The first thing I think when I see The Village at Vista Collina is how beautiful it is. Located at Vista Collina Resort, the newest lifestyle resort in Napa Valley (and just across the way from acclaimed sister property The Meritage Resort), The Village is a palatial courtyard with a massive, manicured lawn, rows upon rows of giant shade umbrellas, and newly-built shops arrayed in an arc around it all. There’s a food and wine center, an upscale grocery, tasting rooms, lawn games, and, weather permitting, evenings of live music.
The thoughtful curation of The Village begins at Fivetown Grocery, the upscale market smack-dab in the center of activity. It sells house-made pasta and sauces, smoked barbecue, freshly baked bread, as well as locally-made craft brews and wine. Chef Vincent Lesage, who leads Vista Collina Resort’s culinary program, creates beautiful picnic baskets for diners to enjoy on the lawn. It’s easy to dismiss picnic fare as cold food and lukewarm drinks, but this was the good stuff: charcuterie and cheese, sandwiches, fresh fruit, hummus, olives, house-made focaccia, individual serving-sized bottles of bubbly, and, the undisputed star of the show – a generous slice of glorious, decadent carrot cake to top it all off.
I called ahead for a reservation and asked for the Lawn Butler Service to nab one of the low-slung picnic tables under some shade. But if you’re having a spontaneous day and find yourself at The Village without a reservation, it’s not a problem. Fivetown Grocery can set you up with a picnic basket within 20-30 minutes. Or just pick up some items from the grocery à la carte to snack on while playing a game of cornhole or ladder toss, as many groups do – especially those visiting with children or dogs, and those who prefer other social activities to drinking.
But if you’re in Napa, chances are drinking is exactly what you’re here for, and to that, The Village does not disappoint. With nine tasting rooms, expect to sample an impressive number of wines, most of which are from smaller wineries and therefore not easily available.
At the newly-minted Jayson by Pahlmeyer tasting room, I was greeted first by a lifesize cardboard cutout of Jayson Pahlmeyer himself, and second by a loud, extroverted, sales associate in a Hawaiian shirt. His sleeves were rolled up, and he wasted no time with small-talk: his name was Skip, and Skip, it soon transpired, was a treasure trove of wine knowledge, with a long history working in Napa Valley before it became a destination. I sipped my wines as he talked, enjoying the depth of the chardonnay and the flavors of the pinot noir that I could drink by the bucketful.
Hands down, the best part about tasting at Pahlmeyer was Skip’s stories about wine, the community, and the history of the craft. It was like gathering around the dinner table to listen to your offbeat, fun uncle talk about his life’s shenanigans. But instead of your uncle, swap in this rock-and-roll kind of guy dressed for vacation, waxing poetic about pinot noir and biodynamic agriculture and the time he poured for and drank wine with Julia Child.
This sense of storytelling and community legacy didn’t end at Jayson by Pahlmeyer. Over at Luna Vineyards, Idalia was the wine associate pouring their estate-grown wines for three or four different parties. Ever the consummate hostess, she stopped by regularly to pour our wine and regale us with stories: how much she loved wine; how she began as a”crystal engineer” (her lighthearted euphemism for one who polishes wine glasses); how she took a break from wine so she could learn about coffee; how one year, she tried to fry tamales in a torrential downpour and the ensuing chaos it created. Yes, the wine was good, but the stories were better.
As someone who did not grow up in Napa Valley, this is what I imagine this place was like before Napa became a”destination.” I’m likely romanticizing it, but at The Village, the sense of a Napa community doesn’t feel like something from a bygone era, nor does it feel like something that’s exclusive to wealthy winemakers. Rather, it feels authentic and immediate, something you can experience if you sit down with someone and ask them about more than just the vintage in the glass.
By all means, do ask about the vintage in the glass, if that’s what you’re here for. But it’s the history of a place and the craft that makes the wine taste richer, so don’t forget to ask about that too.
850 Bordeaux Way, Napa, CA 94558
No need to be an aspiring restaurant chef to learn something here. The cooking and baking classes are designed by Chef Vincent Lesage. There’s also an ongoing calendar of guest chefs and bakers, so learning new skills or honing existing ones has never been so delectable.
With farm-fresh, local ingredients and products, this upscale grocery store and market offers a taste of the five towns that make up Napa Valley. You’ll find everything you need to create the perfect Napa picnic on the expansive community lawn, just outside, and can even reserve their butler service to curate the experience for you.
This small-production winery in Napa Valley focuses on enriching people’s lives with memorable experiences.
Signature varietals: chardonnay, cabernet franc
Here, you can schedule a private tasting, seminar, or other educational experience. Try something you like but don’t want to risk putting a bottle in your luggage? They’ll ship your purchase directly to your home.
Signature varietals: cabernet sauvignon
This pioneering winery began when this estate was the first to plant pinot grigio along the Silverado Trail. No surprise that the pinot grigio is still a crowd favorite, even among their selection of fantastic Italian wines.
Signature varietals: pinot grigio, sangiovese
The first iteration of this winery was established in 1832 – the oldest winery in California. GEN 7 is the family’s second generation modern remake, incorporating the history of this winery’s craft.
Signature varietals: cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir
This winery raises a glass to the innovators, disruptors, and philosophers. The wine blends inspire the creative in us all, with names like Rose Against The Machine, The Anarchist, and The Philosopher.
Signature varietals: rosé, blanc de blanc/blanc de noir, pinot noir, cabernet sauvignon
Change up your experience at The Village with some locally brewed craft beers. Likewise influenced by the culture and quality of the greatest wineries in the world, Napa Smith beers balance the best ingredients to make awesome beer.
Signature brews: IPA, Lager, Pilsner
On a mission to deliver Napa Valley’s finest mountain and benchland cabernet sauvignon vineyards, Cornerstone Cellars wines boast a firm structure and nuanced texture.
Signature varietals: cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc
With wines created by three of Napa Valley’s most storied winemakers, Helen Turley, Bob Levy, and Randy Dunn, you can’t go wrong having a glass (or three) here.
Signature varietals: cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, chardonnay
This boutique, Mexican-American, family-owned and operated winery produces fine wines from eight estate vineyards throughout the Napa Valley.
Signature varietals: chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir
Cover Photo Courtesy of Vista Collina