It’s the perfect time to visit wine country – no crowds, no unbearable heat and no traffic. Usually bustling with tourists and cars inching along Main Street, St. Helena’s popular restaurants, prime parking spots and space at the wine bar in your favorite tasting room are all available at this time of year.
Nestled in the northern end of Napa Valley, St. Helena is home to several National Historic Landmarks (Beringer Vineyards and Charles Krug winery) as well as three downtown blocks declared a National Historic District. The 1860s saw the beginning of wine making and, in 1868, the railroad came to town.
Today, St. Helena is a sophisticated, wine country chic destination. Recently I grabbed some good girlfriend time on a fun getaway.
STAY: At the Wydown Hotel find modern accommodations in a comfortable setting. Named for a tree-lined boulevard in St. Louis, the Wydown has an enviable location in the heart of tree-lined downtown St. Helena. The lobby (aka the Living Room) is a natural gathering place – read, play games (a puzzle is left to be worked by guests), watch TV or just relax on a couch.
The contemporary design of this boutique hotel is evident throughout the 12 rooms in the Victorian-era building. Enjoy spacious bathrooms with marble countertops, top-notch amenities, king-size beds and great views of Main Street and the mountains.
DINE: Located on Main Street, Gillwoods Café is the place for a hearty breakfast and friendly service. With a commitment to classic home style cooking since 1991, find all of your favorites including freshly made breads and pastries. Choose farm fresh eggs, applewood bacon, steel cut oats and more.
One of the culinary destinations at Cairdean Estate is Butterscot, a casual café. Open throughout the day, it is an informal place to enjoy just baked breads, sandwiches and interesting salads. Don’t miss the blackberry-filled doughnuts. You’ll also find cookbooks and specialty foods.
Steps from the hotel, Archetype is a local favorite. Inside seating by the open kitchen or in the café garden offer light-filled options to savor the food and get in some good people watching. We loved the K & J Orchard pear salad with surryana ham and the Thunder Ridge beef sliders. Be sure to try the sweet potato fries, the grilled padrons and the oven roasted Brussels sprouts. Pairing with artisan cocktails and regional wines makes for a relaxing wine country experience.
PRESS is a mecca for Napa wines, prime beef and ingredients sourced from local gardens. Fish, lamb and poultry are on the menu for non-red meat eaters. Inside find high ceilings, towers of wine and roaring fireplaces both inside and out. Try great Napa wines like the 2013 Hendry Albariño, Calder Wine Company’s 2011 Charbono, Meyer Vineyard, Calistoga and the 2010 Silverado Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon.
OTHER ESSENTIALS: Special Events: Napa Valley Restaurant Month (Throughout February); St. Helena Chamber of Commerce; Napa Valley Tourism
PATTY BURNESS can be found @pattygb