If you have an upcoming business trip to northern California, the idea of extending your stay and experiencing Napa Valley is a no brainer. It’s less than 90 minutes from San Francisco and Oakland airports, and Napa Valley offers unique landscapes, amazing cuisine, boutique shops, spa resorts and wine education.
Mix Business & Leisure Travel in Napa Valley
Even though your wine tasting for the day should only include a few small sips along the way, make sure you eat first. And St. Helena is an excellent spot for you to begin – at Gott’s Roadside. It is exactly as the name implies: a roadside stand. But this is in Napa Valley, so you’re going to find California-casual American classics that were recognized by the James Beard Foundation in 2006.
Go ahead and order a burger (perhaps the ahi burger), fries and one of Gott’s great milkshakes. Enjoy your lunch under an umbrella on an outdoor picnic table.
Napa Valley is one of the most well-known wine regions in the world. It’s just 30 miles long and 5 miles wide. And while this may seem small, the geography is vastly different, allowing Napa Valley to have 16 different American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) and more than 400 wineries. If it’s your first visit or if you haven’t been there in a while, choose one vineyard and take a tour (check their schedules before arriving):
Beringer Vineyards, St. Helena
Beringer’s history dates back to 1868, and they have two different wine tours: the 30-minute “Legacy Cave Tour” and the 60-minute “Taste of Beringer Tour.” The “legacy” tour takes you exclusively into the cave, where you’ll learn about Beringer’s history and get a chance to taste three wines. The “taste” tour includes the cave experience (including a cabernet tasting), but you will also learn about the winemaking process, explore the old winery and go through the historic tunnels. You then go to the Rhine House for a sit-down, hosted tasting and learn about pairings. Beringer has three gift shops (one of the largest selections among wineries in Napa).
Mumm Napa, Rutherford
Mumm hosts hourly tours that offer an in-depth look at Mumm Napa’s state-of-the-art equipment and how they follow the traditional wine making techniques of its French heritage to create its sparkling wines (combining chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes). You can also just relax in the winery’s tasting room – which is more like a café with indoor and outdoor seating options and breathtaking views. The estate houses two large art exhibition spaces: the Main Gallery, showing rotating collections of world-class fine art photography, and the Private Collection Gallery, featuring more than two dozen signed works of famed photographer Ansel Adams.
Robert Mondavi Winery, Oakville
Mondavi is the classic choice for wine tours in Napa Valley. They offer several different tours that range between 30 and 90 minutes. If you want to up the ante on your wine tasting skills, their “Signature Tour and Tasting,” led by a wine specialist, lasts 90 minutes and includes a walk through the historic To Kalon Vineyard and cellars and concludes with a guided wine tasting. Mondavi’s “Exclusive Cellar” tour is a private seated tasting of four reserve wines with a cheese and charcuterie accompaniment.
Located in Yountville (a lovely little town in the heart of Napa Valley), this 4-star hotel has a Tuscan theme and Mediterranean-style gardens throughout the property. The hotel is set up like a countryside village in Tuscany – designed with two-story buildings that are clustered and have cobblestone walkways and beautiful landscaping. Its iconic fountain flows through the center main walkway. It has a pool and whirlpool that is accessible to all guests 24 hours a day.
Villagio has 112 guest rooms, including 26 suites. Each room has a fireplace, a private patio or balcony with sitting area, down comforters and a complimentary bottle of wine waiting for you upon arrival (a great way to end your night). Breakfast is included as part of your stay. Villagio sets up an omelet station in their lobby as well as a buffet inside their restaurant. They also offer complimentary lemonade and iced tea on the property, with complimentary high tea for guests from 3 to 5 p.m. Connected to Villagio is V Marketplace 1870. It has several specialty shops where you can find art, apparel, jewelry, wine (and tastings), chocolate, hats and more.
Wellness is an important part of your “me-time,” and this spa incorporates the hotel’s Italian theme and has five private spa suites. Head there in your robe (or use their changing facilities) 45 minutes before your treatment to enjoy the lemon grass steam room, dry sauna, outdoor hydrotherapy tubs and/or the indoor lounge. Spa Villagio offers signature treatments, massages, facials, and manicures and pedicures. They use a mixture of all-natural and organic products, depending on skin condition and preference.
Napa Valley has some of the best dining you’ll find. Go for new American cuisine at Mustards, a restaurant that has an extensive wine selection – more than 800. The professional wait staff can suggest a wine pairing for your meal. Mustards has a cozy yet comfortable atmosphere (think dark wood with checkered marble floors). The menu reflects a mix of options from their wood burning grill and oven, such as fresh fish, house smoked duck, the very popular Mongolian pork chop, lamb and burgers, as well as seasonal dishes. You’ll receive a hearty portion, but Mustards is also one of those restaurants where you’ll want to indulge in a dessert, too, such as the lemon-lime tart.
If you’d like to end the night with a little bit of entertainment, listen to live music at Silo's in Napa. It’s an intimate club with seating around the stage. Depending on the night, their shows include blues, jazz, rock, reggae or Motown (Wednesday through Saturday).
Or, relax back in Yountville and go to chef Michael Chiarello’s Bottega Napa Valley, an easy walk from Villagio. Famous for its regional Italian cuisine, the restaurant’s interior is rustic and refined. But the bar is also lively, plus there’s an outdoor covered terrazzo with 40 seats.
After your breakfast at the hotel, you’ll want to buy some pastries and breads to bring home with you (or for your plane ride). Chef Thomas Keller opened his first Bouchon Bakery in Yountville in 2003 to provide his other restaurants – The French and Bouchon Bistro – with fresh, one-of-a-kind breads. Bouchon Bakery is a boulangerie (one that focuses on breads), but it quickly established its own reputation and also specializes in traditional French desserts (based on Keller’s memories from when he was in France). You’ll find pastries, tarts, cookies, juices, espresso drinks, coffees and more. The macaroons and the brownie are both legendary. It’s a short walk from the hotel and a great way to end your time in Yountville.
Planning a day trip to Napa? Find your closest National Car Rental location.