Fall harvest season is undoubtedly the busiest and most exciting time to visit Napa Valley. Vintners have waited all year for this moment, and visitors can get a glimpse of the magic behind winemaking. Five separate towns make up the valley, from Calistoga in the north followed by St. Helena, Yountville, Napa and American Canyon at the southernmost point. This tight-knit agricultural community’s poignant resilience has helped it weather recent fires and an ongoing drought, all with a mission of making the most sublime, age-worthy wines for your enjoyment.
Begin the day with cold-pressed juice, coffee and pastries on your private terrace overlooking Beringer’s vineyards at this 68-room adults-only retreat, tucked away on the hillside yet just minutes from downtown St. Helena. Guest rooms boast a calming palette and deep soaking tubs, while the property’s original 1905 Victorian-style guesthouse is now home to Acacia House by Chris Cosentino. The celebrity chef celebrates California’s bounty with tantalizing dishes like sea urchin cacio e pepe and Napa lamb loin dressed with local produce.
A spirit of holistic health permeates throughout, from complimentary cocktail classes using freshly picked herbs from the garden to treatments at Spa Alila incorporating ancient healing techniques and biodynamic botanicals from Be Here Farm + Nature. The concierge team can arrange for guided bike tours and exclusive access to tastings in winemakers’ homes, ensuring guests experience Napa Valley like true insiders.
This unassuming eatery and wine shop by friends and veteran sommeliers Matt Stamp and Ryan Stetins is a welcome respite from the area’s ubiquitous cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay. Here, the wine list features esoteric bottles from across the globe along with hard-to-find California favorites. Plus the convenient downtown Napa location makes Compline a fun stop while exploring on foot. Pick a hidden gem from Austria or Burgundy from the wine shop for dinner; the vinos you’ll discover here are all delicious right now, no cellar aging required.
Pair a glass of grower Champagne with duck fat fries and crunchy farmers’ market crudités dipped in ramp zhug while pondering the small, eclectic chalkboard menu. Executive Chef Jammir Gray infuses global flair into her dishes, with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options like red kuri squash agnolotti with chestnut, and stuffed collards with maafe peanut stew and pickled okra.
Vintner Mark Neal considers himself a farmer first and foremost. He hails from one of the pioneering families of Napa Valley, farming organically alongside his parents on their Rutherford property, where they grew grapes and walnuts. Young Mark started driving a tractor at age 8, and by the time he was 14, he was making garage wine with his father. Today, he operates the largest organic and biodynamic farming company in the valley, managing 720 acres of vineyards for many of the region’s cult-favorite varietals.
Neal Family also makes just a few thousand cases of 100% estate-grown biodynamic and regenerative organic wines from family property in the Rutherford and Howell Mountain AVAs. The brand is best known for its cabernet sauvignon, but the citrusy vermentino is delightfully elegant as well. Personalized tastings are by appointment only, including tours of the vineyards, caves and winery.
Best known for having the world’s largest collection of Napa Valley wines, Press is a perfect archetype of the destination’s signature laid-back luxury. Under chef/partner Philip Tessier’s leadership, the restaurant has evolved beyond just a steakhouse to a celebration of California ingredients that’s equally appealing to pescatarians and vegetarians. First-timers should opt for the new seasonal six-course tasting menu with wine pairings (and add the addictive seeded pretzel epi bread and crispy pig ears, too).
Start with a few small seafood bites — osetra caviar, braised abalone, octopus croquettes — followed by salty pillows of ricotta gnudi delicately wrapped in squash blossoms. There’s yellowtail in lemongrass nage, truffle-glazed chicken or the 60-day aged tomahawk for two before pastry chef Mina Pizarro ends the night with a sweet delicate touch. Many of her desserts, like the riz au lait with Champagne mango sauce, are inspired by her Filipino heritage.
Visit this quaint artisan chocolate shop in the heart of Yountville to watch chocolatiers at work while you shop for mouthwatering sweets to take home. The glossy chocolate bonbons resemble precious jewels and are almost too pretty to eat, but once you bite into the rich ganache, it’s hard to resist devouring an entire box. Flavors here are anything but ordinary; there are pistachio amaretto, passionfruit, lavender and fennel pollen bonbons as well as white chocolate bars flavored with saffron and toasted poppy seeds.
Chocolatier Chris Kollar won Food Network’s Chopped in 2020, and his fanciful confections have been named one of Oprah’s favorite things. He works exclusively with Valrhona, the iconic French brand favored by top pastry chefs globally, and frequently creates limited-edition treats for holidays. Many local wineries, distilleries and hotels offer Kollar Chocolates for pairings and turndown service, plus they’re available to ship nationwide, too.
Arguably the most iconic cab in Napa Valley, Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars S.L.V. estate-grown cabernet sauvignon took top honors at the 1976 Judgment of Paris blind tasting, beating out first growth Bordeaux as the best red. This shocking upset earned Napa global respect among oenophiles. Today, winemaker Marcus Notaro works closely with vineyard operations director Kirk Grace, precisely tilling, trellising, leafing and selecting the ideal clones and rootstock to craft world-class wines nearly 50 years later.
Book the new celestial tour and tasting for a guided experience of the caves, glass in hand, followed by a seated tasting of current releases, including flagship FAY and S.L.V. cabs, paired with bites by chef Travis Westrope. Dolmas filled with buffalo milk ricotta and plumped currants bring out FAY’s juicy raspberry notes, while S.L.V. skews more masculine, with cocoa flavors and powerful tannins.