In case you were looking for any new excuses to visit (or revisit) the quintessential wine region in the U.S., Napa Valley continues to soliify itself as one of the most dynamic parts of the country, with a steady influx of new businesses, sights and activities. With an ever-growing array of inns, restaurants, tasting rooms, sculpture gardens and activities, there’s always something new to sip and savor in Napa.
Likely the biggest restaurant opening in recent Napa memory comes by way of Chris Cosentino, a chef superstar in San Francisco who also recently launched his first Portland restaurant. The Acacia House marks his first project in Napa Valley, located in the new Las Alcobas Napa Valley, an opulent Victorian mansion-cum-hotel in St. Helena. The whole experience is immersive and transportive, thanks largely to the hotel’s location in a rejuvenated building dating to 1907. Tapping into local farms for seasonal ingredients and inspiration, Cosentino gets eclectic and imaginative with a menu that appeals equally to locals and visitors. Think Napa Valley lamb with charred smashed carrots or Iberico pork schnitzel with caviar ranch dressing. For guests staying at the hotel, the restaurant supplies picnic baskets for those looking for lunch al fresco, and there’s breakfast with wholesome items like turmeric-spiced carrot juice, ten-grain porridge and croissant milk toast, aka croissant bread pudding French toast.
Another celebrity chef expanded his footprint in Napa with the opening of Ottimo from Michael Chiarello. Located in V Marketplace in Yountville, the casual eatery and marketplace peddles rustic Italian fare like brick-oven pizza, hand-pulled mozzarella, black garlic Caesar salads and traditional Modenese sandwihces called crescentines, stuffed with the likes of porchetta and smoked salmon.
Home to The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, Napa is a popular breeding ground for burgeoning talent, a sentiment on full display at the cooking school’s newly opened Gatehouse Restaurant. Run by culinary students, the restaurant serves as the capstone experience culminating two years of baking, cooking and management lessons. Using local ingredients and items from the CIA’s own farm and herb gardens, students cook up lunch and dinner dishes like roasted beet tarts, sunchoke and celery soup with duck prosciutto and 12-hour braised lamb neck with kale, cabbage and rosemary-mustard jus.
Still to come, XIXI Bistro is a modern Chinese restaurant taking shape in downtown Napa this summer. This being Napa, it’s the rare—and possibly only—Chinese restaurant with its own wine-tasting room. With dim sum on weekends and creative South Asian-inspired fare like pumpkin dumplings, there’s lots to look forward to from this novel newcomer.
Celebrated chef Charlie Palmer, whose expansive restaurant portfolio boasts properties throughout the Bay Area, Las Vegas, D.C. and New York City, plots his biggest local endeavor to date this year at the forthcoming Archer Hotel, a ground-up property with 143 rooms and 40 balcony suites downtown. Along with an outpost of Charlie Palmer Steak, the chef will oversee culinary operations at the hotel’s rooftop bar, where the valley views are sure to be as illustrious as the cuisine.
Formerly the Comfort Inn Calistoga, the brand-new UpValley Inn & Hot Springs is the ultimate in luxurious relaxation. A lot of that can be chocked up to the inn’s on-site geothermal hot springs mineral pool, along with its whirlpool and steam room. It’s all contained within the confines of a cozy, rustic 55-room resort with upscale furnishings and modern fixtures that dovetail nicely with the hotel’s pastoral motif.
What’s old is new again, as the historic hacienda-style Rancho Caymus Inn recently underwent an extensive facelift and opened anew in Rutherford, with a refreshed motif that looks like something out of a fairy tale. The handiwork of the same developers behind Hotel Yountville, the rebirth helped breath new life into the inn’s 25 suite-style rooms, highlighting aspects like barn wood ceilings, wrought iron, fireplaces and private patios. There’s a plunge pool and spa for optimal lounging. Split-level premium suites are worth a splurge, outfitted with separate sitting areas, stained glass, gorgeous patios and double marble sinks. The inn is currently taking reservations starting in July.
Another notable restoration is that of The Ink House, a 130-year old property slated for a June debut. Originally home to Theron H. Ink, who built the place in 1884, local Napa architecture firm Backen, Gillam & Kroeger sought to preserve its lore while polishing up the aspects that make it such an alluring gem—and a property listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Interiors reflect the history of the home (think leather accents, soaring ceilings, four-posted beds), including an Elvis Room inspired by the time Elvis Presley stayed there in 1960. Amenities go above and beyond with access to a fully stocked chef’s kitchen, European breakfast, digestifs with the Castellucci family and wine tastings with the family’s winemaker Jac Cole.
Wine and Beer
You’re never far from a wine-tasting room in Napa, especially these days with the constant flow of new drinking destinations in the valley. One of the latest is Outland, a tasting room downtown that serves as a showcase for wines from Farella Vineyards, Forlorn Hope and POE Wine. They’re available via flights, by-the-glass or bottle. For food, Outland offers catered lunches by Morimoto. The space itself is elegant and contemporary, bright with an abundance of natural light, white walls and plants.
It’s not all wine in Napa Valley. Indicative of the region’s ever-growing food and beverage scene, Tannery Bend Beerworks is a new addition that proves Napa is much more than a one-beverage town. Located just south of downtown, the taproom is unique in that it’s a collaboration between a brewer, a chef and a restaurateur, resulting in beers that are brewed with locally sourced ingredients reflective of what’s going on in the seasonally driven kitchen. Along with beer-friendly fare like grilled blue crab and popcorn, Tannery Bend slings beers like its Yajome Northeastern IPA and Coombs Saison, a farmhouse-style that’s perfectly crisp, citrusy and light for summer.
For those who like a cave tour with their wine tasting, B Cellars is about to launch its Heritage Experience in Oakville. Much more than wine flights, the foray begins with a tour of the wine caves, followed by tastings of wines made from Beckstoffer Heritage Vineyard grapes. The wines are paired with small plates. The Heritage Experience joins B Cellars other popular offerings, the Oakville Trek through the culinary gardens and production facilities, and the Sojourn, a lighter post-lunch option paired with locally made cheeses.
One of the country’s premiere breweries, Escondido, California-based Stone Brewing, is setting up shop with a new taproom in downtown Napa this summer, further proof of the valley’s craft beer boom. Taking shape in the historic Borreo building, the facility will boast 24 beers on tap, both indoor and outdoor dining space, a 10-barrel brew house, merchandise and more Napa exclusives.
Activities and Sights
Considering its location nestled amidst rolling hilltops and pristine nature, it makes perfect sense to combine sensible drinking with scenic hiking. Active Wine Adventures is a new tour service that pairs wine and food with hiking and art. In April, the company expanded to include a hiking and beer tour as well, which features hikes, lunch and stops at local breweries.
One particularly prominent facet of the newly enhanced landscaping at Harvest Inn by Charlie Palmer is the addition of a sculpture garden by ÆRENA Galleries & Gardens. With 11 new installations, there’s plenty to marvel at outside this famed property in St. Helena. Additionally, the inn has added new walking paths through its culinary gardens, along with a garden table for special events.