Travel Guide: Savor the Fruits of Napa Valley’s Wineries

Trade the dog days of summer in Boston for a buzzy harvest season in America’s wine capital.

Hot-air-balloon rides offer unforgettable views of wine country. / Photo by Judd Brotman/Getty Images

No two syllables conjure up relaxation and self-indulgence quite like “Napa.” Not only is the famed Bay Area valley home to some of the world’s best food and wine, but opportunities for outdoor adventure abound, all showcasing scenery that’s synonymous with “America the Beautiful.”

Harvest season, which begins this month and stretches through the fall, is arguably the best time to savor the fruits of the area’s 400-plus wineries. Need help choosing one (or five) to visit? There’s no shortage of concierge services and tour operators ready to take away the guesswork and help you avoid driving under the influence. Tours range widely: Napa Valley Wine Trolley offers a five-hour open-air trolley excursion for $125 per person, while Boundless Tours’ customized six-hour excursion in a luxury vehicle starts at $449 per group. For those who want to earn their calories and commune with nature, Napa Native Tours has a hiking option guided by a local, and Napa Valley Bike Tours allows you to pedal through the picturesque countryside in between tasting rooms.

Like few other places, Napa has become famous for hot-air ballooning, and Napa Valley Balloons—which has an impeccable safety record—promises to give you a bird’s-eye view of dawn breaking over the region. For an equally scenic, earthbound alternative, take a ride on the Napa Valley Wine Train, a 36-mile loop on a vintage train car that combines stunning vistas with a wine tasting and dinner.

Speaking of dinner: Napa’s most famous dining destination, chef Thomas Keller’s the French Laundry, is a bucket-list item for many. If you can’t get a reservation, though, it’s nearly impossible to have a bad meal at such Michelin-starred restaurants as Solbar, where you can play bocce in between courses of chilled corn soup and sake-marinated black cod, and Press, where the golden Osetra caviar and black truffle risotto are love letters to the surrounding terroir. And those are just two.

Need a break from all of the food and wine? Book an ultra-luxe spa treatment at the brand-new Four Seasons resort, or exercise the right side of your brain with a visit to Ca’ Toga Art Gallery in Calistoga. Operated by artist Carlo Marchiori, who also offers tours of his nearby villa, it’s a work of art and a work in progress that combines flights of fancy and craftsmanship of the highest order. Downtown Napa and Yountville both have their own art walks featuring large sculptures, while around every corner is either an art gallery or a home-goods shop that looks like one.

Indeed, the best part of Napa is that there’s something enjoyable wherever you turn, from farmers’ markets to outdoor concerts—so to whatever you find, we say “Cheers!”

A room at the posh Estate Yountville / Photo courtesy of Estate Yountville

Getting There

Delta offers nonstop service from Boston to San Francisco aboard its new A321neo aircraft, which boasts 20 percent better fuel efficiency, reducing your carbon footprint. From SFO airport, it’ll be a little over an hour until you’re sipping your first glass of cabernet sauvignon.

Staying There

Close to all the Holy Grails of wine country (including the French Laundry), the new Estate Yountville is a 22-acre “village within a village” with two luxury hotels: the livelier Hotel Villagio and its more sedate counterpart, Vintage House.