NAPA VALLEY, CALIFORNIA – Romantic Wine Country
By Stephanie Mee
Imagine cycling along sun-dappled roads past verdant vineyards and lush groves of oak and pine trees. Perhaps you are on your way to dine on fresh, creative cuisine prepared with organic ingredients sourced from gardens and farms just a stone’s throw away. Then again, you could be setting off for a day of pampering and relaxation at a luxurious spa. You could even be heading back to your own private lodge nestled in the hills for a few hours of soaking up the sun next to the pool with a glass of wine in hand. Welcome to Napa Valley, California the perfect destination for those looking for fresh air, stunning natural surroundings, and some serious rest and rejuvenation.
One of the biggest draws to Napa Valley is the sheer abundance of exquisite food and wine available here. This is home to some of the best wineries in the United States and quite possibly the world. For a dining experience not to be missed, lunch at one of the wineries that offers fabulous food and wine pairings, including Domaine Chandon with their Michelin-starred restaurant Etoile, or Kenzo Estate, which offers light bites from Thomas Keller’s renowned restaurant Bouchon. Head out of the vineyards, and it seems that everywhere you turn in Napa Valley you can find five-star restaurants serving regional and international gourmet dishes, chic cafes, friendly roadside diners and tempting bakeries.
If all of the mouthwatering food you sample in Napa Valley inspires you to create your own satisfying meals, a cooking course may be just what you need. St. Helena is where you will find the world-famous Culinary Institute of America. You do not have to be an expert chef or a full-time student of gastronomy to learn from some of the world’s best professional culinary instructors here. Anyone with a penchant for cooking can sign up for the informative food and wine courses, seasonal and themed classes, cooking demos and intensive culinary boot camps on offer at the Institute.
Napa Valley is also an outdoor enthusiast’s dream, with plenty of exciting ways to get out and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Hiking is a great way to spend your days here, as there are many trails that wind their way through valleys awash in vibrant wildflowers, fragrant pine forests, tranquil farms and countryside, and picturesque lakes, streams and waterfalls. Cycling is another ideal way to see the region, as cyclers of all levels will find both flat stretches of road and challenging inclines. To see the stunning natural beauty of Napa Valley from a unique vantage point, take a meandering boat cruise along the Napa River, or look at the entire region spread out below from the carriage of a hot air balloon.
Then, of course, there are the spas. It would be a shame to come to Napa Valley without spending a day or two recharging your batteries at one of the many peaceful and pristine spas and wellness centers here. Soak your stress away in one of the natural hot springs or mud baths in Calistoga, let a talented masseuse work out your aches and pains with a therapeutic bodywork session in St. Helena, or enjoy a refreshing glass of bubbly as you have a manicure or pedicure in a breezy garden setting.
With so much natural beauty and so many alluring attractions, it should come as no surprise that Napa Valley offers a wealth of fabulous hotels and holiday homes to choose from. Whether you are looking for a rustic farmhouse in the countryside or a luxurious five-star resort, you can find it in Napa Valley. For the best of both worlds, the Calistoga Ranch is a clear winner. Located in the peaceful northern corner of Napa Valley, Calistoga Ranch features 157 acres of rolling green hills, shady oak trees and a glittering private lake. All of the rooms here are designed with natural materials that blend seamlessly into the surroundings, cozy fireplaces, spacious interiors and private patios, and secluded outdoor bathrooms with luxurious rain showers.
If you are looking for a healthy getaway where you can indulge in the good things in life, you cannot go wrong with Napa Valley. From fabulous gourmet meals paired with enticing wines to exhilarating hikes and bicycle rides, plenty of pampering, and breathtaking lodgings where you can get away from it all, it is easy to understand why Napa Valley is a favored destination for discerning travelers.