Why did I visit Napa Valley in California’s wine country? Aside from loving wine and Napa being a quick flight from LA, I enjoyed visiting Sonoma County (which you can read about here), which is next to Napa, and I wanted to see more of California wine country.
Before visiting Napa Valley, I solicited a lot of recommendations from friends and locals, read online reviews, and finally made a short list of wineries, restaurants and hotels that couldn’t be missed. Each place that I hand-picked had something cool or unique about it. But, it wasn’t a very short list, which left me in some trouble. So I narrowed my location to downtown Napa and Yountville to make my list more manageable.
Here are my favorite picks for food and wine from my trip to Napa Valley with my boyfriend Spencer—followed by my hotel picks in Part 2 tomorrow. Feel free to share your favorite Napa Valley spots below in the comment section!
Food: Bistro Jeanty, 6510 Washington St, Yountville, CA 94599; 707-944-0103
Pretty much every local recommended Bistro Jeanty. And I now see why. It stood out not only for the fact that it was a beautiful French bistro and because everything we had was excellent (we had the “Foie gras au torchon with sauternes gelée and brioche, pate and rabbit blanquette pappardelle with morels and creamy mushroom sauce”), but also because everyone was friendly and pretty laid-back. And I’m not talking just about the server; the people on both sides of us were either locals or regulars. We really enjoyed talking to one couple that was retired and comes here often for lunch and the other couple had an interesting story of discovering the States in an RV and they come to Napa every three years.
We did not expect to meet such wonderful people at lunch, especially considering all the hype about Napa. Bistro Jeanty was by far my favorite dining experience in Napa.
Tip: Go for lunch! Not only is it less-crowded at lunch, but also the patio was just gorgeous during the day. And always order the specials. Not that anything is bad, but the specials were just incredible and if you’re looking for a unique meal, you can’t do any better.
Wine: Clos Du Val, 5330 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558; 707-261-5200
Clos Du Val is French for “small vineyard estate of a small valley.” It acquired vineyards in Stags Leap in 1972, and it was there that its first wines were made—including the famous 1972 Cabernet Sauvignon. It was one of six California Cabs selected for the famous 1976 Judgment of Paris Tasting, where California defeated some of Bordeaux’s best.
We visited many wineries that we liked including Mumm Napa, Chandon and HALL Wines, but Clos Du Val was my best experience for several reasons. First of all, the place looks dreamy from the outside, with ivy growing up the building and rose gardens. It has a laid-back vibe and all of the people we interacted with were great.
Many wineries boast that they educate visitors, but with some wineries we found that we either had issues getting the attention of the staff or felt as though we were bothering them by asking questions. Not so at Clos Du Val. I really appreciated our educational tasting experience led by Jim. He made it fun, and we didn’t feel silly for asking him a question. Jim also taught me how to use a decanter with a pointed bottom. (Am I the only one who has a flat-bottomed decanter?!) Now I clearly need one.
The best part, of course, was the wine! Spencer and I each did the “Splendor Tasting” (one white and three reds) and really enjoyed the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Reserve Cab! My boyfriend also liked the Cab Franc. While we didn’t have room in our suitcase then, we purchased the Cab when we got back home. I cannot wait to drink it and relive our experience again!
In Part 2, tomorrow morning: Where to stay.
For more on Napa Valley, downtown Napa and Yountville, visit visitnapavalley.com.