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Magazine Archives: June 15, 2015

Touring Napa Valley: Luxury

MaryAnn Worobiec, Aaron Romano, Augustus Weed
Issue: June 15, 2015

There's plenty of romance and pampering to be found in Napa. But luxury in wine country isn't formal—it's relaxed and unpretentious. Extravagance here is about creating quiet, private moments to soak in the atmosphere, treat yourself, take in the beautiful surroundings and delicious food, and focus on what's in your wineglass.


580 Lommel Road, Calistoga
Telephone (707) 254-2800
Website www.calistogaranch.aubergeresorts.com
Rooms 50
Rates $795–$4,800

Tucked away in a canyon and surrounded by 157 wooded acres, Calistoga Ranch is the ultimate escape, blending a tranquil, outdoorsy ambience with all manner of indulgences. The remote property is dotted with private, cedar-paneled lodges and features a tranquil spa, hiking trails offering beautiful vistas and a serene lakeside restaurant.

Lodges balance natural and domestic touches, with indoor-outdoor fireplaces, floor-to-ceiling windows and doors, and rooms connected by a deck. Furnishings are modern, comfortable and stylish, and each 1,200-square-foot room has a wet bar, an entertainment center and an outdoor shower. Guests are given an iPad that they can tote with them to request anything from poolside service to courtesy shuttles back to their rooms. Other amenities and activities include yoga and Pilates classes, a pool and fitness center, bocce courts, wine-tasting seminars, and complimentary use of the ranch's fleet of Mercedeses for driving through the valley in style.

755 Silverado Trail, Calistoga
Telephone (707) 266-7534
Website www.solagecalistoga.com
Rooms 83
Rates $400–$1,095

Credit the relaxed vibe of this resort to the presence of a 20,000-square-foot spa, which includes a geothermal spring-heated mineral pool and a mud bar. There are two additional pools on site, one for adults and the other attached to a family-friendly area with cabanas. Guest rooms have private entrances, semiprivate patios and pebble-stone showers. Complimentary bicycles allow you to explore the area, including the nearby town of Calistoga.

Solage is also home to Solbar Restaurant, where chef Brandon Sharp executes an elegant menu equally divided between lighter spa dishes featuring locally grown produce and more hearty comfort foods. Solbar was recently remodeled, expanding patio seating and creating the Chef's Atrium, which offers private dining, including a custom five-course tasting menu and sommelier-paired wines.


180 Rutherford Hill Road, Rutherford
Telephone (707) 963-1211
Website www.aubergedusoleil.com
Open Breakfast, daily; brunch, Saturday and Sunday; lunch, Monday to Friday; dinner, Sunday to Saturday
Cost Tasting menu $110–$150
Corkage $30
Best of Award of Excellence

This is a top-notch destination, not only for executive chef Robert Curry's precise cooking but also for the sweeping, stunning views from the dining room terrace. No other restaurant in Napa has such beautiful surroundings, and it's considered one of the most tranquil and romantic experiences in the region. Part of a high-end resort in the hills above Rutherford, the hotel is known for its lovely accommodations and spa. But the restaurant is a huge draw in its own right, beginning with the wine list, which offers 1,700 selections and dozens of choices by the glass. Chef Curry's food is seasonal, with a hint of the Mediterranean, and always on point. Don't miss the poached Maine lobster served with roasted beets, horseradish carrots and dill, or indulge in such Cabernet-friendly entrées as bacon-wrapped veal served with crispy Brussels sprouts and whole-grain mustard spaetzle.

The Westin Verasa Napa, 1314 McKinstry St., Napa
Telephone (707) 257-5157
Website www.latoque.com
Open Dinner, daily
Cost Tasting menu $80–$180
Corkage $25
Grand Award

La Toque recently became the second Napa restaurant to become a Wine Spectator Grand Award winner (the other is the French Laundry), with a list of 1,900 selections—nearly 400 of them Napa Cabernets—sure to make any wine lover giddy. Chef Ken Frank's food is delicious and thoughtful; the dinner menu is presented in four sections from which you can create your own multicourse experience. There's also a chef's tasting menu and a vegetarian tasting menu. No matter which you choose, it makes sense to splurge on the wine pairings.

The dining room boasts a handsome and modern appearance, but the focus remains the food, such as a sliced Niman Ranch rib-eye with Fiscalini cheddar, pearl tapioca and Rutherford red wine sauce, or grilled octopus with piquillo pepper, black olive and white beans. If you like foie gras, chef Frank's archetypal version should not be missed.

6480 Washington St., Yountville
Telephone (707) 944-2222
Website www.reddnapavalley.com
Open Brunch, Sunday; lunch, Monday and Wednesday to Saturday; dinner, daily
Cost Entrées $28–$36
Corkage $25 for first bottle, $50 thereafter

The dining scene in Napa Valley has only become more sophisticated in the 10 years since chef Richard Reddington opened his signature restaurant in Yountville, but Redd retains all of its freshness and verve. The 90-seat space has two dining rooms, and the design is sleek and minimal. Reddington has a talent for finding harmony in a dish that draws on many flavors, textures and culinary influences. The menu is always creative, with options such as wild striped bass with farro-stuffed cabbage, shiitakes and dashi broth. But he isn't shy with his devotion to a few signature dishes, including glazed pork belly with apple purée, burdock and soy caramel. Service remains impeccable, with a wine team to match. Sommelier William Sherer oversees a list of about 500 bottles, spanning the globe. While shy on Bordeaux, it's strong in Burgundy, California Cabernet and food-friendly whites from a wide range of regions.

900 Meadowood Lane, St. Helena
Telephone (707) 967-1205
Website www.therestaurantatmeadowood.com
Open Dinner, Tuesday to Saturday
Cost Nine-course tasting menu $225
Corkage $50
Best of Award of Excellence

This Michelin three-star restaurant is located within the famous Meadowood resort, which set—and maintains—the standard for luxury accommodations in Napa. Chef Christopher Kostow prepares food that's both meticulous and delightful. Each course is like a work of art, delivering clever arrangements with a sense of humor. A nine-course meal might open with a "pillow on a pillow"—a cracker pillow surrounding warm cheese served on a cloth pillow. The food is highly seasonal, not just in terms of ingredients but also in its presentation: A spring dish features tender vegetables served with tomato water "snow." A whipped yogurt gains dimension from sweet black sesame, pickled plum and shiso. The dining room and attentive staff give the meal an intimate, friendly vibe. The wine list has more than 1,200 offerings, and a glass of wine can be paired with each course for an additional $225.


4240 Silverado Trail, Napa
Telephone (707) 257-2345
Website www.darioush.com
Open Daily
Cost Tastings start at $40

Darioush stands out in Napa for its distinctive architecture, modeled after the ancient Persian city of Persepolis. But the winery is equally known for its hospitality—it was one of the first wineries in Napa to move away from the standard tasting bar experience in favor of something more personal.

Among the current options are a sit-down tasting of wine paired with cheese, and the Quintessential experience, in which guests are invited to relax in the owner's private cellar and select a bottle from his collection of great wines. That includes his assortment of first-growth Bordeaux, which he welcomes guests to taste alongside Darioush wines and some small plates. The newest experience is called the Culture of Wine Lunch ($200 per person), an intimate meal that includes conversation with eminent wine historian Nina Wemyss.

3200 Monticello Road, Napa
Telephone (707) 254-7572
Website www.kenzoestate.com
Open By appointment only
Cost Tastings and tours start at $40

Nestled in a secluded vale on the slopes of Mount George, this tasting room has the atmosphere and sophistication of a private club. Guests are greeted at the door with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, and the staff is attentive to each group's preferences and level of wine knowledge. There are a number of experiences to choose from, starting with a seated tasting of four current releases in the elegant lounge or on the outdoor patio. Serious Cabernet Sauvignon enthusiasts will gravitate to the lunch and guided tour, which offers a comprehensive look at the winemaking process, from viticulture practices to the final barrel selections. It concludes with a jaunt through the expansive wine cave followed by a tasting in the private lounge with lunch from Bouchon Bakery.

1601 Silverado Trail S., St. Helena
Telephone (707) 967-1601
Website www.quintessa.com
Open Daily, by appointment only
Cost Tours and tastings start at $75

Quintessa is a temple to a single Bordeaux-style Rutherford wine assembled from dozens of vineyard blocks, and a private tour of the winery gives visitors a chance to marvel at the stunning architecture, underground caves and tranquil setting. But the new Quintessential Quintessa tasting takes place in pavilions that resemble tree houses, with views of the estate, the lake and most of the Rutherford appellation beyond. The tasting ($125 per person) includes barrel samples, library bottlings and new releases, along with a cheese and charcuterie plate.

1271 Manley Lane, Rutherford
Telephone (707) 754-4018
Website www.swansonvineyards.com
Open By appointment only
Cost Tastings start at $25

The sit-down tasting at Swanson's Salon ($65 per person) feels like an intimate dinner party at a 17th-century Parisian home. Cofounder Elizabeth Swanson was raised in New Orleans, and the room was designed to bring to mind the elegance and Old World charm of the French Quarter. Colorful artwork, a stone fireplace and an ornate chandelier set a refined and convivial tone. Guests are greeted with a glass of rosé or white wine and an amuse-bouche of caviar and crème fraîche served on a potato chip. Tastings are hosted by a knowledgeable salonnière and include wines only available at the winery. The Sip Shoppe next door offers a playful contrast to the salon, with a striped circus tent interior and whimsical tasting bar. The wines, however, are just as serious.


Nothing says you're on vacation like sipping a glass of bubbly. There are several sparkling wine houses in Napa, each with its own vibe. Some offer tours to give insight into sparkling wine production and many boast tableside service. Schramsberg (www.schramsberg.com) has an educational tour through historic caves in a romantic setting. Mumm Napa Valley (www. mummnapa.com) offers table service on a patio that overlooks vineyards, or on their Oak Terrace, with refreshing misters to keep you cool on a hot day. Chandon (www.chandon.com) has a tasting lounge menu, so you can enjoy your glass of sparkling wine with oysters on the half shell, smoked salmon or truffle popcorn. Nearby, the châteaulike Domaine Carneros (www.domainecarneros.com) now offers alfresco yoga and a "juice bar" tasting of barrel samples. Gloria Ferrer (www.gloriaferrer.com) is a great place to take in the Carneros landscape, and a recent remodeling has expanded the terrace seating.

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