I TOOK MY first post-pandemic trip back to Napa in February. As a Northern California native living in Brooklyn, it was the exact vacation I needed to snap me out of my never-ending winter doom. For most people, Napa and wine are synonymous, but for me, someone who grew up in the Bay Area, that wasn’t always the case. Sure, I had been fully immersed in the wine scene in New York City, but my worlds had never collided. I was eager to experience my childhood stomping grounds with my ever-growing wine interest and knowledge in my back pocket.
My background is in hospitality, and the most covetable travel and food recommendations have always come to me directly from someone working in the industry. This trip was no exception. I looked to Jonathan Cristaldi, a Bay Area local, wine expert, and writer, to create a road map based on his favorite places to eat, stay, shop, and explore in Napa. Cristaldi combines his decade-plus of professional experience in the wine world with a passion for farm-to-table cooking and an itch for finding unique stays. I’d recommend his picks to both locals and travelers seeking a wine-country getaway.
His recommendations were inspired by a heartfelt conversation with Christopher and Martina Kostow of the 3-Michelin-star Restaurant at Meadowood. Read on to plan an unmatched romantic visit to Napa.
— Hailey Andresen
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Ideal for family dining.
This large, boisterous restaurant serves up delicious local ingredients (vegetables are from their beautiful 3.5-acre farm) alongside grilled meats, local wines, and handcrafted cocktails in a family-style setting with a sense of home. 1050 Charter Oak Ave., St. Helena, CA 94574
Ideal for coffee and grab-and-go meals.
A local gem for a healthy breakfast or lunch. This Joel Gott–owned former gas station is now a sunny spot for brilliant, fresh salads, wraps, and the best egg sandwich in the world (Green Eggs, No Ham). The bread is off the charts. Their menu will not leave you disappointed. 1153 Main St., St. Helena, CA 94574
Ideal for bread and pastries.
We love this famous, family-run bakery’s outpost at Oxbow Public Market. A great stop for artisan breads, spectacular sandwiches, and Stumptown coffee. If you happen to swing by in the afternoon, check out the bakery's “late bake,” which gives you the opportunity to sample some of the custom breads made for a handful of the best restaurants in Napa. (Little-known secret: Try the pepperoni pizza. You won’t be sorry.) Oxbow Market, 644 1st St., Bldg. B, Napa, CA 94559
Ideal for wine tasting.
K. Laz Wine Collection is a destination for top-shelf cult wines and collector’s items. Tastings here are unforgettable. Meet your friends and family for a tasting, or pick up a special bottle or case to bring home. It’s impossible to go wrong. (Pro tip: You can buy Thomas Keller’s Regiis Ova caviar here too.) 6484 Washington St., Suite C, Yountville, CA 94599
Ideal for a romantic getaway.
This exclusive boutique hotel is down a gated driveway, with suites named after poets. There are top-notch spa services and an indulgent complimentary breakfast. For a more unique experience, book a private hot-air balloon ride, go for a scenic hike directly on the premises, or let their concierges curate your wine-tasting itinerary. A wonderfully private and thoughtful romantic getaway. 6380 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94558
Ideal for a room with a view.
Sun-drenched luxury in the heart of Napa. Beautiful rooms and suites, with breathtaking panoramic views of Napa Valley. Gaze out over the Mayacamas Mountains and famous vineyards with stress-free accessibility to local wineries and boutique shopping. 180 Rutherford Hill Rd., Rutherford, CA 94573
Ideal for a lavish, relaxing getaway.
The Ink House is so much more than a place to rest your head. This chic four-room boutique inn inside a gorgeously restored estate house just south of downtown St. Helena also offers curated in-house experiences for their guests. Schedule wine tastings, private tours of Napa, as well as aperitifs and digestifs with the Jean-Charles Boisset & Gina Gallo-Boisset family. 1575 St. Helena Highway, St. Helena, CA 94574
Ideal for a night in.
Making the drive in from the city, but too tired to make a reservation? This wine shop and marketplace on St. Helena Highway has an extraordinary selection of wine, beer, and liquor, plus all the essentials for the perfect cheese or charcuterie plate. Stop by or order online so you can relax and get settled at your hotel without missing out on what Napa has to offer. 607 St. Helena Highway, St. Helena, CA 94574
Ideal for an experience.
This shopping center housed in the historic, 137-year-old Groezinger Winery complex features upscale home, garden, and bath boutiques; fine art galleries and restaurants; a wine-tasting cellar; spa; and a hot-air balloon company. Experiences include “The Art of Sabering,” “Scents and Sensibilities,” and even “An Estate Experience for Dogs” (yes, dogs). 6481 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599
Ideal for a souvenir.
A lovely shop in St. Helena for fake flowers that look unbelievably real (water is precious in California). Arrange your own bouquet to bring home, or pick up plenty of other cool stuff here for outdoor living. If you’re visiting as a holiday is approaching, keep an eye out for their seasonal decorations. 1219 Main St., St. Helena, CA 94574
Jonathan Cristaldi Writer
Jonathan Cristaldi is an established wine writer with more than a decade of professional experience. His articles on wine, spirits, and beer appear in both local and national print and digital platforms, including Decanter, Food & Wine, Departures, the SOMM Journal, Tasting Panel Magazine, Los Angeles Magazine, Thrillist, and Time Out Los Angeles. He lives in Northern California with his wife, Amanda, and daughter, Penelope. When Cristaldi isn’t visiting vineyards in the Bay Area, he’s on the hunt for a great McIntosh apple.
Stebs Schinnerer Photographer
Stebs Schinnerer is a Bay Area director and director of photography. He specializes in documentary storytelling for commercial and editorial clients around the world.