California and Napa Valley are now fully reopened from the COVID 19 shutdown, with wineries and restaurants now operating at full capacity. And there’s no better time to visit. Fall is the best time to visit Napa Valley, with clusters of fruit blooming on the vines. The days are still sunny and warm, leaving time for alfresco dining after a day of wine tasting and exploration. This season, Napa Valley will also usher in a handful of new hotels, restaurants and experiences. Read on for a breakdown of the latest and greatest happenings across the region.
Hotel Openings and Renovations
The hotel boom continues across Napa Valley. In the revitalized city of Napa, The George opened this past spring. The nine-room inn was originally a mansion commissioned in 1891 and today is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Four years were spent remodeling the house to ensure careful preservation of much of the architecture. Shaking up the model of a traditional B&B, amenities include a Peloton studio on the lower level and cocktail and wine offerings in the speakeasy-style living room.
Heading north, Dr. Wilkinson’s Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs, originally built in 1952 and considered one of the first resorts in Calistoga, unveiled a large-scale renovation in May 2021. The property’s new look includes a Southwestern-inspired restaurant, House of Better and new outdoor cabana treatment rooms as part of the spa.
Around the corner, Solage Auberge Resorts Collection unveiled a $30 million redesign by Napa Valley architect Howard Backen and Los Angeles-based design agency, Studio Collective. As part of the update, eleven new cottages opened – each with views of Mayacamas Mountains. Later this summer, the new Pico Bar, Solage’s second dining venue, will open.
Watch this space: Four Seasons Resort & Residences will open later this year with 85 rooms and an on-site vineyard and tasting room, a rarity in Napa Valley. Stanly Ranch, an Auberge Collection Resort is also set to be unveiled in late 2021. The 135 open-air cottages will be set on the historic Stanley Ranch Winery estate, which has been producing critically acclaimed wines since the 19th century.
Newest Spots to Snack and Sip
New restaurants and tasting experiences are shaking up the scene in Napa Valley with interesting spaces and intimate offerings. Yountville’s new North Block restaurant, which opened in April, is helmed by Chef Nick Tamburo who joined from Manhattan’s Momofuku. With a focus on California cuisine, menu items include Shikoyu oysters with yuzu and asparagus with abalone and bone marrow. Francis Ford Coppola, proprietor of Inglenook, announced the completion of a major renovation of the winery’s historic Pennino Salon. The tasting space, reminiscent of a private club in the 1920s, is named after Coppola’s grandfather, Francesco Pennino. The room includes a variety of personal mementos like works of art by Robert De Niro and by film director Akira Kurosawa. Visitors can spin jazz albums on vintage turntables, play their own tunes on a piano or sit down for a game of chess or backgammon.
Domaine Carneros’s new “The Art of Sabrage” experience allows private groups to learn the history, legend and technique of this dramatic ritual dating back to the age of Napoleon. The experience includes four sparkling wines paired with a selection of local bites, followed by a sabrage demonstration. Following a 14-month pause due to COVID, the famous Napa Valley Wine Train is once again welcoming visitors aboard. The historic locomotive takes passengers on a 36-mile round trip loop through wine country with a four-course meal and access to some of Napa Valley’s most storied wineries. The creators of Clif Bar recently joined forces with local celebrity chefs to launch new biking experiences at Clif Family Winery this summer. The three new experiences feature biking routes designed by avid cyclists, including Chef Philip Tessier of PRESS, Chef Chris Kollar founder of Kollar Chocolates and Chef John McConnell behind the kitchen of Clif Family. The bike routes depart from the St. Helena winery and end at the tasting room’s outdoor patio for a glass of wine and a seasonal bruschetta created by the chef.
Why Go: Harvest Season in Napa Valley
Fall is “crush” season in Napa Valley – the time when the grapes are picked and the scent of wine permeates the air. To celebrate, wineries across the region will offer interactive harvest experiences, such as grape stomps at Peju Province and Castello di Amorosa, and wine blending classes at Miner Family Winery and Judd’s Hill. Learn the magic of producing vino with Round Pond’s “Day in the Life” program where guests measure the ripeness of the grapes during a vineyard tour, partake in a winemaking tutorial and conclude with a tasting of the estate’s olive oils.
Several events and dinners celebrating the grape will also take place, such as Crocker & Starr’s Carnivus Maximus on September 5, with tastings of pre-release vintages; Rutherford Hill Winery’s annual Barn Bash on September 15, featuring live music and a BBQ and wine pairings; and Merryvale’s celebration on September 26 with barrel samples and exclusive access to the winemaker. Don’t miss Calistoga’s Harvest Table on September 12. A 1,000-foot-long table will stretch down the town’s main Lincoln Street with cuisine from 13 restaurants and a selection of reds and whites from more than 40 local wineries.
And book a tour of Fantesca Estate Winery Also an excellent place to book for your next event in the Wine Country.