The rolling, sun-kissed landscapes of Napa Valley, California, have entranced locals and visitors for well over a century. During that time, the area has exploded into a popular tourist destination with a wide variety of options for visitors looking to explore the top places to visit in Napa Valley.
Known as one of the top viticultural areas in the world, the fertile soil of the valley, combined with its near-perfect climate, have made this area a premier location for grape growing and wine producing.
But while it’s famous for its world-class wines, especially its prized Cabernet Sauvignon, and the more than 400 wineries that call the valley home, this Californian paradise is also a noteworthy culinary hotspot, boasting some of the state’s finest dining. Along with that comes beautiful, lavish accommodations at charming bed and breakfasts and large resort hotels and even a growing craft beer scene. These are the top 15 places to visit in Napa Valley.
Located roughly 75 minutes north of San Francisco is the city of Napa, California, the second-largest city in California’s wine country after nearby Santa Rosa. Founded in 1847 by California pioneer Nathan Coombs, Napa’s downtown area is known for its late-1800s and early-1900s architecture; a popular promenade along the Napa River, which is lined with an array of shops and restaurants; and a thriving arts scene that includes the Napa Valley Opera House. Also known for its great food and, of course, its wine, Napa serves as the perfect gateway to the expansive and world-famous wine country to its north.
Napa Palisades Saloon
Situated on the corner of First and Main Street in downtown Napa, California, Napa Palisades Saloon is a rustic gastropub and brewery with a true Americana vibe that serves local craft beers, including ones from their own Napa Palisades Beer Company, as well as numerous guest taps.
In addition to their beers, Napa Palisades Saloon’s menu also offers gourmet American comfort and pub food, unique draft cocktails and wines, and whiskeys, which can be enjoyed while watching sporting events on one of their eight big-screen TVs or on their outdoor patio.
As far as beers go, their fantastic Loco IPA their Gold Rush Red are must-haves. It’s easy to think a saloon might not have amazing food, but Napa Palisades Saloon bucks that idea with a sensational menu that offers juicy and decadent burgers, a delicious avocado toast with cotija cheese, beer-soaked ladyfingers, and much more. This gastropub food can’t be topped and make Napa Palisades Saloon one of the top places to visit in Napa Valley, without a doubt.
Oxbow Public Market
Known as the best community gathering place for food and wine in downtown Napa, and one of the best places to visit in Napa Valley, Oxbow Public Market is a 40,000-square-foot marketplace that offers a little bit of everything for everyone, with food vendors, artisan cafés, and even an organic produce outlet for local farms.
Founded in 2007, the market is all about organic and sustainable agriculture and the local harvest and is an active supporter of local food producers and the Napa Valley agricultural community. Their goal is to improve the food culture of Napa Valley through community outreach, education, and supporting local farms and businesses.
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Some of Oxbow Public Market’s highlights include buying some fresh meat at Five Dot Ranch. You can also buy rubs and spices for your meat nearby, and at other shops, and you can sample local olive oils, including a fantastic jalapeno one, and buy freshly-made pizzas. If you go to Five Dot Ranch, I recommend getting a T-Bone steak with some macaroni and cheese on the side. They’re both phenomenal choices, as are the raw oysters at Hog Island Oyster Co.
Eiko’s Fish Market is a great place to grab an incredibly fresh rainbow roll. I’ve eaten sushi all over the world and theirs is some of the best I’ve ever had! Wash it all down with some local craft beers or a flavorful cocktail from Napa Valley Distillery to top off your Napa Valley culinary experience!
If wine is what you’re after in Napa Town, you’d be remiss to pass up Andretti Winery, an award-winning boutique winery hidden along a quiet country road in the Oak Knoll District. Radiating the charm of an old, rambling Italian village, visiting this Tuscan-themed winery, a passion project of famed racecar driver Mario Andretti, is like taking a trip to centuries past, where a slower pace of life was the norm.
After marketing a commemorative bottle of wine in 1994 to mark his retirement from competitive auto racing, Andretti was bitten by the wine bug and teamed up with longtime friend and former Kmart CEO Joe Antonini and purchased a 53-acre vineyard and winery in the northern part of Napa, California the following year, and the winery officially opened in 1996.
Today, Andretti winery boasts a large selection of super-premium wines made from grapes that grow on-site and others that are sourced from various locations around California, which can be sampled in their tasting room. Their 2014 Syrah is a delicious selection, as is their 2015 Pinot Noir, while their 2015 Muscat is a wonderful dessert wine that isn’t too sweet. Andretti Winery is the perfect spot to kick off any Napa Valley wine country adventure!
Silverado Resort and Spa
Visitors setting out to explore the Napa Valley over the course of several days will need a place to recharge and relax in-between tastings and tours and there’s no better place to get some R&R in the area than the Silverado Resort and Spa, which is situated on a beautiful 1,200-acre estate that features gorgeous oak groves and picturesque vineyards. This historic, award-winning resort and spa located just 10 miles outside Napa Town is the epitome of Napa Valley serenity and is surrounded by some of the area’s most renowned wineries.
Boasting 340 large, one-bedroom condominium suites, some of Napa Valley’s best dining, top-of-the-line business facilities, a 16,000-square foot full-service spa, an exercise facility, and a plethora of on-site recreational activity areas such as ten tennis courts, ten swimming pools, and two eighteen-hole golf courses, Silverado Resort and Spa has everything any wine enthusiast, or anyone looking for a peaceful getaway, could possibly want or need.
Book your stay today to see why Silverado Resort and Spa is one of the top places to visit in Napa Valley!
If you find yourself craving fine Japanese food during your time in wine country, never fear, because one of Napa Valley’s best restaurants, Miminashi, also happens to be the best place in the area for high-quality Japanese cuisine. A hidden gem even among locals, Miminashi is an Izakaya-style restaurant whose menu and interior design honor the spirit of Japanese culture. Miminashi came into being after chef and owner Curtis Di Fede fell in love with Japan and its cuisine after spending time in the island nation following his departure from his previous restaurant, a southern Italian-influenced restaurant also in Napa.
Miminashi’s extensive menu offers a variety of yakitori, or grilled and skewered meat, including nearly every part of the chicken and various cuts of beef tongue; yellowfin tuna sashimi; delicate chicken wings; spicy Tantanmen ramen with pork, green cabbage, egg, and nori; a savory egg custard with asparagus and snap peas called chawanmushi; wontons called gyoza with pork and ginger; a grilled Monterey Bay squid salad; a savory pancake called okonomiyaki made from tasty Napa cabbage; and many more mouthwatering options.
I highly recommend their succulent Hawaiian tuna sashimi, amberjack sashimi, and salmon sashimi, as well as the pork belly yakitori and chicken fat fried rice, all of which are made to perfection. Discover this hidden gem in Napa by having a fantastic meal there the next time you’re in California wine country!
In the North Bay part of the San Francisco Bay Area is Yountville, a small town of under 3,000 residents that went by the name Sebastopol from 1855 to 1867. The town was named after a trapper and early pioneer named George Calvert Yount, who moved to California from New Mexico in 1831 and is known for establishing the first vineyard in the Napa Valley area. Since then, the number of vineyards in the valley has exploded, and the town of Yountville is now known for its gourmet diners and two Michelin-starred restaurants.
Silver Trident Winery
The Silver Trident Winery in the heart of Yountville next to Bistro Jeanty, is a fantastic spot to begin your tasting room hopping adventure.
This small winery’s passion for richly layered wines with depth and complexity is apparent from the moment you step inside. Everything from their grapes to their staff is handpicked, and they ensure the quality of their wines by focusing their passion on every step of the wine-making process.
Silver Trident’s Cabernet Sauvignon is their specialty, much like the rest of the Napa Valley region, but their menu also contains unique varietals including a Rosé Pinot Noir, a Pinot Noir from the Russian River Valley, and a rare Malbec that can’t be found in many other places. If you’re a lover of complex and layered wines, Silver Trident is a must!
JCB Tasting Salon
The JCB Tasting Salon, also in Yountville, is a very unique wine country experience that fuses their exclusive Napa Valley wines with luxury and high-end style and fashion, in a combination tasting room and retail shop that is the brainchild of Jean-Charles Boisset. Each wine in his JCB Collection is a limited edition and is a celebration of Boisset’s French heritage and love of California.
I highly recommend JCB Tasting Salon’s sparkling wines, which are imported from Burgundy, as well as their Pinot Noir from Burgundy and the Russian River Valley, their 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, and their Surrealist, which is out of this world. In their shop, you can find lavish products including the custom-designed JCB jewelry collection, luxury home and wine accessories, glassware, JBC perfumes, and more, all of which make for great gifts for the special people in your life.
For a taste of opulence alongside your wine, give JCB Tasting Salon a visit!
The third and final tasting room I recommend in Yountville is Jessup Cellars, whose staff is known as the friendliest and most knowledgeable in all of wine country! Over the last two decades, this family-owned spot has become known for their ultra-premium wines, and for being as passionate about ‘the art of the blend’ and their varietal wines from select Napa Valley vineyards as they are about giving back to their community by supporting the arts and other worthy, local causes.
Jessup Cellars focuses mostly on red blends, but also create an amazing Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Pretty much every grape that grows in the Napa Valley area is represented somewhere on their menu. Their 2016 Sauvignon Blanc, 2014 Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc-based blend called Table For Four, 100% Petite Syrah, and Infinite Recursion blend are all incredible, and I highly recommend them!
Do not miss out on this incredible tasting room! It is, without question, one of the best places to visit in Napa Valley!
Cliff Lede Vineyards
Located on a sixty-acre estate in Napa Valley’s Stag Leap District is Cliff Lede Vineyards, which was established by a Canadian Bordeaux enthusiast named Cliff Lede in 2002.
With the help of Napa Valley’s best viticulturist, David Abreu, the vineyards were replanted to focus on producing wines from estate vineyards. Three years later, a state-of-the-art winery and a cave system were built into a hillside above the vineyards.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, and Cliff Lede Vineyard’s flagship Poetry Cabernet Sauvignon are among the most popular wines crafted by winemaker Christopher Tynan. The estate also boasts a five-bedroom bed and breakfast that operates like a private villa, called Poetry Inn, whose elegant rooms feature awe-inspiring views of the valley below, private balconies, and indoor and outdoor showers.
Their Pinot Gris is fantastic, as are their Fel wines from northern California. I also recommend their Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon, both of which are outstanding!
Also in the North Bay part of the San Francisco Bay Area in Napa County, roughly midway between Yountville and Calistoga, is the small city of St. Helena, which is only 5.03 square miles in area and is home to just under 6,000 people. The city is known as the location of a branch of the Culinary Institute of America, and its exceptional food extends to its phenomenal eateries. The St. Helena American Viticultural Area is comprised of 416 vineyards, which sit on 6,800 acres, and includes some of Napa Valley’s best wines.
The Model Bakery
If you’re looking to visit a St. Helena mainstay that serves some of Napa Valley’s best breads, baked goods, breakfasts, and lunches, pay a visit to The Model Bakery, a nearly 90-year-old establishment that has served as a charming community gathering place since 1908.
Already a well-known local spot for decades, The Model Bakery saw its popularity increase in 2017 after the eatery’s English muffin was featured on talk show host and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey’s list of her favorite things. Oprah even gets a monthly shipment of English muffins from them!
The English muffin certainly lives up to the hype. It’s a delicious, crispy, and buttery English muffin that is perfectly toasted. I recommend having the English muffin breakfast sandwich, their wonderful scones, and their croissant sandwich with bacon, cheese, and pesto. Be sure to also try the English muffin with some of their phenomenal almond butter. It should come as no surprise that The Model Bakery is one of the top places to visit in Napa Valley!
Goose and Gander
The delicious culinary traditions of St. Helena can also be experienced at Goose and Gander, one of the best-rated restaurants and one of the top places to visit in Napa Valley. This public house, which serves creative and unpretentious American fare, is not only popular with locals; it is also a place where people passing through the city often stop to grab a bite to eat.
The menu at Goose and Gander, which features rustic American cuisine and bar bites, is constantly evolving and changes based on what is in season at the moment.
The shrimp and grilled watermelon salad with jalapeños is a spicy and refreshing starter, and for your entrée, you can’t go wrong with either their famous burger or fried chicken sandwich with a mixed green salad on the side. Their inventive desserts, which include a chocolate layer cake with ganache-style layers, spearmint ice cream, fried huckleberry hand pies, corn mousse, and pistachio crisp, are all heavenly and the perfect way to cap off a wonderful lunch!
Pride Mountain Vineyards
Located on the border between Napa and Sonoma Counties in the San Francisco Bay Area is Pride Mountain Vineyards, which is technically located in Santa Rosa, California, and can be reached by driving west from St. Helena for roughly twenty minutes.
Previously named Summit Ranch, Pride Mountain Vineyards’ 235-acre estate blends perfectly with the rugged, mountainous terrain around it and was founded in 1989. The wines at this family-owned winery are barrel-aged in a 23,000-square-foot cave system dug between 1999 and 2001, which at an average of 59°F, is the perfect temperature for aging big red wines.
Because Pride Mountain lies on the border between Napa and Sonoma Counties, every wine they make must be designated to whichever county that wine’s grapes were grown in, and wine from that county’s grapes must then be produced in that county, effectively creating two wineries in one facility.
The caves here were dug right into the nearby mountain. It’s easy to understand why their 2014 Merlot (80% Napa, 20% Sonoma) was called the best Merlot in America by Food & Wine Magazine after trying it, and their 2012 and 2013 Cabernet Sauvignons were both awarded 100 points. They’re one of only four wineries in America that can boast two perfect scores in back-to-back years. If you’re looking to try some of the best wines in all of America, you have to visit Pride Mountain Vineyards!
Auberge du Soleil
Nestled among thirty-three acres of stunning heritage olive and oak trees on a sunny, terraced hillside in Rutherford, California between Yountville and Calistoga, is one of the top places to visit in Napa Valley, Auberge du Soleil.
Opened in 1986 by French restaurateur Claude Rouas and his business partner, Bob Harmon, this gorgeous resort features fifty elegant and luxurious guest rooms and suites and offers top-notch service, stunning views, and remarkable culinary talents, which can be experienced in their on-site restaurant, which is the best place in the valley for a Sunday brunch!
From the resort restaurant’s deck, you can enjoy a spectacular three-course Saturday or Sunday brunch while looking out at the picturesque serenity of Napa Valley.
With an extensive selection of menu items that include beverages like sparkling wine, mimosas, and Bloody Marys; muffins, pastries, and artisanal breads; starters such as oysters on the half shell, white corn soup, poached shrimp, potato gnocchi, and sautéed fois gras; and main courses including seared ahi tuna, northern halibut, buttermilk pancakes, duck confit hash, a Maine lobster omelet, and a Cabernet-braised short rib, there is no shortage of mouthwatering options. I can’t recommend the oysters and duck confit enough; they are out of this world!
Calistoga, the northernmost of our recommended California wine country cities, is a town of roughly 5,100 that is located in the Upper Napa Valley and spent its early years as a mining and agricultural settlement and a tourist attraction due to the natural hot springs in the area. The Calistoga American Viticultural Area is noted for its volcanic soil, hot days, and cool nights, which contribute to the color, flavor, acidity, and structure of the wines produced there.
Castello di Amorosa
Along St. Helena Highway in Calistoga is Castello di Amorosa, a gorgeous, medieval-style castle whose towers, ramparts, perfectly manicured grounds, and picturesque surroundings could make you swear you’ve been transported to the rolling hills of Tuscany.
The castle, which was initially meant to be a simple, farmhouse-style winery when it was conceived by owner and fourth-generation winemaker Dario Sattui in 1993, serves as a 13th-century-style winery and offers guided tours to its guests, tastings of their Italian-style wines, and daily food and wine pairing experiences.
Many of Castello di Amorosa’s components were brought over from Europe. The winery features stainless steel fermentation tanks, which are used to produce their white wines, as well as an incredible underground wine cellar and grand barrel room with hundreds of barrels. The castle also features an underground armory to add to the medieval aesthetic. The architecture is mesmerizing and the wine is even better!
Their Pinot Bianco, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, La Castellana Super Tuscan blend, are all absolutely delicious and highly recommended. Because Castello di Amorosa doesn’t distribute their wines, you either have to visit the castle to try them or buy some from their online store. If you love exceptional wine, Castello di Amorosa is easily one of the top places to visit in Napa Valley.
Madrigal Family Winery
One of the best wineries to tour in the Calistoga area is the Madrigal Family Winery, whose history dates back to the 1930s when current winemaker Chris Madrigal’s grandparents family left Mexico for Napa Valley and began farming apples, walnuts, pears, and grapes.
Since then, three generations of the family have farmed some of the valley’s finest vineyards. Today, Madrigal Family Winery, which produces 15 kinds of wine that’s meant to be matched with food and was established in 1995, produces roughly 6,000 cases of wine annually.
The staff at Madrigal Family Winery, is courteous and knowledgeable. I highly recommend their 2014 Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, a delicious summer wine that has a lot of fruit flavor, as well as their oak-aged Sauvignon Blanc (which has notes of pineapple and apricot), their three-blend Rosé, their Las Viñas del Señor Cabernet Sauvignon, their phenomenal 2014 Petite Syrah Port, and their 2014 Petite Syrah, which was the winery’s first vintage wine.
Sampling Madrigal Family Winery’s delicious creations on their deck, which has a gorgeous view overlooking the vineyard, is a real treat, and the atmosphere is like a little slice of heaven. Do not miss out on this amazing winery the next time you’re in the Napa Valley area!
Even if you aren’t a wine enthusiast, Napa Valley offers more than enough variety to occupy your time, with incredible fine dining, interesting sites, and phenomenal resorts at every turn. But to wine lovers, the valley is an entire world of exceptional flavors and textures, expert food pairings, and fantastic winery tours that have made this area of northern California a premier viticultural destination for well over a century. It lives up to the hype and then some. Book your Napa Valley vacation today to enter a whole new realm of possibility!