As we continue to practice socially distancing this week, we invite you to join us on our next journey as we head to Napa, Sonoma and Calistoga. A scenic drive from San Francisco (approx. 60 miles), Napa and Sonoma are collectively known as California Wine Country. That said, the entire region is so much more than just wine tasting. The climate is ideal for outdoor activates like golf, biking and hiking, strolling and shopping, plus, the entire area is practically a religious experience for foodies. We love to come to this area in August through October or March through May. But whatever season you visit, Well Inspired Travels will create a curated itinerary to surprise and delight you.
So, you ask, what is the difference between Napa and Sonoma? The iconic Napa area represents the golden child of the US wine scene. Visited by over 4 million visitors annually, it’s where you will find some of the world’s best wine, award winning restaurants, charming main streets and world class hotels. Though it covers nearly 800 square miles, most wineries are clustered in the 35 miles between the city of Napa in the south and the town of Calistoga in the north. Napa’s cabernets and chardonnays shot to international fame after the famous 1976 Judgement of Paris (portrayed in the movie Bottle Shock) in which California wines were judged to be better than their French counterparts shocking the wine world. Sonoma, on the other hand, has roughly the same number of wineries as Napa Valley, but they’re spread over twice the land, which makes it feel less crowded — almost undiscovered in parts. Sonoma’s wineries tend to be more laid-back and intimate, with fewer crowds and lower tasting fees the farther you get from main roads. Sonoma has a charming town square where you can find boutique shops, art galleries and wonderful restaurants. In terms of wine types, Napa concentrates on cabs and classic Bordeaux varietals, Sonoma vintners make everything from pinot to zinfandel to gewürztraminer. Of course, when wine tasting, we’ll take care of hiring a driver to ensure you can fully enjoy wine tasting responsibly!
The great thing about Napa and Sonoma is we can curate an itinerary based on your favorite grape juice as well. Are you a fan of Cabernet? We can set up a wine tour of some of the best producers in the area that will illustrate the many characteristics of the grape. If bubbles are your thing, let us arrange for door to door service at a handful of sparkling heavy hitters like Schramsburg, Mumm and Domain Chandon. Many of the vineyards have an amazing culinary program right on property. We can also do a food tour starting at Bouchon Bakery for buttery pastry and espresso and ending at Farmstead for the brightest in local farm to fork cuisine with an esoteric selection of local wines. If you are lucky enough to score a reservation at Chef Thomas Keller’s Michelin starred, French Laundry, we can plan your entire visit around the date of your dinner. Whenever you come, we do recommend you plan on a full day (or more) in both Napa and Sonoma to fully explore and embrace the distinctly different experiences.
A truly scenic way to sip your way through the valley is to hop on the Napa Valley Wine Train. During the three-hour ride, you will enjoy a gourmet meal while taking in small town streets and wineries in Napa, Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford and St. Helena. The Napa Valley Wine Train is an antique Pullman train that has been restored with huge picture windows and a Tasting Car stocked with 30-40 boutique wines for tasting. Or try a bike tour through Sonoma with the Healdsburg Sip 'N Cycle tour, a relaxed 10- to 12-mile ride along the quiet country lanes of the Dry Creek Valley. Taste wines along the way, stop on rural back roads and enjoy the scenery, and keep your energy going with a Wine Country picnic lunch. For the more competitive riders, we love the Velo 'N Vino' tour which offers a challenging 20- to 30-mile morning ride through Healdsburg and the Dry Creek Valley, followed by a picnic lunch and afternoon wine tasting traveling in a van to small, family-owned wineries.
Although Napa is the country’s premier wine tasting destination, there are so many other amazing activities to enjoy. To get a bird’s eye view of the valley, take a sunrise hot air balloon ride. The view from above is magical and well worth the early morning call time. As you gently glide over the vineyards when the sun comes up – you will think you are dreaming, the view is that beautiful. On your way back, stop by the Oxbow Public Market , a local culinary dream destination. The 40,000-square-foot restored brick building is light-filled and chock full of local bakers, butchers and chocolatiers at work. In keeping with the eye candy theme, once you have refreshed and refueled, take a drive up Mt. Veeder, about 20 minutes from the town of Napa, to see one of the best contemporary art collections at The Hess Collection winery. The museum, on the second and third floors of the beautiful winery displays works by the likes of Francis Bacon, Gerhard Richter, Anselm Kiefer and Robert Motherwell. The collection of modern art is ARTnews Magazine’s “top collections.” While you are at the top, set out on a stroll around the grounds to take in the amazing views. Finish off your day with a burger at the famous Gott’s Roadside. You may run into a local winemaker or celebrity chef while you’re there.
Meadowood Napa Valley Hotel
For the outdoor enthusiasts, there is hiking, tennis and several highly rated golf courses. Something for everyone in your group to enjoy together or on their own. For the action set, we think the Forbes 5 Star rated; Meadowood Napa Valley is a perfect landing spot. The 85 key resort has a combination of rooms, suites, villas and family lodges. The sophisticated California chic décor is soothing and all rooms have some outdoor space in the form of a terrace or patio. Meadowood’s three Michelin-starred restaurant, The Restaurant, is operated by Chef Christopher Kostow who is known for his use of the abundant Napa Valley farm bounty. Meadowood also has a 9-hole golf course, tennis courts, two manicured croquet courts, four miles of scenic hiking, swimming pools, an all suite-Spa menu and a Kid’s Sports Camp. The resort is really exceptional and as an exclusive partner of Well Inspired Travels and Virtuoso, our clients will receive an upgrade on arrival( if available), $50.00 credit towards daily breakfast in The Grill or via room service for two guests per bedroom, $100 USD spa services credit, welcome amenity box of handcrafted Napa Valley Chocolates, and early check-in/late check-out, subject to availability.
If Sonoma is more your style – then allow us to take you to the dreamy Farmhouse Inn. Luxury and service abounds at this very special property, whose family’s roots date back 5 generations to the area. This Sonoma chic boutique hotel consists of 25 rooms & suites and has 5 concierges on duty – yes FIVE! That is quite the ratio. Rooms are designed with natural elements against a palate of neutral colors and unique touches. The atheistic is stylish and warm. Every detail of your stay has been considered to ensure a truly thoughtful experience. Remember the 5 concierges? Imagine the kind of place that welcomes you with the comforts of home, but becomes an elevated luxury experience in an unfussy, laid back kind of way. The Inn boasts a Michelin Star restaurant, plus access to a special selection of Sonoma County wineries, which provide exclusive experiences and benefits to Farmhouse Inn guests. You will enjoy complimentary wine at check in, wine tastings every evening, nightly turndown with chocolate chip cookies and a complimentary Organic Artisan Bath Bar for guests, with self-serve soaps, scrubs and bath bubbles to take back to your room. And on that note, let’s discuss the Spa at Farmhouse Inn by Francis & Alexander. The attentive, yet relaxed service, and hand crafted treatments, are cornerstones of the spa. Their farm-to-table spa menu treatments feature bounty from the Inn’s gardens. Try their signature Personal Apothecary experience that begins with an interactive spa consultation to curate a personal blend of therapeutic oils used throughout your spa treatment. You will swoon over the Scrub, Rub and Shrub, which changes seasonally. A collaboration between spa apothecarist and the estate chef results in a synergistic seasonal body scrub and healthful shrub to drink, comprised from the Farmhouse kitchen garden and local farmers. The full body treatment includes an exfoliation and a massage. Need we say more?
The magical Farmhouse Inn restaurant is a truly ethereal experience and the brain child of Michelin Star Executive Chef, Steve Litke. Inspired by local ingredients whose menus are ever-changing and only include the freshest and best ingredients from the region. The wine program is thoughtful and appropriate with exceptional sommeliers and dining room service you won’t want to miss. As one of our WIT partners, Farmhouse Inn offers the following extra perks when you book with us : Daily full breakfast for two guests per bedroom (up to $50 daily breakfast credit), $100 USD spa services, complimentary hand curated wine tasting itineraries from the top 25 hand selected winery partners in Sonoma with all fees waived, VIP access and membership benefits as a guest of Farmhouse Inn. Upgrade upon arrival, early check-in/late check-out –subject to availability upon arrival.
Carneros Resort and Spa
Located between Sonoma and Napa and surrounded by vineyards and rolling hills, Carneros Resort and Spa offers laid back luxury in true Napa Valley style with private cottage accommodations. Both sophisticated and relaxed, the free-standing cottages feature private front porch and a backyard garden with a sundeck, table and chairs, garden, fire pit, outdoor showers and chaise lounges. For groups, the property has accommodations that are two separate cottages each with its own entrance and bedrooms that are joined by a shared yard and living space, perfect for families or friends. If you are looking for more majestic accommodations, Carneros Residences are the solution. Located in a gated community, each luxury home includes a full kitchen, living room, expansive patio deck, and outdoor fireplace. Ideal for entertaining, celebrating, meeting with clients or simply enjoying the fall harvest. Let us arrange for a private chef and sommelier who will cater to all of your needs. Carneros Resort has something for everyone when it comes to your culinary needs: The Farm restaurant serves inspired seasonal menus with a laid-back vibe. The fun and lively, Boon Fly Café serves modern rustic cuisine in a contemporary roadhouse atmosphere.
The Hilltop, exclusive for resort guests only, provides vineyard views that will not disappoint. Looking for a casual spot for a craft beer or glass of local wine? The Pavilion is the spot for relaxing around one of the covered fire pits as you recap your day while enjoying the sunset. We love that Carneros also has an upscale general store where you can find picnic basket fillers or snacks for your cottage and an abundant selection of gourmet food and beverages. Let’s not forget our favorite subjects- wellness and fitness. The guest only Spa at Carneros offers inventive treatments and natural elements on their spa menu. We are wild about the, out of the box, exclusive Light Me Up treatment where magnesium-rich oils are applied, while pain areas are treated with LED light technology to accelerate healing. A massage follows, concluding with a selection of outcome-specific audio programs to recalibrate your mind-body connection. It’s everything we needed without ever knowing we did! We also love Napa Nirvana, which starts with a head to toe green tea mud body wrap, followed by a luxurious scalp massage and soothing hand and foot treatment and full body massage. Divine! The Resort also has a hilltop, adult only pool with simply amazing views from the top. The 3,000 square foot fitness center is state of the art. You can also drop in to one of the complimentary fitness classes that may include yoga, fitness fusion, boot camp and a guided vineyard run or walk, adding in an authentic sense of place experience. WIT has terrific exclusive amenities at Carneros Resort: Full american breakfast daily for two guests per bedroom at Hilltop Dining Room (credit of $60 per bedroom),a $100 USD spa services credit and upgrade on arrival. Early check in/late check out, may be available as well.
What Napa and Sonoma is to wine, Calistoga is to spas and mud baths, one of our favorite subjects! Located at the northernmost tip of the Napa Valley, Calistoga offers an easygoing, relaxed vibe. Calistoga remains home to a number of spas where visitors can soak it all in with the natural mineral hot springs and the historic mud baths. Calistoga Ranch, an Auberge Resorts Collection property, offers contemporary and sophisticated rustic luxury. The 50 freestanding guest lodges are ensconced in a peaceful canyon with indoor and outdoor spaces. Each uniquely designed lodge may have an outdoor shower, outdoor fireplace, expansive patio or a tree trunk springing up through the deck floorboards. Some lodges include a private outdoor soaking tub but all embrace the natural elements and beauty of the region.
The highly regarded Spa at Calistoga Ranch is truly inspired by Calistoga’s healing vibe. The menu includes everything from mineral baths to mud wraps. One of the most unique is the Forest Therapy Treatment based on the Japanese practice of “Forest Bathing” with healing mineral springs, soothing massage, a warm mud mask and concluding with a facial and scalp massage. What a way to commune with nature while being bathed in luxury! As a WIT client you will receive these exclusive amenities to include: Full breakfast daily for two guests per bedroom, bespoke welcome amenity, $100 USD Resort credit to be utilized during stay, complimentary upgrade and early check-in/late check-out (subject to availability).