Saturday, September 1, 2012

Needing some Napa: Part 1

One trip that I try to make every fall no matter what else is going on in my crazy world is a venture to Napa Valley. Not only am I completely in love with harvest season and the celebrations with our vineyard-owning friends, but I love to visit familiar places for some of my favorite foods on the planet. I love the unique hotels like Hotel Yountville, Bardessono and Auberge Du Soleil.

the view from my balcony at Auberge Du Soleil

 I've stayed at these locales (among others), and am never disappointed. I prefer the charming streets of shops, restaurants and wine tasting rooms in Yountville, St. Helena and Oakville to the actual city of Napa. Things are just so relaxed and gorgeous in these small towns, and the luxe factor is as high as it gets in my book.

My all time favorite lunch at Bistro Jeanty

One of my first stops is always Bistro Jeanty for a long lunch. This traditional French bistro is quaint, casual but with an understated elegance that stems from classic dishes and wonderful wines. I always order the same thing, a salad of lightly dressed butter lettuces grown nearby and the tomato basil soup served in a pastry covered bowl. This is something so easy to do at home, and the presentation elevates the wow factor for a simple dish.

The tasting garden at Ma(i)sonry

After getting a bit of food in my stomach, spending the afternoon sampling new juice at the wonderful tasting room/art gallery/store Ma(i)sonry in Yountville is always on my list. It is one of the most unique places I've ever visited or shopped. You can sample wines from various local boutique producers while finding unique things for home and garden.

Hotel Yountville


Nearby is the gorgeous pool and outdoor seating area of Hotel Yountville, which is one of the most lovely settings in the heart of town. Feels secluded but steps from everything. Reading a book under the trees is heaven, as is visiting with friends here in the evening as the sun goes down. They bring out full cocktail service, the firepits get roaring and the atmosphere is magic. Bardessono's more modern garden provides an equally captivating experience. Even without the wine, it is intoxicating to be in such well designed retreats.

One of the delectible tastings at Auberge Du Soleil Restaurant

If I'm staying at Auberge Du Soliel, I likely am going to elect to enjoy at least one sundown on my balcony, where the views are unbelievable. This is also a top choice for a truly memorable dinner. Their Michelin star awarded restaurant is gorgeously decorated in autumn, and the outdoor patio dining provides the same view.

The Champagne/sparkling wine cart with truffles and caramels is a standard after dinner treat at
 Auberge Du Soleil. This is so easy and fun to try to a dinner party at home, too!

Another really fun place for dinner is Farmstead in St. Helena, where farm to table creations are beyond delicious. They actually grow and produce most everything served on their tables. It is here that I found one of my favorite salads to make at home. While the produce is never quite as good in TN, the salad is still fantastic.


A large bunch of butter lettuces (8 cups)
2/3 cup baby carrots, chopped
2/3 cup fresh corn
2 largely diced avocado
1 cup diced fresh green beans (or asparagus or peas)
Green Goddess dressing*
Crumbled goat cheese
Fresh chives to garnish

Wash and dry vegetables, loosely toss with minimal dressing and cheese in a large bowl, top with chives, salt and pepper. Serves 4.
* they make the dressing from scratch, but I usually skip that step on weeknights, and rely on my trusted source for pre-made specialty dressings and sauces, StoneWall Kitchen. If you haven't discovered this brand, it is definitely worth checking out their site!

I could write pages on all of my favorite places in the valley, but will save some for the next post. I would LOVE to hear where you like to go and visit in the area? Do follow the Southern Sophisticate and leave me comments on your top picks for wine country here!