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Napa Valley Wine Country Itinerary

One Day – the Napa Valley Wine Country Way

By Kimberly Wilson

Napa Wine country is a pleasant introduction to a decadent and luxurious lifestyle masked by a rural existance -- rugged, beautiful vineyards, two lane highways, and laid-back, friendly hospitality tease you with wine and food at every 1/16 of a mile. Tried and true suggestions are offered below for a fail-safe fabulous Napa Valley adventure. If this is your first time in the Valley this is an excellent place to start. Eventually, your winery, restaurant, and attraction choices will broaden. Of course, like red wine, some of these stops just get better with time. Go with a partner, a friend, a group of folks or just by yourself!

START TIME: 9:00 a.m.

Gilwoods Café
1320 Napa Town Center, Napa, CA 94559

Casual café located in downtown Napa that serves hearty plates of good ol’ fashioned breakfast delights all day long. There is not one entrée that will lead you astray. Bacon and Eggs, Italian Sausage Omelet, French Toast, Eggs Benedict are all wonderful selections and many of these dishes come with your choice of bread, and potatoes – is your appetite whet yet? Spoon some homemade salsa on whatever suits your fancy and be sure to order a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice.

Driving Interlude –

Jump onto Highway 29 going north to Calistoga. Nothing beats driving up Highway 29 listening to the smooth, cool trumpet notes of Miles Davis. But for those young at heart, John Mayer’s soon to be classic songs “Vultures” and “Another Kind of Green” will do just as nicely. You’ll be primed for your next stop – world renowned Calistoga spas.

Calistoga Day Spa & Massage Center
1219 Washington St., Calistoga, CA 94515

Calistoga Day Spa & Massage Center is a perfect, and slightly more affordable, spa experience in the Calistoga region. Call a day or two ahead to make reservations. Room decorations are simple to the point of non-existent with dim lights, and soft Asian influenced music creates an ambiance intended to relax you and your inner thoughts. Staff is very helpful, so don’t be shy to ask questions and request a map of Calistoga which will come in handy when mapping out the next stop.

Sterling Vineyards
1111 Dunaweal Lane, Calistoga, CA 94515

Also located in Calistoga, Sterling Vineyards sits atop a secluded hill boasting breathtaking look out points. Keep your camera handy. An aerial tram ride ascends to the tasting room and winery facilities. If this is your first time visiting the winery, take the self-guided tour and then proceed to the Tasting Room. A flight of four wines for your tasting pleasure is included with admission to the airy and bright tasting room. Pick up a bottle or a case of wine from your selections or a souvenir in the gift shop on your way out before you make your tram descent.

Beaulieu Vineyards
1960 St. Helena Highway, Rutherford, CA 94573

Back on Highway 29 heading south, stop at well known Beaulieu Vineyards in the Rutherford appellation directly off the Highway. Try BV’s wine selections from the Daily Appellation Tasting Menu or the Daily Reserve Tasting menu. If time allows, tour the winery’s facilities and learn an easy way to remember how to pronounce the winery’s name (hint: Bowl – u)!

Rutherford Grill
1180 Rutherford Road, Rutherford, CA 94573

A few steps away from Beaulieu Vineyards, Rutherford Grill awaits your now famished appetites, but you’ll be glad you waited. Rutherford Grill has superb Napa wine country cuisine minus the rigidity of white tablecloth, fine china, and two to three sets of tableware. Instead, sit back, and enjoy the relaxed atmosphere that surrounds you. The bar makes great drinks – best Midori Sour I've tasted yet – and any of the grilled items are excellent entrée choices. Someone in the party should definitely order the barbecue ribs.

Napa Valley Opera House
1030 Main Street, Napa, CA 94558

End your night with a performance at the Napa Valley Opera House. Recently renovated and once again considered the pride and joy of downtown Napa, there are an array of shows to choose from including jazz, comedy, dance, drama, etc. Arrive early and order another glass of wine, or - if you skipped dessert at Rutherford Grill – a slice of cake and cup of coffee. Feel up close and personal with any of the artists as the venue is intimate, boasts great acoustics and any seat is a great one!

The Finale – Starbucks?

At this point, the drive home may be long enough to allow discussions of the day’s highlights, and begin the Ebert & Roeper session that inevitably follows any performance. Or, perhaps someone in your wine country entourage will be hospitable enough to open their home for a late nightcap to revel in the day's events and plans for the next trip. However, if either of these scenarios seem unlikely, hunt down your local Starbucks, pull up a chair and table, and let the staff cater to your every cappuccino, frappaccino, mocha, hot chocolate, or hot cider need.

HOME AND TO BED: 10:00 p.m.

Advance Preparation – has the information for all your planning needs. Listed below are just a few of the links where you will find maps, coupons, and other pertinent information for your day in the wine country.

Napa Valley Winery Map
Calistoga Spas
Sterling Vineyards Coupon

>>Winetasting on the Silverado Trail

>>Biking Wine Country: Napa Valley

>>10 Questions for Winemaker Tony Biagi

>>Napa Steakout: On the trail of great steak restaurants in Wine Country

>>Chefs Wanted: Four Culinary Adventures in Napa

Great Events To Attend

Try these events:

December 31 - (Napa, CA)
New Year's Eve Great Gatsby Celebration

December 31 - (Yountville, CA)
Toast to the New Year with Domaine Chandon

January 7 - 8 - (Calistoga, CA)
Carols in the Caves

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