It’s easy to see why Napa is the happiest city in the United States. A 2013 Twitter study conducted by the University of Vermont tapped into specific words (happy, sad) associated with geographic locations. The result? Ten million tweets proved how chipper the city of Napa really is. And after our Forbes Travel Guide editors spent some time in the valley, we agree with this survey—the atmosphere is relaxing, wine tasting abounds and fun activities are always going on (from July’s Napa Valley Festival del Sole to November’s Napa Valley Film Festival).
So if you want to visit the area but don’t have much time to spend, don’t fret—we’ve curated the perfect jam-packed itinerary for you to do Napa in a day.
Where To Stay
Thankfully, there are 134 hotels in Napa Valley, so you’ll have some great lodging options. For a soothing overnight stay, check into Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Bardessono Hotel and Spa in Yountville. You’ll feel right at home in the eco-chic property’s 800-square-foot Spa-Suite (outfitted with 100 percent Fili D’oro Egyptian cotton linens, a champagne bathtub, a private balcony and more).
Another option is downtown’s Westin Verasa Napa. The 180-room luxe hotel’s convenient location puts it in close proximity to the Napa Valley Wine Train (be sure to go on the Valley First Winery Tour where executive chef Kelly Macdonald’s mouthwatering gourmet express lunch option of grilled salmon marinated in fresh herbs and grapeseed oil coupled with sweet pea mashed potatoes delights your palate) and the 40,000-square-foot Oxbow Public Market (where stopping by Kara’s Cupcakes for its sweet vanilla confection gives you just the right boost before hitting the town).
And just to add a couple more sophisticated hotel selections to your future lineup, Napa Valley is making room for both Archer Hotel and Auberge’s new design- and food-centric VieVage brand in 2016 and 2017, respectively.
What To Do In A Day
After checking into your hotel of choice, it will be time to bike your way to a vineyard. Sign up for a cycling excursion with Getaway Adventures and take to the Silverado Trail, where making a pit stop at Luna Vineyards is a must—if not only to meet the property’s charming owner, Andre Crisp. Savor a tasting and dine at the “family table,” which overlooks the lush vineyards. This is where you’ll experience a delightful spread of prosciutto, chorizo infused with paprika and pimentón and a French baguette complemented by the blend of caramelized butter and fruit found in the Acrisp chardonnay. You’ll also want to relish the property’s pinot grigio, since Luna prides itself on being the first to plant this varietal in Napa Valley. And before biking back to your original meeting place (we picked the Oxbow Public Market’s parking lot), be sure to take a bottle of the 2012 Mille Baci with you. This fruity dessert wine, whose name means “a thousand kisses” in Italian, is a sweet combination of apples, mango, guava, honeycomb and toasted nuts.
Biking approximately seven miles can be a bit exhausting, so you’ll probably be in the mood for a hearty meal. A visit to downtown Napa’s Bounty Hunter Wine Bar & Smokin’ BBQ on First Street should do the trick. Order signature items such as the Smokin’ BBQ platter, which comes with a plate filled with pulled pork, applewood smoked brisket, coleslaw and tender ribs (smother one of three “Q” sauces all over these bad boys—Chipotle Q, Mustard Q or Spicy Red Q). Or try the popular beer can chicken. It’s crispy, spicy and makes for great campfire cuisine while dining inside the 1,000-square-foot two-level space. The location, which was built in 1888 and still has its original Douglas fir flooring, is also known for its selection of more than 400 wines carried in house and 40 wines available by the glass (including the 2011 Bounty Hunter cabernet sauvignon or the almost-sold-out 2010 Waypoint chardonnay).
After having one too many fall-off-the-bone ribs, taking advantage of the Downtown Napa Wine Tasting Card might be a good idea. For $30, you’ll have access to 12 tasting rooms all within walking distance from Bounty Hunter. Just present your card at places such as Naked Wines, Capp Heritage, Uncorked at Oxbow, Mason Cellars and, of course, at Bounty Hunter for exclusive vinos made by small-production winemakers that can’t be found outside of these tasting rooms.
Should you prefer travel to wineries in the area, we suggest going to Pine Ridge Vineyards for its 5X5 Tasting. In the wine caves, you’ll be escorted by a wine educator to Cellar 47, an intimate dining space fit for eight of your closest friends. It is here that you can enjoy five vinos paired with five small plates created by winery chef Janet Sheehan. Our favorites include the 2010 Rutherford Cabernet Sauvignon, with red raspberry, graham cracker and cocoa flavors (complemented by wild mushrooms, Parmesan, fromage blanc and thyme atop a toasted piece of brioche), and the 2010 Epitome Cabernet Sauvignon, which presents notes of fresh blackberry, clove and cassis. This special blend (only 108 cases are produced each year) is paired with a 26-month-aged Beemster XO cheese for a distinctively striking taste to the palate.
Just across the street from Pine Ridge sits the beautiful Odette Estate. Make an appointment and stop by the 45-acre winery for a glass of its 2012 Adaption Cabernet Sauvignon. According to Odette’s star winemaker, Jeff Owens, this pour is popular with visitors because “people come to the Napa Valley to enjoy the best of what we have to offer, and that is cabernet. This wine is incredibly approachable and fruit forward, with lots of body and complexity, making it very enjoyable and ready to drink from day one.”
With nighttime approaching, you’ll want to start thinking about dinner. But before you do, make one more quick stop at Ehlers Estate in St. Helena to try one of its 100 percent certified-organic varieties (cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, petit verdot and sauvignon blanc). Winemaker Kevin Morrisey says if your time is limited at Ehlers, he’ll pour you the cabernet franc. “Since all of our wines come from our 40-acre estate vineyard, they are all superb full-bodied complex wines, and they are also each one a different expression of the same terroir,” Morrisey says. “The cabernet franc has a great structure, full, rich and velvety tannins, and though it satisfies like cabernet sauvignon, it has a completely different personality. Everyone knows what characters you’d expect to find in merlot and cabernet, but cabernet franc is in a class of its own.”
Now that you’ve worked up an appetite, drive less than five miles away to end the long day with a filling dinner at Press. First things first, grab a drink (we suggest the 2013 rosé of cabernet franc) on the patio and snag a seat in front of one of two coveted fire pits before heading inside to partake in executive chef Trevor Kunk’s satisfying steak dishes. You probably remember Kunk from his days spent as chef de cuisine at Blue Hill New York. He continues the tradition of fine dining with everything from Omar’s pullet egg topped with asparagus, avocado, dried chicken and pistachios followed by the Little Gem chopped salad with tasty bacon, grilled apples, beets and blue cheese. For your main course, order the succulent 8-ounce Bryan Flannery California Reserve USDA Prime filet with a side of truffle mac and cheese and asparagus.
And please save room for dessert. While you let dinner settle, check out the restaurant’s bustling atmosphere where couples chatting it up and glasses clinking are the norm on a Friday night. Once you’re ready, satisfy your sweet tooth. The Scharffen Berger chocolate soufflé with crème anglaise and a scoop of housemade vanilla ice cream will blow your mind.