Yountville may well be Napa Valley’s most precious jewel. It looks like Tuscany and is famed for prized grapes and top eating establishments. The picturesque town in the heart of California’s most famous wine region has become a chic lifestyle destination attracting premier tasting rooms, starred chefs, voguish boutiques, luxe hotels and fashionable habitués. And the small upscale enclave of 3,000 still feels intimate. You can literally park your car upon arrival and enjoy all the delights strolling the scenic streets, taking in the lush foliage, colorful flowers and vineyards while meandering about. Everything is within walking distance.
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It’s not surprising that many use charming Yountville as a base for exploring other Napa Valley locales. Top accommodation options include The Estate Yountville, a 22-acre property that contains the brand new Hotel Villagio and the recently redone hotel, Vintage House. Both are luxurious and glamorous with decidedly different personalities. Light, breezy and serene with stylish rooms done in white, dove and lilac accented with evocative photos and art plus a secluded outdoor heated pool – Vintage House makes a cozy wine country hideaway.
The more social, urban – inspired Hotel Villagio with lounge open to the public is darker, beautifully designed with deep brown accents, plush throws, handsome furnishings and large tubs that call out for bubble baths.
Guests want for nothing at The Estate – cum – playground replete with a vineyard, outdoor pools, Jacuzzis, tennis court, fitness center, complimentary bikes, lovely pathways, various shops at The Market Place and supreme pampering with ESPA treatments at The Spa. The folks at the Estate also arrange Art Walks around the property and in town as well as exhilarating Hot Air Balloon Tours so you can experience the glorious landscape from high up in the sky.
Bardessono, another stunner, set in its own vineyard is fabulously Zen-chic. The sleek and sophisticated luxe boutique hotel with interiors done in warm earth tones, features floor to ceiling windows, verandas, a rooftop pool, fresh pastries for breakfast from Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery and farm to table Lucy Restaurant. In addition to their on site spa, all of the swanky guest rooms are designed to transform into Spa Suites prepared by a spa Butler so you can have treatments in the comfort and privacy of your own space.
Acclaimed chef/owner Thomas Keller put Yountville on the culinary map when he took over The French Laundry in 1994. His iconic 3- Michelin starred Restaurant, a must for first time visitors, offers a tasting menu extravaganza where perfectly synchronized waiters present caviar, foie gras, truffles, Wagyu and more. Be forewarned: This is not for the faint of heart or appetite.
The tony hamlet has become Napa Valley’s gastronomic epicenter with celebrity chefs helming award – winning restaurants filled with adoring fans. Devotees of chef Keller also frequent his bistro Bouchon and Bouchon Bakery, eagerly awaiting his Mexican restaurant debuting this fall. And Oprah’s favorite artisanal English muffins ( she is so enamored she flies them in from Napa) are devoured at Model Bakery. Get there early if you want the breakfast special with their signature hedonistic filling, or they’ll be sold out.
A lunch of tastiest Dungeness crab cakes and wood grilled Coho salmon along with bliss inducing mile high lemon lime tart, at local favorite ‘Mustards Grill’, was superb. And master chef Richard Reddington conjures up culinary magic with his exciting creations at not to be missed Restaurant Redd. Exquisitely prepared and perfectly spiced dishes such as yellowfin tuna tartare with Asian pear, avocado and fried rice with cilantro plus carmelized diver scallops with cauliflower, capers, almonds and golden raisins danced on my palate.
Yountville’s notable tasting rooms, all within walking distance, are required to have a quarter of their space for retail, which can make for some pretty interesting experiences while you’re sampling the wines. Handwritten Wines’ Tasting Room looks like a handsome, intimate dining room. Specializing in cabernets, these small production wines are sourced from quality vineyards around the valley. They believe in crafting and nurturing the grapes and hope people will experience their wine in the same way that a handwritten note has always been appreciated.
Silver Trident Winery, housed in a Tuscan inspired stone building feels like an elegant home, with posh décor in living room, dining room and library, all furnished by Ralph Lauren. Everything is for sale, except adorable house dog named Keith Richards. The items are all one of a kind, not available on their website. Sitting on sofas and chairs worth thousands while sipping a lovely red, I couldn’t help but think – be careful.
Most entertaining wine tasting experience goes to JCB Tasting Salon. This glitzy House of Bling created by founder Jean-Charles Boisset shimmers with pricey gems, Swarovski, Christofle and Baccarat Crystal galore – all for sale. The gold gilded wine salon adorned with gold leaf mirrors, white feathery chairs and shiny red piano features award winning wines in bejeweled bottles such as JCB’s robust red blend – The Surrealist. And That is one fantastic wine!
Feeling quite convivial, I ambled over to luxe boutique Forty Five Ten to augment my designer duds. My Yountville jaunt was so spectacular, I extended my stay.