Log In / Join Now

Wine Country Travel Watch: Napa Valley

The latest news on hotels, restaurants and wine destinations in Napa, including Copia’s rebirth and a new Charlie Palmer restaurant
Photo by: Courtesy Silver Trident
Visitors to Silver Trident Winery's new tasting room can try wine in Ralph Lauren comfort.

MaryAnn Worobiec
Posted: July 10, 2015

The former Copia: The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts in downtown Napa will soon be reborn. The center, imagined and proposed by the late Robert Mondavi, went bankrupt and closed its doors in 2008. Now the Culinary Institute of America, in partnership with Triad Development of Seattle, has announced it will open the Culinary Institute of America at Copia on the site.

The new CIA location will be in addition to the school's Greystone campus in St. Helena, and will serve as part education center and part culinary museum. A Vintners Hall of Fame, retail shop, tasting bar and two restaurants are planned for the former museum, while the south parking lot will be turned into as many as 187 housing units, retail space and an underground parking garage. If the plans are approved, the entire project will take up to five years to complete, though the CIA might move in sooner.

Retooling the Thomas

The Thomas Restaurant and Fagiani’s Grill on Main St. will soon have a new identity and a new chef. It will reopen later this year, rebranded as Ninebark, and Chef Matthew Lightner will be in charge. Lightner most recently worked at Atera in New York’s Tribeca neighborhood, where he earned two Michelin stars. The restaurant will get a makeover, and each of the three floors will have their own menus featuring California cuisine, from the street-level bar to the rooftop lounge. Word is that Lightner and the restaurant’s owner, AvroKO Hospitality Group, are also looking at a new project in Calistoga to open in 2016.

Tasting in Style

Napa tasting rooms are increasingly focusing on unique concepts, and Silver Trident Winery recently opened a new, residential-style tasting “home” in downtown Yountville that will appeal to anyone who’s ever dreamed of living in a Ralph Lauren catalog. The tasting space is furnished with Ralph Lauren Home products—from chandeliers to carpets and serving trays to crystal wine goblets—and everything on display is available for purchase.

Tastings are $25 for four wines. Silver Trident Winery was founded by Bob Binder, cofounder of Oceania Cruises. The winery’s focus is on Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon–based wines.

Napa Valley Hotels—More Beds Are on the Horizon

Napa will have a lot more beds soon, with three new hotels set to open within the next two years. Archer Napa is the centerpiece of a new 350,000-square-foot mixed-use development on First Street that will be called Napa Center. It will host more than 40 shops and restaurants, including a five-story, 183-room hotel. Chef Charlie Palmer, of Wine Spectator Grand Award–winner Aureole Las Vegas, has announced that he will open a Charlie Palmer Steak in the center, as well as a rooftop bar. This expands Palmer’s wine country interests—he also owns Harvest Table in St. Helena and Dry Creek Kitchen in Healdsburg.

Auberge Resorts Collection (owners of Auberge du Soleil and Calistoga Ranch) will break ground this year in the Carneros district for a new resort, VieVage Napa Valley, which will include 120 standalone luxury cottages on 95 acres of the historic Stanly Ranch. The resort will be bordered by vineyards and central commons with a casual restaurant and bar, bakery and winery.

St. Helena will also be getting a luxury hotel. Starwood Hotels will open one of its Luxury Collection Hotels next year, called Las Alcobas. Located on the old Grandview property, the new 70-room hotel will be designed in the style of the Las Alcobas hotel in Mexico City. Renovations will reconfigure existing structures, including the Acacia House, built in 1907.

In existing properties, Indian Springs Resort & Spa in Calistoga has expanded to include 75 rooms and a new restaurant, Sam’s Social Club, named after resort founder (one of California’s first millionaires) Samuel Brannan. Chef Kory Stewart is making rustic American cuisine like a heritage pork porterhouse with wild mushroom farro and grilled salmon with butter beans and charred green garlic salsa. The resort includes four geothermal geysers that provide mineral water for the swimming pools and the spa’s famous mud baths.

The price tag for the sale of Yountville’s Bardessono Hotel & Spa raised some eyebrows. Ashford Hospitality Prime, a Dallas-based real-estate investment trust with more than 100 properties and 25,000 rooms across the U.S., has bought the property for $85 million. That works out to $1.37 million per room. Bardessono was founded in 2007 and is a Platinum LEED-certified hotel. The property will be managed by Remington Lodging, which intends to work with the existing management team.

Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.