Napa, the grand tour

Sunset's guide to the very best of California's ultimate wine country

Rubicon Estate tasting room
Photo: Lisa Romerein

Press the switch to open the curtains in your valley-view room at the Poetry Inn, and you're suspended with the primary-striped hot-air balloons of postcard fame. Pedal up the Silverado Trail to the Miner Family villa, climb the steps, look west over your shoulder, and a world-class view is yours too. The first might be a decade's splurge; the second, just a weekend getaway. There are many ways to enjoy this wine country.


There are three airports within 60 miles of the Napa Valley: San Francisco, Oakland, and Sacramento. From San Francisco, follow U.S. 101 north across the Golden Gate Bridge, then head east on State 37 to State 29 north. From Oakland, follow I-80 east across the Carquinez Bridge, then take State 37 west to State 29 north. From Sacramento, take I-80 west to State 12/Jameson Canyon Rd., then go north on State 29/12.

Find out more about Napa from the Napa Valley Conference and Visitors Bureau (707/226-7459).


Ad Hoc Thomas Keller had other plans for the space when he started serving a $45 four-course menu in the simple dining room. The ad hoc menu is now permanent. INFO: $$$$; 6476 Washington St., Yountville; 707/944-2487.

Bistro Don Giovanni Authentic Italian fare in a setting that spectacularly shows off the valley. INFO: $$$; 4110 Howard Lane, Napa; 707/224-3300.

Bounty Hunter Rare Wine & Provisions True West for wine lovers: beer-can chicken, ribs, and tangy pulled-pork sandwiches served under pounded-tin ceilings. INFO: $$; 975 First St., Napa; 707/226-3976.

Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen In a charming two-story house in downtown St. Helena, prominent Napa Valley restaurateur Cindy Pawlcyn serves California comfort (meat loaf, tamales) with a Southern twist. INFO: $$$; 1327 Railroad Ave., St. Helena; 707/963-1200.

Cole's Chop House Rib-eye, porterhouse, New York: At the upscale steakhouse, all the important decisions revolve around beef. The sides are traditional (creamed spinach, onion rings) and the setting ? especially the patio ? attractively casual. INFO: 1122 Main St., Napa; 707/224-6328.

Go Fish Cindy Pawlcyn has filled the longtime Napa Valley need for a good seafood restaurant. INFO: $$$; 641 Main St., St. Helena; 707/963-0700.

Martini House From chef Todd Humphries and designer Pat Kuleto comes the best sort of wine-country restaurant, favoring foraged and organic ingredients. INFO: $$$$; 1245 Spring St., St. Helena; 707/963-2233.

Press The finest ingredients to be had are cooked simply at the warm, stylish steakhouse. New York strip and rib-eye are standouts, and potato cake is always in season. INFO: $$$$; closed Tue; 587 St. Helena Hwy. S., St. Helena; 707/967-0550.

Redd With his history as chef at Auberge du Soleil, Richard Reddington brings an air of Napa Valley royalty to his namesake restaurant. Four- to nine-course tasting menus. INFO: $$$$; 6480 Washington St., Yountville; 707/944-2222.

Taylor's Automatic Refresher Come all the way to Napa Valley for a burger and a shake? Yes, when it's the Wisconsin sourdough burger and black-and-white shake at the valley institution. INFO: $; 933 Main St., St. Helena; 707/963-3486.

Terra In an old stone building a block off Main Street, Hiro Sone ? one of the pioneers of Asian fusion ? combines California cuisine with Japanese ingredients. INFO: $$$$; closed Tue; 1345 Railroad Ave., St. Helena; 707/963-8931. 


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