By Kate Juillerat, guest writer
It’s hard to spend only one day in Napa Valley given there are so many things to see and do, not to mention exploring the wine and culinary scene. But, if you do have just one day to sip in Napa Valley, I have a great itinerary. Below is a run down of what to do in Napa for a day trip.
FIRST STOP – TRY THE LOCAL FARE
With a head full of wine country dreams, I jumped into my car with much anticipation and a fresh cup of coffee for my Napa day trip. I cranked the radio up, and pushed the gas pedal, heading out to our first destination, Gott’s Roadside Diner in St. Helena.
Gott’s Roadside Diner is an iconic staple in St Helena, and a must for your Napa day trip. When you pull up to the unassuming roadside diner, you are immediately transported into a different time, nostalgia of the great drive up diners of the 50’s (which I have only seen in movies or photographs), pleasantly greets you. The restaurant is very clean and well kept, with a steady stream of customers dining daily at the outdoor eatery.
The roadside restaurant’s menu consists of California inspired dishes made with locally sourced ingredients and purveyors. For my lunch at Gott’s, I decided to order the tomato soup and the grilled cheese, which was perfect. The tomato soup was hot with fresh puréed chunks of tomato. The grilled cheese was crispy and perfectly browned with a strong combination of melted cheese. The bread crunched and the cheese was soft and warm as I took my first bite.
The menu also has many burgers, sandwiches, and salads to choose from, all with plenty of modifications for those with food sensitivities i.e. a gluten free bun, and lettuce wrap options. If you would like to bring your own wine, perhaps pair your food with a lovely Joel Gott Cabernet. It only seems fitting given Gott’s Roadside was founded in 1999, by Joel and Duncan Gott.
SECOND STOP – WINE TASTING IN CALISTOGA
On a full tummy, we were ready to make our way up the road to Calistoga for a little wine tasting. The drive to Calistoga immerses you in the beauty of nature. Large oak trees canopy the road, and the trees branches gave us a whimsical wave while a calm smooth breeze traveled through as we drove to the next stop of our Napa day trip, Chateau Montelena. It felt like what road trip dreams are made of as our car hugged the curves of the road hypnotizing us as we made our way to our winery destination.
Chateau Montelena Winery was founded in 1882, and is a majestic stone castle with landscaped gardens. Upon arriving, it felt like we were entering a different world, almost a midlevel times vibe, with a stone castle and lush greenery and large trees everywhere.
We drove to park our car and to our surprise, were greeted by a gorgeously landscaped Japanese Tea Garden, with a large lake, walking paths, and gazebos. As we walked the path along the lake we saw swans swimming and it felt like a place where someone would get down on one knee to propose.
We were able take a leisurely stroll around the lush grounds, which was wonderful to do after sitting in the car. As we made our way around the lake, admiring the architecture of the gazebos and the precision of the gardens, we were able to get a full view of the vineyards which were sprawling for miles, meeting the hills in the distance. It was pure perfection.
After a wonderful walk, we made our way up the hill to the breath-taking stone winery, where we felt as if we were walking into a Scottish castle, given with ivy flowing on the contrasting stone.
When we made it to the tasting room we went through a wine tasting flight, where we learned the story of Chateau Montelena’s wine history. The winery changed the course for California and American wines in 1976 when its Chardonnay won the white wine segment of the “Judgement of Paris” wine competition. (Chateau Montelena’s wine was in competition with nine other wines from France and California in a blind tasting.) It was Chateau Montelena’s 1973 Chardonnay that ranked above all the other wines, solidifying Chateau Montelena and the Napa Valley as a leading region in the world for producing Chardonnay.
While we only visited one winery in Calistoga, there are plenty to add into your Napa Valley itinerary. A few nearby wineries that are on the route to our third stop that are worth visiting include Bennett Lane Winery, Hanna Winery and Alexander Valley Vineyard. (You’re also not far from the Old Faithful Geyser if you’re looking for something else to do beyond the vines during your Napa day trip.)
THIRD STOP- HEALDSBURG
After our lovely wine tasting at Chateau Montelena, we headed to downtown Healdsburg for dinner and dessert. However, if you’re looking to do more wine tasting downtown Healdsburg is a perfect spot to sip. There are a variety of tasting rooms in and around the town square. Check out the Healdsburg tasting rooms Carpe Travel recommends you check out.
On the agenda of our Napa day trip for dinner was Healdsburg Bar and Grill. The town of Healdsburg is quaint and charming without any of the pretense that can sometimes come with the Napa Valley. The downtown is centered around a town park square with benches to sit on and a large gazebo. It feels like the set of a Hallmark movie.
The downtown is made up of many boutique shops, restaurants, coffee houses, and a few hotels. It is very unassuming, and not too crowded. Healdsburg Bar and Grill is right off the town square. We parked the car, walked through the town square and made it to the restaurant. The restaurant was a buzz with people, a sign of a great place, and even with the crowd we were promptly seated and attended to by our waiter. I ordered a Classic Burger with Fiscalini White Cheddar, it was what cheeseburger dreams are made of…
After a wonderful meal we were craving some dessert, so we headed to Noble Folk Ice cream and Pie Parlor, which is just across the street. The Pie menu is always legendary, and too good not to list: Peanut Butter Mousse Pie, Salted Carmel Mud Pie, Maple Pecan Pie, Lemon Blueberry Custard Pie, Dutch Apple Pie, and Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake. Since it was Fall, I stayed with the season and ordered the Chocolate Pumpkin Cheesecake. The Cheesecake was phenomenal with a chocolate ganache, fresh pumpkin, and Oreo crust. I couldn’t have imagined a better dessert.
Have you visited Napa Valley? What are some of your favorite things to do in Napa Valley?
Wondering what to do in Napa Valley? See Carpe Travel’s wine travel guide for Napa Valley and other wine regions in California.