The Balsam Hill Traveler: Napa Valley
Living in Napa Valley is like living within a work of art. Everything about it—from its sunny skies, lush picturesque hills, and calm blue rivers—is filled with life and beauty. It’s no wonder people find it so easy to fall in love with this sun-kissed corner of America. As we approach the middle of summer, the Balsam Hill traveler shows you the colorful world of Napa Valley.
To begin your vacation in California’s wine country, head out to Napa, the county seat. Founded by the American pioneer Nathan Coombs, the city was initially known as a mining town during the 1850s. Since then, it has become the center of commerce in the valley.
Once you arrive in the city, there are a number of excellent hotels and inns you can check into. A favorite of ours is the Andaz Napa Hotel in First Street. The aesthetics of this auberge reflects the quaint and laid back culture of Napa Valley, from the hotel’s relaxed lobby to its friendly and accommodating staff.
If you’re craving for some Italian food with a Californian flair, check out the Oenotri. This restaurant is famous for their mouth-watering gourmet pizzas and pastas, served with only the best homegrown wines of the valley. Learn a few things in the art of wine making as the Oenotri also invites master wine makers to share with the community their knowledge of the craft.
The Darioush, located in the Silverado Trail, is one of Napa Valley’s premier wine makers. You can join their one-of-a-kind wine tasting as well as a 120-minute tour of their Bordeaux-style estate led by proprietor and wine connoisseur Darioush Khaledi himself.
For a unique tour, you can take to the skies on a hot air balloon or ride an old-fashioned train through the valley. Balloons Above The Valley provides tourists with an aerial view of the majestic terrain of Napa Valley, while the Napa Valley Wine Train lets you have a comfortable countryside excursion on their vintage Pullman train, complete with a fine dining experience.
Looking for the best place for some much-deserved R&R? The city of Calistoga boasts some of the best hot springs in Napa Valley. Here you can also immerse yourself in a mud bath of volcanic ash that is guaranteed to relax your tired muscles and help clear the pores of your skin through sweating. Check out the Calistoga Spa Hot Springs in Washington Street or the Indian Springs Resort in Lincoln Avenue for a refreshing retreat before and after your trek in the valley.
Calistoga is also known as the home of the Chateau Montelena. This world-class winery features a wide selection of the finest Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay wines that rival even the bottles of France. They also offer an extensive tour of the historical Montelena Estate as well as an intimate wine tasting against the backdrop of this French-inspired castle.
Aside from wine making, Napa Valley is also known as a center of arts and culture in California. People from all over the country flock to the city of Yountville for the annual Festival del Sole, which runs from July 12 to 21, celebrating music, art, food, and wine. Among the well-known people who have graced the festival through the years are Robert Redford, Renee Fleming, Joshua Bell, Danielle de Niese, and the Russian National Orchestra.
Another place worth visiting in Yountville is the Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley. The museum displays an impressive collection of contemporary art and landscape garden sculptures. Their artists include Deloss McGraw, Mitchell Johnson, Adam Shaw, Mirang Wonne, T Barny, Gregory Kloehn, and Constance Chabrières.
Wine connoisseurs know that the best vino are still more gratifying when savored with a fine meal. This is why the Festival del Sole also highlights the importance of culinary arts. In St. Helena, the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone has become an integral part of the community. If you have time, you can enroll in their program to further your knowledge of cooking. Or you can always indulge yourself in the exquisite fare found in the school’s award-winning restaurants, such as the Wine Spectator Restaurant, the De Baun Café, and the Spicy Islands Marketplace.
Providing you with a vacation experience that goes beyond mere glitz and glamour, Napa Valley is about celebrating la dolce vita.