Tired of the chilly San Francisco summer? Forgotten what sunshine and warmth feel like? Ashamed of how often you wear your Patagonia fleece in July? For those dreaming of bursting back into the light through layers of fog but lacking the funds or PTO to jet off to Tahiti, you can find real balmy summer weather just a short car ride away in California’s renowned wine country.
Often 20 or 30 degrees warmer than SF, Napa Valley is a perfect destination for a quick weekend trip. Still, take careful note that wine country hotels and Airbnbs are often far more expensive in the summertime, so the budget-conscious traveler can save big by renting a private, custom day trip tour of Napa Valley in a black car or limo. This way, you spend a whole day in wine country, forgo hotel costs, and can drink all the wine you desire without worrying about a designated driver.
Read on for some of Napa’s best spots:
Oxbow Public Market
In the heart of downtown Napa, this 40,000 square foot indoor marketplace features a “diverse tenant mixture of local food vendors, artisan cafes, and an organic produce outlet for local farms.”
Grab some oysters from the Hog Island Oyster Co, a cone from Three Twins ice cream, a burger from Gott’s, a spirits tasting flight at the Napa Valley Distillery booth, a cheese & charcuterie platter topped off with a pomegranate mimosa at the Cheese & Wine Merchant, or equally-drool-worthy bites from any of their other stands. Whatever treats you choose, be sure to head out onto Oxbow’s scenic outdoor deck with seating along the Napa River to enjoy your goods.
A centuries-old chateau and vineyard famously owned and restored by filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola, this storied property boasts a history that spans the very creation of Napa Valley as an international wine powerhouse.
Sip some estate wines beneath a chandelier in the luxurious Pennino Salon by booking a Heritage Tasting, or dine outside at the onsite bistro with a view of the beautiful grounds. For those with children, they have wooden sailboats available to borrow and sail in the courtyard fountain.
Castello di Amorosa
Want to sip wine in the cellar of an eight-level medieval Italian castle replica chiseled out of 8,000 tons of stone, featuring 171 acres of land, 107 rooms, ramparts, towers, a drawbridge and moat, and various livestock? The Castello di Amorosa — perhaps Napa Valley’s most unique winery — offers all of this and more.
General admission gives you access to a five-wine tasting, and two stories of the castle, but those wanting to explore more of it can sign up for a combo guided tour and private tasting.
The huge Greystone campus of the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in St. Helena is a breeding ground for some of California’s most talented chefs, and is open to the general public for tastings, cooking demonstrations, courses for foodies, dining at some of its public restaurants, and shopping for every kitchen appliance imaginable at the Spice Islands Marketplace.
Book one of their cooking, baking, or wine and beverage classes in advance to get the full CIA experience. Upcoming classes include “The Tasting Bar: Becoming a Wine Pro,” “California Cheeses and The Wines That Love Them,” “Cooking With Wine,” “Baking at Home – The Desserts,” “More Marriage of Food and Wine — Chocolate, Cheese & Desserts,” and many more.
di Rosa Art Gallery
The 217-acre di Rosa art gallery has more than 2,000 pieces of contemporary indoor and outdoor art by over 800 Bay Area artists. Located in the Carneros region of Napa Valley, the property includes three different galleries, a sculpture park, a 35-acre lake, and a wildlife reserve. The rural setting of this gallery is teeming with both flora and fauna, with a gang of peacocks roaming freely throughout.
You can drop in anytime and see di Rosa’s current exhibits (admission is just $5), or you can book a tour in advance to view the rest of the galleries and grounds.