie! Chateau Montelena is located just off Hwy 29, north of Calistoga
Silver Oak Cellars (located in Oakville) offers an extensive Guided Wine Tour – we’ve taken this tour several times with out-of-town guests and it’s one of our favorites (we also love their Cabernet Sauvignon wines!) Groups are limited in size to give you that “personal touch.” Reservations are required for all tours. Tasting fee includes a complimentary “large” Silver Oak wine glass.
Lunch in Napa Valley
Gott’s Roadside (formerly Taylor’s Refresher), a popular casual-style diner, is located on Main Street in St. Helena. It’s a great place to grab a quick bite in between wine-tasting and shopping! Famous for its Juicy Hamburgers, Crispy Fries (they also have the best-seasoned Sweet Potato Fries) and killer Malted Milkshakes! Their menu also includes Hot Dogs,Tacos, assorted Sandwiches, Soups and Salads, home-made Chili and Fish & Chips. Note: There’s also a Gott’s at Oxbow Public Market in Napa and at the Ferry Building Marketplace in San Francisco.
If you’re looking for something a little more upscale, fun and reasonably-priced, we highly recommend Rutherford Grill, located in the heart of Napa Valley (at the crossroads of Hwy 29 and Rutherford Road). Great food, terrific ambiance in a casual, comfortable setting, friendly service, and a FUN bustling bar best sums it up. It’s very popular, so expect a wait, especially during peak times and the busy tourist season. Whatever you do, don’t pass up the Cornbread in the Skillet (stuffed with a hint of mild jalapenos) and crisped to perfection – it’s the BEST cornbread we’ve ever tasted, bar none!
Afternoon Wine-Tasting & Tour
Don’t miss a visit to Castello di Amarosa (pictured below). The beautiful 13th century Tuscan Medieval Castle Winery is located on St. Helena Hwy, just south of Calistoga (a short drive from the Rutherford Grill) – you won’t believe you’re in Napa Valley! Enjoy Premium and Reserve Wine Tastings. Guided Castle Tours and Tastings run approx one hour and 45 minutes. Reservations are required; Tours sell out fast. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes – you’ll get plenty of exercise on the tour that takes you through maze-like arched passageways, private rooms and underground caves. There are many steps on this tour, so be prepared for climbing. The wine cellar can be chilly, even on hot Napa days, so you may want to wear layers.
Dinner & Drinks in Napa Valley
Bottega, located in the Valley’s historic V Marketplace, is the brainchild of Emmy-award winning Food Network celebrity and cookbook author, Michael Chiarello (former chef of St. Helena’s Tra Vigne), is one of the hottest restaurants (and bars) in Yountville – we really like this place! If you have time, walk around Yountville (known as the “Culinary Capital of the Valley”) – it’s one of our favorite places to stay in the wine country.
Another fun restaurant is Tra Vigne in St. Helena. The Tuscan-style eatery combines Italian and Californian influences. Enjoy romantic al fresco dining – the large patio outside feels very Mediterranean (pictured below). And at night, when all the lights are twinkling in the trees, it’s absolutely magical!
If you’re celebrating a very special occasion – and for foodies who really want to splurge and indulge in a once-in-a-lifetime experience – you can’t beat the French Laundry. Yes, it’s very expensive and hard to get a reservation, but it’s so worth it! Critically-acclaimed chef/owner Thomas Keller (winner of consecutive James Beard Awards, is the only American-born chef since 1900 to hold multiple three-star Michelin ratings. World-renowned for its creativity, fresh seasonal ingredients, sensational cuisine and presentation (each plate is a work of art – see pic below), impeccable service and extensive 100+ page wine list (seriously), the memories of dining here will last you a lifetime 🙂
Guided Wine Country Tour from San Francisco
– leave the driving to someone else!
Enjoy a fun day of wine-tasting as you visit a mix of boutique and large-scale wineries and learn how the wines are made. Whether you’re a first-time visitor to the Bay Area, a local who loves wine-tasting, or entertaining out-of-town guests/clients, a Guided Wine Country Tour takes all the hassle out of planning where to go and how to get there… not to mention all the traffic. And having a guide who is knowledgeable about San Francisco, Napa Valley, Sonoma, wineries and wines, is priceless.
Tell us about some of your favorite Napa Valley One-Day and Weekend Getaways – just make a quick comment below. We’d love to hear from you!