How to Experience France in Napa Valley

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Ooh la la! Are you craving that home cooked meal in that little bistro in France? Are you daydreaming about a fairy tale chateau with the most incredible wine? Are you missing your daily game of petanque? Look no further. You can experience it all in the Napa Valley. So put on your beret and let’s get started.

Learn French Bistro Cooking

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Image Source: The Culinary Institute of America

The Culinary Institute of America
2555 Main Street
Saint Helena, CA 94574
(707) 967-1100
TripAdvisor: 4 stars, 202 reviews

If you prefer to cook your own French comfort food, then the Bistro Boot Camp at The Culinary Institute of America is for you. Get ready to learn how to bake, sauté, and braise classic French recipes. Taught by Master Chefs, you will discover that a simple omelet is really not that simple. There really is a proper way to slice a pecan pie and dice an onion. Taught in a professional kitchen, you will dress the part in your own chef’s uniform. Don’t worry about taking notes, you get to take home all the recipes. At the end you may even open up your own French bistro. Insider tip: The building itself is full of history—a must see is the historic corkscrew museum.

Taste Bubbles in a French Domaine

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Image Source: Domaine Carneros

Domaine Carneros
1240 Duhig Road
Napa, CA 94559
(707) 257 0101
TripAdvisor: 4 Stars, 729 reviews
Reservations: Not required

What better way to start your day then with bubbles in a French owned Domaine overlooking vineyards! Owned by the famous French champagne family Taittinger, Domaine Carneros produces California sparkling wines. If bubbles are not for you, then try their red wine sampler. Take a tour, order a cheese plate, or—if you are really feeling posh—try the caviar plate. It is “faux pas” to stand and sip bubbles, so all tastings are seated either inside the luxurious salon or outside on their garden terrace. Insider tip: If you want to get away from the crowds, try the Connoisseur’s Tasting for a private tour that includes cheese and smoked salmon.

The Judgement of Paris

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Image Source: Chateau Montelena

Chateau Montelena
1429 Tubbs Lane
Calistoga, CA 94513
(707) 942-5105
TripAdvisor: 4 stars, 319 reviews
Reservations: Not required

Continue your French adventure and add a little bit of history to your itinerary with a visit to Chateau Montelena. Not only will the ivy covered stone castle overlooking vineyards transport you to old world France, but so will the wines. The 1973 Chardonnay was declared “Best in the World” during a blind tasting in Paris and the wines are still produced using traditional Burgundian and Bordeaux winemaking techniques. The stone walled tasting room is small and cozy. Don’t forget to take a look at the bottle of 1973 Chardonnay which is displayed proudly in the tasting room. Insider tip: Finding your way to the winery can be tricky with dirt roads and little signage, so use your GPS.

Enjoy a Food and Wine Tasting

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Image Source: Yelp

VGS Chateau Potelle
1200 Dowdell Lane,
St. Helena, CA 94574
(707) 255-9440
TripAdvisor: 5 stars, 42 reviews
Reservations: Required

Want to make your French wine dreams a reality? Then go no further than that little white house with the yellow door right off of Highway 29. VGS Chateau Potelle was established in 1983 by Jean-Noel & Marketta Fourmeaux. Taste French exclusive varieties made in the old world style. Ask for a taste of the VGS “The Illegitimate.” The blend changes each year, but it remains versatile enough to pair with food. Come hungry, the food is prepared by Chef Ken Frank of renowned La Toque restaurant. Insider tip: For a truly special experience, reserve The Lunch above the Clouds that includes a walk through the vineyards, tastings, and a full lunch.

Taste First Growth Wine in Napa Valley

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Image Source: Opus One

Opus One
7900 St. Helena Hwy
Oakville, CA 94562
(707) 944-9442
TripAdvisor: 4 stars, 249 reviews
Reservations: Recommended

For the ultimate French wine adventure, you cannot miss Opus One. Old world meets new world in both the Bordeaux wine and the iconic winery design. Opus One is a joint venture between Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Château Mouton Rothschild. This is not your typical tasting room. Unlike other wineries, no need to walk up to a bar for a flight of wines to taste. Instead, you get one glass of their current release iconic wine. Insider tip: Go to the rooftop terrace for fantastic photo ops of the mountainous backdrop.

Sinful and Decadent Baked French Goods

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Image Source: Yelp

Bouchon Bakery
6540 Washington St
Yountville, CA 94599
(707) 944-2253
TripAdvisor: 4 stars, 2,018 reviews
Reservations: Not required

Bouchon Bakery delivers traditional French pastries, breads, and decadent sweet treats that are perfect any time of the day. Located in the middle of Yountville, it will be easy to spot with the long line outside the door. Once inside you will be mesmerized by the display cases of baked goods that look too good to eat. They also offer a small assortment of savory sandwiches, quiche, and salads. Sit on the patio, relax with a huge salted caramel macaron and iced coffee, and imagine yourself in France. Insider tip: The lines are shorter during the weekday mornings and about an hour before they close.

Rustic French Dining

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Image Source: Bistro Jeanty

Bistro Jeanty
6510 Washington St.
Yountville, Ca 94599
(707) 944-0103
TripAdvisor: 4 stars, 1,416 reviews
Reservations: Not required

For classic French comfort food, look no further than Bistro Jeanty. Understated and unpretentious, you will be transported to the French countryside. Along with daily specials that are listed on a chalkboard, the menu includes coq au vin, cassoulet, and Boeuf Bourguignon. If you had enough wine for the day, order a cocktail from the full bar. Bring your furry best friend and sit outside on the covered and heated terrace. Insider tip: For a true French appetizer, order the Pâté de Campagne, a country style pâté paired with escargot.

On Every Foodie’s Bucket List

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Image Source: The French Laundry

The French Laundry
6640 Washington St
Yountville, CA 94599
(707) 944-2380
TripAdvisor: 4 stars, 999 reviews
Reservations: Recommended

The French Laundry is the equivalent of a cult winery. It’s hard to get in, there’s a long waiting list, and it’s a splurge. Known for elevated French cuisine, the two menus change daily and no two ingredients are ever repeated. For the ultimate in decadence, try the oysters and pearls. The wine cellar is extensive and includes some of the best wines in the world. You can’t go wrong with letting the sommelier help with the pairing. The food is not rushed so be prepared to spend at least three to four hours for the meal. If this isn’t on your bucket list, add it now! Insider tip: After your meal ask to see the kitchen where all the magic happens.

Play Petanque

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Image Source: Yelp and Clos du Val Winery

Clos du Val Winery
5330 Silverado Trail
Napa, CA 94558
(707) 261-5251
TripAdvisor: 4 stars, 145 reviews
Reservations: Recommended

If you are ready for a little playful French fun, then go to Clos du Val winery and play a game of petanque, the French version of bocce ball. Do a wine tasting, pick out a favorite wine, and then engage in some friendly competition. Anyone can play and not much skill is required. There is no need to bring game equipment, the winery has everything you need. Invite others to play and make new friends. Insider tip: Stop at the Oakville Grocery Store and pick up French picnic food like cheese, charcuterie, and crusty bread for your afternoon of fun.

Dare to Blend Your Own Bordeaux Wine

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Image Source: Yelp

Raymond Vineyards
849 Zinfandel Lane
Saint Helena, CA 94574
(707) 963-3141
TripAdvisor: 4.5 stars, 156 reviews
Reservations: Recommended

For a truly unique two hours go to Raymond Vineyards and blend your own Bordeaux style wine. Walk into a room with black lights, a disco ball, and lots of stainless steel. Put on a silver robe, taste four wines, and learn the art of blending. While at Raymond Vineyards, you can make three wine blends, bottle your favorite, and attach your own personalized label. Whether it’s the left bank or right bank, you can make your own version of a classic Bordeaux style wine here. Insider tip: Dress in layers, the room is freezing.

Vive la France!

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Image Source: Yelp

Bastille Day – Yountville, CA
6534 Washington Street
Yountville CA 94599
(707) 944-8037

Celebrate Bastille Day, the French equivalent of Independence Day, in downtown Yountville every July. Although this is the second biggest celebration of the holiday in the San Francisco Bay Area, there is still a small town feel. Come hungry and taste the French food and wine. Dance to the live music, watch the children play games, and take your turn trying to dunk a local celebrity in the dunk tank. Insider tip: To avoid long lines, purchase your tickets in advance for the activities, food, and wine.

If you can’t make it to France then let Napa Valley bring France to you. The wine, the food, and the fun are sure to transform you to another world.