Tis’ the season to count my blessings, living in California alone is one of them. Another is living only a few short hours from the world-class destination of the Napa Valley. Last month I was treated to a 3-day press tour showcasing some of the great new restaurants, tasting rooms, and hotels in Downtown Napa, there is literally so much to see and do you’d need weeks and months to accomplish it! In a short visit I experienced some amazing food and drink and stayed in a lovely bed and breakfast, and I’m eager to go back again soon to enjoy more! Here’s a bit about my adventures in Downtown Napa!
With 20 wine tasting rooms in Downtown Napa (some free) you can try before you buy and find something you love that you may have never purchased without trying! We stopped in at Vermeil Wines, Dick Vermeil as you may know was a NFL coach and broadcaster with roots in the Napa Valley. His tasting room honors his love of football with photos, football brown leather seating on green carpeting, televisions, and we even got a peek at his Lombardi trophy. His 2010 Integrity was a red blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and a touch of Petit Sirah that was memorable.Also in downtown, something new to me is olive oil tasting rooms. Just next door to Vermeil Wines, Lucero Olive Oil was just a week old at their 1st Street location and we were set up to have an exclusive experience. Olive oil is a great source of antioxidants and a little “shot” of olive oil a day can protect against heart disease, aid in digestion, and promotes healthy aging! I often cook with extra virgin olive oil, but we sat down and tasted some unique flavored and infused oils and balsamic vinegars, even enjoyed a ice cream sundae with ice cream, strawberries, lemon crush olive oil (lemons crushed with the olives), and mandarin orange balsamic vinegar! You would not believe how good it was! At the other end of the block, Napa Valley Olive Oil has complimentary tasting in Square One’s Tasting Room. You have to try the Harissa infused oil (flavor has been added after), it’s got a fabulous kick you’ll love if you like spicy! Just like at wineries, you can join olive oil clubs and get quarterly shipments that include the main products, recipes, tasting notes, and more!
80 restaurants can be found downtown including Michelin-starred locations, the culinary choices are abundant! Oenotri was recognized in 2011 by Food & Wine Magazine and well even Bizarre Foods has featured them! We enjoyed a salumi platter, delicious wine, pizza with squash and nettles, amazing pasta with braised rabbit, as well as salads with pickled sunchokes from their own gardens! Napa Valley Bistro is about 6 months new to the area. Chef Bernardo Ayala has cooked at Silverado, Domaine Chandon, and the CIA in Greystone and provides classic American homestyle with a modern twist. Wild mushroom and goat cheese flatbread is kissed with truffle oil and boast sweet carmelized onions, the calamari is joined by a fennel and ancho chile aioli, and the veggie rolls are filled with papaya, avocado, and asparagus. Are you drooling yet? I hear the ahi tuna was amazing as well.Bounty Hunter will NOT leave you hungry, that is guaranteed. Built in 1888 as a grocery store, Bounty Hunter now offers amazing BBQ with from scratch rubs and sauces, 16 herbed and spiced cajun beer can chicken, and $6000 bottles of wine among their lineup. With over 400 highly allocated wines on the shelves and 40 wines available by-the-glass, come in and take a peek at the 18 page wine list!We dined and the vibrant and busy-for-a-Tuesday evening Carpe Diem Wine Bar beginning with truffle popcorn. People couldn’t get enough of the earthy-woody flavor added to the popcorn, I need more time to adapt. I did enjoy some flavorful pulled pork tacos but the reason I will go back is for the dessert! I can never pass up chocolate and the Housemade “Twix Bar” over salted caramel ice cream was amazing. Not normally a tiramisu fan, I tried the BEERamisu that offers Guiness, Kahlua, butter toffee, and a chocolate drizzle and it too was phenomenal. Who’s ready to jump in the car with me right now?Spanish tapas are little plates ready for sharing, try out Zuzu to get your fix along with amazing sangria! Their dedication to local farms, ranches and organic purveyors of Northern California both satisfy and nourish the soul. Seasoned almonds, Mediterranean olives, ceviche, salt cod, mussels, Tunisian brik pastry stuffed with Dungeness crab, oh my, unique with stunning flavors, you have to come with a group to enjoy a plethora of platefuls!I enjoyed one breakfast at the Inn on Randolph and the second was enjoyed at Grace’s Table on Second St. On a cool sunny morning you can dine in or out or somewhere in between with this open air restaurant that offers the yummiest breakfast I’ve had in a while. Grandma Vold’s old fashioned donuts, muffins, cinnamon rolls, scones, and croissants melt in your mouth they are sweet and delicious! Prefer savory, try the house cured salmon gravlax or my personal favorite, chilaquiles! The Mexican in me knows this recipe slightly different, but delicious all the same with scrambled eggs, tortillas, cascabel chili sauce, avocado, tasso ham, cheddar, pico de gallo and lime creme fraiche. The iron skillet cornbread with lavender honey butter was just icing on the cake!
I reviewed the Inn on Randolph during the trip and among the 40 other beautiful and picturesque places to stay, we checked out a few close to downtown. The sophisticated boutique hotel Andaz Napa is the next place I’m going to stay when I visit downtown! The suites are gorgeous, the atmosphere in the lobby/lounge is dynamic, and the staff is top notch! WWe enjoyed a glass of Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs champagne that they’ve been serving at the White House since Nixon, and sampled burgers (the 777 chorizo and beef was the bomb) from the Andaz Napa Farmers Table restaurant with the general manager. The Mercantile Terrace is an outdoor area that both guests and locals can enjoy. It features multiple porch swings, comfortable lounge chairs and glowing fire pits for chilly evenings and cozy nights, bring your bottle of wine and favorite person to share it with! Plus enjoy local music each Wednesday evening, the singer we witnessed played a host of popular songs I was singing along with, he was fantastic!The Napa River Inn is located within the Historic Napa Mill and is a member of the prestigious Historic Hotels of America! In some rooms you can breathe in the mouth-watering scents of Sweetie Pies Bakery below, and with views of the Napa River, this is a wonderful spot to stay when you want to focus on downtown. Evening wine tasting, complimentary breakfast, and dining and entertainment options surround the property along with their newly renovated Spa!Whether you want a classic treatment, anti-aging remedies, couples massage, or even to pamper your pooch, packages are available with your stay at the hotel.
Napa is a destination unlike any other in California. With all that is new to the area combined with old tried-and-true favorites, there is something for everyone in the exciting downtown area. Each visit can be new and different and a one-of-a-kind experience and I’m looking forward to my next time!
My meals, lodging, and experience was a part of a media tour. All opinions expressed are 100% my own.