Hi there, it’s Ernest from Trip Astute. In
this video, we wanted to share one of our recent adventures — exploring Napa Valley,
California. (light chiming music) We visited Napa Valley in February 2018 and it was the first-time
visiting for both myself and Fiona. Napa is located just north of San Francisco,
and is one of America’s most renowned regions for wine.
We’d heard great things from friends who had visited the area, so we couldn’t wait
to explore the area for ourselves. Most of the wineries in Napa are
family-owned, so it’s great knowing that we were supporting local businesses
during our visit. Since we were visiting during the off-season, it was much quieter,
and also meant that we were able to take our time visiting the wineries without
feeling rushed. As with all our destination reviews, we always try to
share with you highlights from our own experience and also some top tips to
help maximize your trip. So, here are some of the highlights.
Number 1: Wineries. No surprises here. The top thing to do when visiting Napa
is to check out the wineries. There are so many to choose from and most of them
are just off of the SR-29, which is the main highway that runs through the
region. Two of our favorite wineries from the trip were Domaine Carneros and
Sequoia Grove Winery. Domaine Carneros is a larger winery that was founded by the
family behind Taittinger champagne and specializes in delicious sparkling wines.
We tried four of their different varieties of sparkling wine for $30 and
really enjoyed sitting on their patio which overlooks some of the beautiful
views of the countryside and vineyards. In fact, we flew our drone nearby after
our wine tasting, so check out our video to see the aerial footage. The Sequoia
Grove Winery is a smaller winery with a 110 year old barn and tasting room
located beneath gigantic sequoia trees. This winery stood out because of the
great experience we had at Sequoia National Park last year, so we were
excited to check it out. We tried four of their wines for $25, which included their
specialty Cabernet Sauvignon. We loved the ambiance of this winery, and
really enjoyed the attention that we received during the
tasting. These are just two of the many options available in the area. Please
comment below if you have any suggestions or recommendations on
wineries. Number 2 on our list was hiking. We always enjoy the outdoors when
traveling and definitely needed to walk off the wine-tasting. We hiked in the
Skyline Wilderness Park, which is a short distance from downtown Napa. Entry to
the park is only $5 and that covers parking, a map of the trails, and use of
the restroom facilities at the trailhead. It was a quiet place to hike and offers
25 miles of different trails that are really easy to navigate. It also gave us
an opportunity to try out some of the new features on our Mavic Air drone.
Number 3: Great restaurants. On our first night in Napa,
we found La Taberna, which is a cozy tapas place in downtown Napa. This place
was perfect for what we were looking for. It offered an awesome selection of small
dishes, and of course, lots of wine. We love the patatas bravas and the Spanish
omelette, and really enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere. We decided to try the Farmers
Table at the Andaz which is known for its fresh and locally sourced
ingredients. We had a nice breakfast on the first day of our trip here, which we
needed before starting a day of wine tasting. The farmstead in st. Helena was
a great place for a midday stop and quick meal. The property has a few dining
options including a cafe, an upscale restaurant, and also an outside terrace
bar. We chose the outside bar. The staff was
super friendly and the restaurant offered great lunch options. We decided
to go with a couple of appetizers which were delicious and a great way to break
up the wine tasting. Though the highlight of our trip, and really our top food
experience for the year so far, was Ad Hoc in Yountville. Ad Hoc is owned by
Thomas Keller, who you may have heard from his upscale renowned Napa
restaurant French Laundry. This is definitely a more casual and low-key
restaurant from French Laundry, but the food and the ambiance was outstanding.
The restaurant has a fixed four-course menu for $55 and is served family-style.
The quality was the best we’ve tasted in a while, and the casual dining experience
made you feel right at home. If you’re interested in going, make sure you make a
reservation well in advance since the place gets booked pretty quickly,
especially during the weekends. Number 4: The Andaz Napa. We stayed at the
Andaz Napa which is located in downtown Napa. I have to admit we love the Andaz
brand and picked the hotel without paying too much attention to the different
areas that you can stay in within Napa. Downtown Napa has a lively vibe and is
full of restaurants, bars, shops, and lots of art galleries. We did notice a few
bachelor and bachelorette parties, so it’s definitely well-suited to a younger
crowd. Though if we were to visit again, I think we would have picked a more
laid-back area like Yountville or St. Helena.
Maybe we’re just getting old, but I think these seemed more our style being
relaxed but also offering some excellent food and drink options within walking
distance, and maybe with less of a college party vibe. The three towns are
within 15 to 20 minutes of each other and close to all the wineries, so you
can’t go wrong staying in any of these places. As always, we want to make sure
you have the best experience in Napa, so here are our top tips. Number 1: Use
ride-sharing services to hop between the wineries. There are plenty of ride-share
options available in the area. Both Lyft and Uber are active in the Napa region.
Unless you have a designated driver, we highly recommend making the most of
the reasonably priced services to get around the wineries. Most wineries are
within fifteen to twenty minutes of downtown Napa, which makes ride-sharing
an inexpensive option, and you’ll get to relax and enjoy all the great wine that
Napa has to offer without having to worry about driving. Number 2: Fly into
Oakland Airport. Oakland Airport is the closest large Airport to Napa and is
less busy than San Francisco Airport. This made it easy to pick up our rental
car and get straight on the road. Door-to-door, you can expect to reach
Napa in an hour and 30 minutes, depending on the traffic.
Number 3: Use the toll roads. When we landed in Oakland, Waze was showing a
40 mile trip but estimated the drive to be
two hours and 30 minutes. This seemed crazy and we were confused as to why we
were given such a strange route. We realized that we had the “avoid toll
roads” option in Waze selected. When we unchecked this option, our drive time
reduced by an hour. While we did have to pay a small fee for the toll, it was well
worth it to arrive at our destination an hour earlier. On the way back to Oakland, it didn’t seem to make a difference either
as there weren’t any toll roads. Number 4: Research wineries and make
reservations. We highly recommend doing your homework before heading to Napa. We
don’t consider ourselves wine experts by any means, but we do enjoy sampling good
wine. And honestly, we really weren’t sure where to start. We searched for some of the
top wineries listed on TripAdvisor and noted a few that sounded
interesting to us. But also, we got good recommendations just by talking to wine
specialists throughout the day. It’s definitely a good idea to make
reservations for the newer wineries, as they tend to have a cap on the number of
people that they can accommodate every day. The older wineries generally don’t
have restrictions and will take people on a drop-in basis, but it never hurts to
check in advance. If you plan to transport any wine home, check out our
video on the topic for some tips on packing wine and recommendations on
useful gear. Number 5: Get off the beaten path for some great photo opportunities.
As you might have noticed, we love taking photos and capturing videos on our trips.
Everywhere we look, there were great photo opportunities. However, some of the
more popular stops along the way, especially off the main Napa Road, were
really crowded. So we decided to get off the main road and head down some of the
smaller country roads. We managed to get some great photos and drone shots while
avoiding many of the crowds. Have you been to Napa? If so, what are your
favorite wineries and restaurants? Please share them below in the comments section.
Also, if you have any questions, let us know. If you enjoyed this video or found
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Until next time, travel safe and travel smart.