Yountville, a tiny 1.5-square mile town less than 10 miles north of the town Napa, is credited with being home to the first grapevines in all of Napa Valley.
Today, the ritzy enclave is also known for its small-town charm, abundance of world-class restaurants (including the famous Three-Michelin-starred The French Laundry), dedication to the arts, stylish hotels, natural beauty, stunning architecture, boutique wineries, and walkability. The latter actually makes it one of the most appealing destinations in all of Napa Valley, as once you park your car upon arrival, there’s almost no reason to touch your car keys until it’s time to return home.
Read on to discover some of the most indulgent, exciting, and relaxing ways to enjoy yourself while on a getaway to this charming town that bills itself as the Heart of Napa Valley.
See Napa from a new perspective while soaring about the vineyards in a hot air balloon. Napa Valley Aloft has been flying above Yountville’s gorgeous landscape since 1978, with baskets that hold 8 to 12 passengers and an option for a post-flight brunch with mimosas. (You can also book a private balloon for special occasions.) Napa Valley Balloons is another acclaimed company for taking in the sights of the region from above and has baskets that carry 6, 12, 16, and 20 passengers, with private flights for two.
Whichever company you choose for your adventure, you’ll arrive before dawn to watch the colorful balloons get inflated and then take off soon after sunrise when the winds are calm, and the temps are cool. As you rise into the sky, you’ll take in views of the Napa Valley floor, Mt. St. Helena, Mayacamas Mountain Range, and on days when the wind cooperates, glimpses of the San Francisco skyline and the Sierras.
Northern California is known for its amazing bounty of fresh ingredients grown and raised by local farmers, and you’ll find ample opportunity to enjoy that farm-to-table dining perfection at several Yountville restaurants.
Lucy Restaurant & Bar is located inside the sleek and luxurious Bardessono Hotel & Spa. This stylish and earthy spot is a great place to enjoy a superb meal of refined but approachable food made with produce grown in the estate’s California Certified Organic Farming garden, as well as locally and regionally sourced ingredients. The focus is first and foremost on the vegetable dishes, many of which are elevated takes on classics and prepared in such a way that the ingredients are consistently the star.
Enjoy Italian fine dining in Napa at Bottega Napa Valley, a lively restaurant from celebrity chef Michael Chiarello, where all of the dishes highlight local, seasonal ingredients and bold flavors. The menu reads like a “greatest hits” of Italian favorites (though it changes based on the availability of ingredients), so there’s truly something for all carb lovers, including a daily risotto with seasonal accompaniments.
The French Laundry is on almost everyone’s Napa fine dining bucket list for good reason. Their multi-course dinner is a treat for the senses, but for those looking for a truly unique dining experience highlighting local ingredients, the trick is to order the restaurant’s “Tasting of Vegetables” menu. The French Laundry has a “culinary gardener” on staff whose job is to tend to the 3.5-acre garden across the street from the restaurant, which serves as their main source of produce, as well as to collaborate with the chefs before harvesting the day’s bounty for that evening’s meal.
One of the best things about Yountville is that you can enjoy everything the town offers without ever getting in a car, including one of the best things the town has to offer: over a dozen stroll-able winery tasting rooms.
At the Priest Ranch tasting room, you can try cabernet sauvignon and sauvignon blanc, as well as several less common varietals, including grenache blanc and a Brut rosé of syrah. And while you can pair your tasting with a specialty cheese and charcuterie board, the Bacon & Wine Experience is the way to go… because what other winery tasting room is going to offer you a pairing of four distinctly flavored types of bacon to pair with your wines?
Just a few steps from Priest Ranch is Handwritten Wines, a contemporary space with indoor and outdoor seating where you can sample the winery’s proprietary Bordeaux-style blend “Three Worlds,” its Santa Rita Hills Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara County, as well as sauvignon blanc and chardonnay. If you’re especially fond of pinot noir, the Pinot Noir Vertical Experience is a must; you’ll explore the different growing seasons and aging nuances while sipping four vintages from the same vineyard.
It will take you about 10 minutes to walk from Handwritten Wines to Jessup Cellars, known to be one of the friendliest tasting rooms in Wine Country, where the art-covered gallery walls provide the perfect setting for enjoying premium wines fit for aficionados and novices alike. If you began the day with the bacon pairing at Priest Ranch, it only makes sense to end it with Jessup Cellars’ Chocolate Lovers Experience, which comes with six local chocolates that can be mixed and matched with a curated selection of wines.
Take a break from wining and dining to learn a little more about the place from where it all comes. Hop on the free Yountville Trolley (downtown) to the Napa Valley Museum to explore three galleries of West Coast art, a showcase of noteworthy aspects of local culture, and selections that exemplify the region’s history.
For a Wine Country getaway to be truly relaxing, it must involve taking a break from wine tasting to sit poolside with a drink (or book) in hand. At Bardessono, hotel guests can do this at the 75-foot-long rooftop pool, which offers poolside cabanas, chaise lounges, and food and drink service. You’ll see nothing but blue skies at Bardessono’s pool, but if you prefer your pool experience with a side of towering cypress trees, you’ll find just that at Hotel Yountville. The pool area also has daybeds that can be rented ahead of time, as well as an in-ground whirlpool spa, fire pit, and food and drink service.
Discover 35 outdoor sculptures (most of which are available for purchase to benefit the Yountville Arts fund) within a mile or so of each other on the Yountville Art Walk. Roam around and see what you find (you can learn more about each piece by scanning the QR code on the plaque), or download the printable map to ensure you see them all.
Whether you hit the links often or just enjoy a leisurely afternoon on the greens, check out Vintner’s Golf Club. The championship nine-hole resort course features three different sets of tees, and is an excellent option for an afternoon of golf as it’s welcoming to all levels. Stop by the Lakeside Grill after a round for a club sandwich and beer (or wine) in a picturesque setting.
It wouldn’t be a trip to Yountville without exploring some of the town’s outstanding boutique wineries.
Fans of rock n’ roll will definitely appreciate Cliff Lede Vineyards, where the vineyard’s “Rock Blocks” are named after songs and albums, like “Dark Side of the Moon” and “Light My Fire.” The outdoor patio is gorgeous, but for a truly unique experience, opt for the Backstage Tasting Lounge, where you can sip while enjoying rotating art exhibits.
At Goosecross Cellars, a winery that is close to downtown but feels off the beaten path, you’ll take in views of the vineyards, Yountville Hills, and the Mayacamas Mountain Range while enjoying a diverse portfolio of meticulously crafted wines of all varietals, including sauvignon blanc, cabernet, chardonnay, viognier, and syrah.
Mira Winery is also worth a visit, especially for those who enjoy all-natural and/or single-vineyard wines. This Napa Valley winery’s serene estate is the only place in the Western Hemisphere where you’ll be able to see Ovum, the world’s first egg-shaped barrel crafted from oak that produces only two barrels a year.