Thursday, October 28, 2010

HOTSPOTS: Napa for Non-Drinkers

As a native-Californian, it's embarrassing to admit, but my first trip to Napa was today.  I previously avoided the Napa Valley, because I was convinced there was nothing here for non-drinkers. I was definitely wrong; in fact, here's what I enjoyed on my day trip:

  • Sterling Vineyards Gondola, Calistoga - I enjoyed awe-inspiring views of Sterling Vineyards and surrounding vineyards as I took the gondola ride up from the vineyards to the estate.  While at the estate, I took the self guided tour, where I learned A LOT about wine production 

    • Culinary Institute of America, St Helena - This beautiful building, formerly owned by Greystone Cellars, offers a few opportunities for fun: take a self-guided or guided tour of the non-profit school (including the awe-inspiring Viking Kitchen, where visitors can watch students practice their culinary arts), browse the Spice Islands Marketplace (and new chocolate bar) , watch cooking demonstrations and tastings at the De Baun Theatre, and finally enjoy amazing food at the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant (I highly recommend sitting at the bar where you can watch the all-student chef crew prepare your food - try their appetizer tastings, OlivetoLive olive oil tasting, and don't leave without having their Lava Cake)

  • Bouchon Bakery - Do not leave Napa before grabbing coffee (including macchiato served the right way), Parisian macaroons (love pistachio, but have to admit that Patisserie Phillipe's in SF are far better), and their amazing "Chantilly" eclair 

    • While I only had about five hours in Napa Valley; I certainly had an alcohol-free blast, and can't wait to return to check out the hot springs, Ad Hoc, and all the other goodies the Valley has to offer.

      1 comment:

      1. Some good tips here! One additional recommendation for something to try on your next visit to Bouchon - a bouchon - which is a tiny little mouthful of chocolate yumminess. We didn't even go near the macarons as we're really spoilt by the lovely ones we get in SF and the ones we've had at Pierre Herme and Laduree in Paris.

        I LOVE NAPA! Went there for our anniversary and my birthday last year. Our best non-alcoholic Napa experience was dinner at the French Laundry, which I highly recommend. I think it was the best meal I have EVER eaten (and I've been to a good many fine dining places). We also had lunch on my birthday at the Bouchon brasserie, which was nice, but totally overshadowed by the French Laundry experience. Also, next time you're in Yountville, check out the French Laundry Vegetable Garden - it is amazing!

        I am slightly put off ad hoc by the fact that they've started selling ad hoc branded cooking mixes at Williams Sonoma . . . very commercial . . . very tacky.