TRAVEL: A Weekend in Napa Valley

For my niece’s 21st birthday the family headed out to Napa Valley to explore and learn about “all things wine.” We flew into San Francisco and spent a few days touring the city before renting a large van and heading out to the valley. I have been to vineyards before and I know that a good experience comes from more than just the wine. You want to be pulled into the romance of the entire process: to see how the vines are grown, where it is stored, the wine maker’s philosophy, and most of all you want to hear a great story.


I discovered Long Meadow Ranch and immediately fell in love. They offered a full experience that started with an open-air ride up to Mayacamas Estate, where we toured the facility and of course tasted some wine.







After the tasting, we headed back down to the farmstead for a private wine and food paring. Delicious! They have the oldest olive grove in Napa, as well as fruit orchards, honeybees, chickens and cows.









We all had such a fantastic time that we decided to go check out their organic garden the following day. The restaurant manager was making his morning rounds, checking to see what fruits and vegetables were available for the chef to use in their restaurant. We got lucky; instead of running us off (we hadn’t exactly scheduled a tour…we’re a spontaneous group!) he took us around the property and even allowed us to do a bit of sampling. He also told us more about their full-circle farming technique. The term “going green” is trendy right now but at Long Meadow Ranch they use sustainable farm methods because it yields a better product at a better price. The gardens, farm, orchards and animals work together to contribute to their holistic approach.




As I’ve mentioned before, I prefer to stay in smaller boutique-style hotels. I enjoy the little things they have to offer that make the experience different and exciting. Napa Valley Lodge had that homey feel I was looking for. There was a large outdoor fire pit that the family gathered around in the evenings, a champagne breakfast that was absolute perfection and beds that seemed to curl around me like a cloud.




Now time for some adventure! If you are willing to wake up early (and I mean before the sun rises) then I highly suggest taking a hot air balloon ride over the valley. It was SUCH a tranquil experience.




The best part about waking up early for the balloon ride was that we had the entire afternoon to stroll through more vineyards. Castello di Amorosa caught our eye because of the Tuscan village exterior. We also stopped at Bale Grist Mill to get a lesson on how the water wheel was used to grind grain into flour “back in the day.” After our long day of exploring we were ready for a lovely dinner where we reminisced on our incredible trip. Napa, we will be back!





Author: Jana Erwin