Stress got you down? When all else fails, head to Napa Valley. With more than 270 wineries set amidst 38,000 acres of rolling vineyards, hundreds of divine restaurants, a myriad of championship golf courses, and a plethora of world-class accommodations, Napa Valley is the place for your own personal Urban Renewal.
Napa Valley, 50 miles northeast of San Francisco, exudes the flavor of Italy's Tuscany and France's Bordeaux. Stretching only five miles across at its widest point and 35 miles from north to south, the Valley is divided into vineyard regions called "appellations", and consists of 6 different cities and towns, each with their own distinctive character.
The most heavily traveled hot air balloon corridor in the entire world, Napa Valley (Valley of Plenty) was so named by the native Wappo Indians. Today's Napa Valley is unabashed in its abundance and is rich in agricultural bounty and man-made offerings.
From the San Francisco airport, I headed to the town of Yountville. Although Yountville has the smallest population of Napa's incorporated towns and cities (pop. 2957 in 2011), it is the hub of the Napa Valley where the Wine Country experience begins to unfold. Yountville is a walking town, rich with history and character rooted in a century past.
It is also the locale of the 23-acre Vintage Estate that consists of Vintage Inn, an 80-room French country-style inn, the 112-room Villagio Inn & Spa and the historic Vintage 1870 specialty shops complex.
The intimate Vintage Inn blends 19th century romance with simple wine country elegance, Vintage Inn is a step back in time to a French country boutique hotel of the late 1800's.
VILLAGIO INN AND SPA
The Villagio Inn & Spa is in a garden setting, accented by vineyards, fountains, and a flowing central watercourse. This luxurious inn and spa facility was inspired by the Italian countryside villages of Tuscany. Architect Bruce Pao was commissioned to deliver a design for Villagio Inn & Spa. Instead, he gave it a soul. Pao used the mythological attributes of nine Roman goddesses to lend a magical influence to his design of the walking pathways, pools, fountains, and central waterway of Villagio.
CENTRAL WATERWAY OF VILLAGIO INN AND SPA
True to wine country tradition, my Villagio Inn spa treatments were big on the grape. Wining and unwinding became my sybaritic mantra of the week. I began each day with grape treatments in The Spa and ended each night with grape treatments (aka wine) in some of the country's best restaurants.
In Villagio's Spa-aaaah, I was slathered with a Grape Seed Mud Wrap and a Grape Seed Body Polish. My tired eyes were eased with a grape-sap compress followed by a grape-enhanced Essential Facial. Grape oils lubricated my loins during my European Wellness Massage and the finishing touch was a Napa Valley Grape Seed Manicure and Pedicure. SPA-tacular!
Napa Valley staked a claim as America's "Food and Wine Capital" when the Culinary Institute of America opened in 1995 at Greystone Cellars, the former Christian Brothers Winery. Visitors can dine in the Greystone restaurants, located inside of one of the largest stone buildings in the world, built in 1889 by Chinese laborers who used stone from local quarries.
Enroute from Yountville to the Greystone in St. Helena, you will drive through Oakville (2010 population was 71). This tiny town is renowned for its Oakville Grocery Co. that has been operating continuously since 1881.
OAKVILLE GROCERY OPERATING SINCE 1881
The Oakville Grocery Co. offers highly curated selection of the best products from farmers, artisans and purveyors in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. At any given time of day, you might find some 50 cars in its parking lot. Tourists make up approximately 80% of that number.
OAKVILLE GROCERY SELLS LOCAL PRODUCTS
Napa Premium Outlets, in Napa City, offers an abundant selection of legendary brands at real savings. TSE Factory Store is one of my favorites. If they happen to have a sale, you can pick up some gorgeous cashmeres at a fraction of their retail price.
Though Napa Valley has many championship golf courses, I did not pick up a golf club during my entire visit to Napa Valley. However, my stay at Villagio Inn & Spa totally rejuvenated my whole being. I might say that, even sans golf, Napa Valley afforded me a "whole in one" week.
JANET STEINBERG is an award-winning Travel Writer and a Travel Consultant affiliated with The Travel Authority, Mariemont/Cincinnati, Ohio office.