Even when things are relatively quiet in winter, the lushness of Napa Valley’s many rolling hills and mountains can take your breath away. The vines may lay dormant, but there’s no shortage of wining, dining and exploring to be done during a seasonal weekend escape to Wine Country.
Begin in Calistoga, a city nestled in the northern end of Napa Valley that has recovered miraculously since the 2017 wildfires. Check into Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Calistoga Ranch, where the mountainous scenery will instantly put you in the vacation mindset. The 50-room, 157-acre hotel is creatively tucked into the hillside with each spacious lodge-style room styled as its own private cabin, many with outdoor hot tubs and indoor-outdoor fire features.
Offering hiking trails, a picture-perfect pool, ample gardens and its own vineyard, the property makes it easy to simply laze the days away without ever leaving.
But while that might be tempting, it’s a shame to miss the surrounding area. So, head into town for brunch at Lovina, a spot offering New American fare in a historic craftsman home. If it’s on the menu, get the chef’s play on chicken tikka, topped with housemade lentil chips.
Then, stroll down Lincoln Avenue, Calistoga’s main street, where you’ll find quaint home goods stores and small boutiques. Be sure to pop into family-run Calistoga Wine Stop, where, for more than 30 years, Tom Pelter has been giving suggestions for top-notch local vintages and interesting bottles from around the world.
If you’re in the mood for a tasting, end your stroll at Tank Garage Winery, which makes its home in a chic, vintage service station around the corner.
That afternoon, return to the hotel for a brief rest or, if there’s time, a treatment at Four-Star The Auberge Spa at Calistoga Ranch. Perched at the top of the resort, the multi-decked retreat looks out over the surrounding forest and streams, offering the chance to take in the area’s natural beauty. Try the new Spirit Animal service, which delivers a customized aromatherapy massage designed around your (and your self-selected spirit animal’s) unique needs.
For dinner, head just up the road to Solbar at Five-Star sister property Solage, An Auberge Resort. Every bit as modern as the ranch is rustic, the restaurant serves fresh, flavorful California cuisine in a contemporary atmosphere. The menu is even divided into “hearty” and “healthy” categories so you can decide how much you want to splurge.
The next morning, grab a quick breakfast at the ranch’s Lakehouse restaurant (the vegetable hash topped with a tempura-fried “ricotta” made from almonds is at once decadent and nutritious) before heading out for a day of wine adventures.
While we love big-name producers like Schramsberg and Quintessa nearby, you’ll want to start your tour at Frank Family Vineyards, owned by former Disney Studios president Richard Frank. The vineyard is one of the few in Napa to carry an impressive collection of bubbly, white and red varietals, some of which are named after Frank’s beloved dogs. Bonus: tastings are gratis for Calistoga Ranch guests.
Next, travel south toward St. Helena, checking into Four-Star Las Alcobas, A Luxury Collection Hotel, Napa Valley for lunch at Acacia House, a restaurant helmed by Top Chef Masters winner Chris Cosentino. The Instagram-worthy property on the popular Beringer Vineyard provides an uncommon mix of modern buildings anchored by a historic, Georgian-style manor house.
Spend the afternoon walking down St. Helena’s popular Main Street, where boutiques such as Martin Showroom maintain an admirable collection of pieces from local interior designer Erin Martin. Recently, the shop even housed a full-sized T-rex skeleton named Roosevelt on sale for $3.9 million.
Post-shopping spree, recharge with coffee and a snack (get the English muffin) at Napa institution The Model Bakery.
If you wish to hit another winery, there’s no scarcity of options. One of our top picks is Hall, which not only produces an excellent cabernet sauvignon, but also has more than 33 acres of gardens hosting an impressive 35-plus-piece collection of sculpture and modern art. Appointments aren’t required, so you’ll also be able to come and go as you please.
Come dinnertime, we’d head into foodie-centric Yountville, opting for a California-cool meal at one of renowned chef Thomas Keller’s (of Five-Star The French Laundry fame) more casual outposts, like prix fixe Ad Hoc or his newly opened Mexican joint La Calenda.
As your weekend draws to a close, pick one more activity before returning home. Opt for a tasting at Palmaz Vineyards. Built into an 18-story cavern at the base of Mount George, this winery is one of the most high-tech in the valley.
If you prefer something booze-free, go for a stroll through downtown Napa’s Oxbow Public Market. This one-of-a-kind collection of food stalls and farm-fresh vendors offers everything from oysters and just-pressed juices to artisan oils and vinegars.
As you leave town, don’t worry — you’re not alone if you’re already plotting a return visit.