Destination Guides Travel & Leisure Travel, Food & Drink

Napa Valley: The California Wine Destination That Has it All

Famed for its outstanding wineries, restaurants, and scenery, Napa Valley has all the ingredients for a world-class lifestyle

Justifiably, Napa Valley is known the world over as a mecca for lovers of fine wine and gourmet food. The scenic 30-mile (48 km) stretch of northern California is home to more than 400 wineries and six Michelin-starred restaurants—10 if you include neighboring Sonoma County.

Main Street St Helena
A view of Main Street, St. Helena, Napa Valley, California. Image: Alamy. Banner image: Sonoma Valley wine country, Napa. Getty Images

All year round, visitors and prospective residents are drawn to this fertile, cultured region to sample exquisite produce, soak up the refined lifestyle, and drink in picture-perfect vistas of endless vineyards. Attractive wine country estates, such as Whitehall Estate, are framed against backdrops of rolling hills and rugged mountains.

St. Helena is nicknamed “Napa Valley’s Main Street,” and it’s the birthplace of the region’s viticultural legacy and the area’s most desirable small town, with charming shops, galleries, cafes, and eateries.

Beringer Napa Valley
Napa Valley's Beringer is California's oldest continually operating winery and its Rhine House veranda is an intimate setting for sampling the winery's offering.

Among the more recognizable wineries are Beringer and Louis M. Martini, which happily coexist with boutique producers such as Vineyard 29 and Terra Valentine. Dining options include farm-to-table favorite The Charter Oak, while Thomas Keller’s acclaimed The French Laundry—widely regarded as the dining experience of a lifetime—is less than 15 minutes’ drive from St. Helena, in picturesque Yountville.

Charter Oak Napa Valley
The Charter Oak in St. Helena is one of the most recognizable historic restaurant spaces in the Napa Valley, made up of two separate buildings, one of which is an old sherry house that dates back to the 1800s. Image: Kelly Puleio

Also nearby is The Restaurant at Auberge du Soleil, in Rutherford. Napa’s first fine-dining establishment opened its doors in 1981 and is today overseen by executive chef Robert Curry, who does amazing things with locally sourced seasonal ingredients. Book into one of the Auberge’s suites or private maisons so you can make the most of the sommelier’s excellent wine suggestions, and enjoy the establishment’s spa come morning.

French Laundry Napa Valley
Chef Thomas Keller's French Laundry restaurant has been winning accolades since opening in 1994. Image: Michael Grimm

Napa Valley’s wine tourism gave rise to its famously good living, which offers a rich and varied leisure scene that’s unmatched by other wine-growing regions around the world. Between wining and dining, work up an appetite and enjoy the scenery with excellent biking, hiking, and golfing.

Lake Hennessey Napa Valley
Conn Dam at Lake Hennessey, Napa County, California. Image: Alamy

You can also take to the water at Lake Hennessey, to the east; the area’s largest reservoir, it’s perfect for fishing and boating. For an even more relaxed way of passing time, Calistoga, to the north, is a spa-seeker’s haven, known for its mud baths and geothermal springs.

Calistoga Napa Valley
The Old Faithful Geyser at Calistoga, a part of Napa Valley that is known for its natural springs. Image: Alamy

The town also hosts a Saturday market showcasing produce from California’s farms and ranches. Connections to the region are superb, with flights into San Francisco, Oakland, or Sacramento airports, followed by a straightforward drive—around one hour and 40 minutes from any of them.