In this week’s A Wine Lovers’ Guide, Paroma will take you on a grand wine adventure in St. Helena, Ca.
I am hardly a wine snob and was held the dubious distinction of being a teetotaler before I moved to San Francisco and discovered the red ambrosia that is Pinot Noir and the beauty of Napa Valley and Sonoma.
Since wine country is a mere one and half hour drive from home, we’ve travelled there several times, with the first trip being our honeymoon! Even if you are not a wine enthusiast, the mediterranean like weather and the amazing food north of the Golden Gate bridge is sure to win you over. My last trip was to the beautiful town of St. Helena, a gem in Napa valley, with quaint and beautiful wineries famous for their bold red Cabernet (Cabs), such as the Cabernet Sauvignon and rolling vineyards.
Although summer is the busiest time for wineries, fall is when things get really interesting with leaves changing colors and grapes being picked for winemaking. Another useful tip for those of you who want to avoid crowds and experience the very best of this city is to make reservations in advance to some of the best wineries in town which can be entered by appointment only. We learned this the hard way when we visited, thanks to a teetotaler husband and a novice yours truly, bumbling her way into the finesses of wine tasting.
We spent a balmy weekend in September in St. Helena and stayed at Shady oaks Country Inn, which was bordered by beautiful vineyards, had a cute patio where they served wine and cheese in the evening and provided quite a breakfast spread in the morning. It can cost a pretty penny for overnight stays anywhere in wine country due to hordes of tourists coming in for wine tasting throughout the year, so advanced planning to book hotels and resorts is highly recommended.
Now, for the good part! Despite no advance reservations, we lucked out and got a last minute appointment at Frog’s Leap Winery, one of the most beautiful wineries in the district. This should definitely be on your must-visit list. It is a small batch winery based out of Rutherford and it is absolutely charming.
Acres of greenery, blooming flowers, a lovely garden with a vegetable patch, an out of the world quaint red barn and friendly staff made my wine tasting extremely fun and relaxing. Not to mention the many photo opportunities in the beautiful surroundings. We also stopped by Artesia winery which has a fantastic view since it is on an elevation and Beringer Winery, one of the oldest wineries in the area, which was also extremely crowded and touristy. If you stroll out on their vineyard with the mad crowd behind you, you will stumble upon lines of vines with bunches of blueberry like grapes hanging from them. Most wineries in Napa (including these three) cost anywhere from $20-30 for wine tasting, with at least 5-6 pours and sometimes even more if the staff is friendly or wants you to taste some of their latest offerings. Downtown St. Helena is full of cute boutiques and stores and worth a stroll after all the eating and wine drinking.
St. Helena and adjoining Yountville are hard to beat when it comes to food and I am going to list some of my absolute favorites here where we dined. Whatever you do not miss dinner at Two Birds One Stone (California inspired Yakitori), Archetype (St. Helena’s favorite lunch spot), Bottega (Californian-Italian does not get better than this) and Bouchon Bakery for yummy pick me ups.
This, in a nutshell, was an amazing weekend spend at St. Helena. A little bit of planning goes a long way, so if you are a diehard wine connoisseur and want to be privy to some of the best wineries, do make reservations ahead. Also, dress in layers since the days are bright and warm (mostly) but nights can get a little chilly. Finally, do plan to have a designated driver with you or some kind of arrangement for a safe driving experience post all that wine tasting! Bottomline is, if you are love with cabernets, St. Helena is the perfect answer waiting to be explored in all its beauty.
This article was written by our contributor Paroma from the travel blog Year of the Monkey. Paroma is a scientist who loves to travel, and she is currently living in beautiful San Francisco. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook.
A Wine Lovers’ Guide to St. Helena is the third article in our brand new Wine Around the World-series. In this series, travel writers from all over the world will introduce you to their favourite wine districts and wine tasting experiences. Our first article, A Wine Lovers’ Guide to Sutter Winery, can be found here and A Wine Lovers’ Guide to Texas Hill Country can be found here.