Ah, Napa Valley – that magical place that feels so far away but is really quite close. There’s a lot going on there these days, and, no, it’s not just about the grapes. Art, cuisine and green trends take the lead and here’s a recap of what’s going on in Napa Valley….
On the site of what used to be a 22-acre horse pasture now sits the Solage. The Solage is a spa hotel with that relaxed Calistoga attitude. The rooms are studio style with modern, elegant décor and include patios and organic amenities. While the property is family friendly with plenty to do with the kids, it can also be relaxing and romantic. The jewel of the Solage is its award-winning spa. The spa is perfect for couples, a solitary recharge or a gaggle of women or men. The 20,000 square-foot facilities offer geo-thermal mineral waters and mud bath treatments or you can opt for a more physical experience and enjoy fitness classes that range from yoga to spinning. After a grueling day of spa treatments and wine tasting you can refuel at Solbar – easily the hottest restaurant in Napa Valley right now.
This $65M property is one of the most expensive developments in Napa Valley and is Leed Platinum Certified. To give you some perspective, there are three hotels ON EARTH that are Leed Platinum Certified. The rooms are high tech with automated “turn down” functions that know when you are not in the room so the room goes into hibernation mode to conserve energy. Located in the heart of Yountville, this property is also a spa lover’s destination. The rooms feature bathrooms that are about the size of the bedroom and are designed for in-room spa treatments. The rooms feature private patios and have an enormous bathtub that you can slip right into after your in-room massage. If you only get to check out one thing at Bardessono, then you must try the bathrooms in the lobby – they feature high tech Japanese washlets with lots of interesting options including angle and temperature of the seat.
The Carneros Inn
Staying at the Carneros Inn feels like staying in a small, rural, agricultural based town – which technically it is. Each unit is a stand-alone cottage with loads of outdoor space including an outdoor shower, soaking tub and fire pit. Inside is just as nice with ultra-comfy bedding and wood-burning stoves. The extensive property screams for exploration and includes the must-try breakfast joint, The Boon Fly Café – a local favorite. They also have a quaint market stocked with cheeses and wine, perfect to enjoy in all of your outdoor space. Beware of critters though, as our cheese was snatched when we went inside for a moment. Also onsite is their luxurious spa with open-air treatment rooms.
Art + Wine + Cuisine + Green
From the moment of arrival on property at Clos Pegase you feel as though you are somewhere magical. The grounds are spotted with huge sculptures and the entire property includes over 1000 works of original art. The outdoor sculptures include works from Henry Moore and Cesar Baldachini. If you really want to experience something special, then plan a private dinner in one of their caves. You will literally be dining in the mountain surrounded by beautiful art and barrels of wine. Or you can spend an idyllic afternoon sipping their wine while enjoying a self-guided tour of their stunning collection of art.
Carlo is a very prolific Italian artist who works with acrylics, watercolors, ceramics and bronze sculptures – he’s also a world-renowned muralist and you’ll see his murals all over Calistoga. In the summer, he opens up his home, the Palladian Villa, to guests to enjoy his frescoes, grounds and gardens. He also had a gallery in Calistoga filled with additional pieces that vary from dark to whimsical depending on his mood. A true artist and a lovely man, he is a delightful character.
Lee Youngman Galleries
Located right on the main strip in Calistoga is Lee Youngman Galleries, which has been in business since 1985. The gallery includes work of local (as in bay area) prominent artists and features original oils, watercolors, pastels, graphite and sculptures. Lee is the daughter of California painter, Ralph Love and married to artist Paul Youngman. She has a terrific eye and you’ll enjoy a visit to her gallery and perhaps plan your next artistic investment.
The Culinary Institute of America
You must include a visit to The Culinary Institute of America into your dining schedule. The Wine Spectator Restaurant is a fantastic place to dine and the building cannot be missed. Called “Greystone”, it was part of the Christian Brothers collection of properties and is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Tomorrow’s James Beard Award winners now learn their craft at CIA and you get to enjoy the education while dining. The Institute also offers classes for regular people who want to discover new cooking skills as well as cooking demonstrations and tasting classes. Their retail store, called Spice Islands Marketplace, has everything you could possibly want in your dream kitchen.
If you want to feel good while sipping wine then stop by Hall Winery for a tasting. We don’t mean feel good like you always feel when sipping wine; we mean the added bonus of supporting people who are good to our earth. Hall Winery has some of the most environmentally friendly and sustainable practices of any winery. Their winery is the first in California to earn LEED Gold Certification using water flow technology, solar power and local and recycled materials.
While in Napa Valley, be sure to enjoy a meal at Hurley’s in Yountville. The restaurant is where the vintners eat and it’s more approachable than some of the other restaurants in the area. He introduced us to a delightful Charboro wine from local winemaker, Jacob Franklin. Bob is a great guy comes from a big Irish Catholic family and thus is a fantastic host. Hurley has been steady in serving incredibly fresh, local, simple but spectacular food for guests for nearly a decade.
Yountville Art Walk
The city of Yountville has recently installed several outdoor sculptures and have developed an art walk for visitors and locals to enjoy or even purchase if they desire. Portions of the sales benefit the Yountville Arts fund and other creative centered activities and events. Now with over 30 sculptures throughout town, including pieces from internationally known artist, Gordon Huether, visitors can meander about and enjoy the sights. The art is all publicly accessible and some of the sculptures are placed in hotel courtyards, near the post office and the town hall.
The Hess Collection
Located a bit outside of the main highway is a wonderful building filled with all that is good in life including wine, art and food. Hess is worth a stop in any event, however you can take the experience to a whole new level by calling ahead to book the “Tour of the Palate.” includes a guided tour of The Hess Collection Contemporary Art Museum followed by a tasting menu paired with their current wine releases prepared by executive chef, Chad Hendrickson. We enjoyed fennel dusted day boat scallop citrus scented butternut squash soup with the 2008 Collection Su’skol Chardonnay followed by pan roasted duck breast with sweet peppers, spring onions and fava beans and truffle wholegrain mustard vinaigrette paired with the 2008 Sequana Dutton Ranch Pinot Noir. Our final course was a grilled beef tenderloin with celery root puree, estate rainbow chard, bloomsdale spinach and royal trumpet mushrooms paired with the 2006 Collection Cabernet Sauvignon. It was a very special experience and is open to the public.
Oxbow Public Market
Located in the heart of downtown Napa is the Oxbow Public Market, which is a really fun venue, filled with all that your stomach could desire. Tuesday nights are “locals night” and the place gets packed. It’s set up like an upscale indoor farmers market with a cheese shop over here, a wine bar over there and various other culinary delights. From Venezuelan and Latin style cuisine to artisanal charcuterie to environmentally responsible seafood, there is something for everyone and the place is bursting with energy. It’s great to see this kind of activity in downtown Napa.