Creative Coordinates: Napa Valley

Travel inspires us. It takes us to new places and new spaces: it transports our minds, animates our spirits, and enlivens our senses. Creative Coordinates, our travel guide series, charts the world’s creative hotspots – places beaming with musical, artistic, cultural, and culinary inspiration.

Napa Valley, located an hour’s drive north of San Francisco, is a region with temperature variations, soil nutrients, and moisture that are ideal for producing award-winning wines. The scenic valley is so breathtaking that you’ll want to wake up early to enjoy Napa’s cool mornings for a run, bike, or swim before indulging in a day filled with delicious food and beautiful wines. Use a local tour company to hire a designated driver for your rental car and tour this lavish, yet understated region.

Did you know: Napa, especially known for its Cabernet Sauvignon (called “Cab” by locals), rose to rank on par with the wine regions of France when Napa wineries Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars and Chateau Montelana won the “Judgment of Paris,” a blind taste test by French wine experts, in 1976.

Harvest Season: For the full winemaking experience, visit during the wine grape harvest season when grape sugar levels and the fall foliage are at their prime.

Stay — The Carneros Inn Set on twenty-seven acres of scenic countryside in Napa Valley, this chic luxury resort, built in 2003, features contemporary cottages each with its own secluded garden. With three outstanding restaurants sourcing local foods — many of which are grown in the hotel’s private garden — two scenic pools, and a spa, many guests never leave the hotel grounds. You’ll be welcomed with a glass of Chardonnay — be sure to hold onto it as you drive on private grounds to your own cottage.

Breakfast — Located at Carneros Inn but open to the public, The Boon Fly Café is a small red roadhouse that serves comfort breakfast food and drinks such as “Green Eggs and Ham” and “Bacon Bloody Mary.” Get there by nine AM or you may have to wait for a table.

Vineyards — With over 500 wineries and tasting rooms with diverse characteristics in Napa Valley, it can be overwhelming selecting which wineries to visit. Choose from historic classics such as Robert Mondavi, Domaine Chandon, or Beringer Vineyards, or niche boutique wineries that offer experiences, unique settings, and wine clubs.

Private tasting — Make an appointment to visit small boutique winery B Wise Vineyards for a private estate cave tasting of Brion Cabernet Sauvignon in the Caves of Soda Canyon.

Lunch — Visit Oakville Grocery, founded in 1881 — the oldest continually operating grocery store in California — for sandwiches, salads, and wine to go. Eat outside on picnic tables or at Sequoia Grove, which also has a beautiful picnic area of its own.

Afternoon tasting — Make an appointment at Whitehall Lane and enjoy an outdoor wine tasting in a Tuscan-inspired garden. Check the weather first — 95 degrees and wine can be a bad combination.

Dinner — Drive to nearby Sonoma County and eat at Café La Haye located in an unassuming storefront just off Sonoma Plaza where you’ll find highly-rated “appealingly unfussy sophistication” (Wine Spectator). Afterwards, walk off your meal amongst families, singles, and bachelorette parties and see the Plaza’s old adobe stores, alleyways, courtyards, and historic buildings, including a vintage movie house.

Lights Out — Hit the sack by 10 PM so you can be up early in the morning and enjoy another beautiful day.

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