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Navigating Napa: A Week in the Famous Wine Country

For three days straight, Napa Valley and the Sonoma, California areas burned, wilting under 11 wildfires.

At least 20 people were killed, more than 3,500 homes burned to the ground, hundreds of world renowned wineries went up in flames and this lush slice of The United States, torched.

The mountainous, picturesque landscape of the popular Wine Country was left in ruins.

Before I could even unpack my bags, sort through souvenirs and sleep off the jet lag, the excitement I had after my Napa Valley vacation and wine and food tour quickly dwindled as I watched the news and saw fire ripping through nearby towns.

But that’s what memories and photos and videos are for; they help you to relive beautiful memories in the darkest times and see the beauty in devastation.

napa valley

napa valley

napa valley

Napa Valley is breathtakingly beautiful and so posh.

If you ever find yourself there, I’d suggest you tag along lots of money fancy resort wear, overactive taste buds, a high tolerance for wine and a designated driver.

You see and read the stories about this luxurious slice of America in movies and in books all the time, but visiting Napa Valley first hand is an experience like none other. The hilly and mountainous terrains with miles of freshly manicured farms and vineyards stretch along the lengthy windy roads.

It’s a welcomed change from the usual busy city centres that swallow me up when I do travel to The United States. It’s not New York City, Miami Beach nor Atlanta.

It’s California’s countryside.

It’s quiet, slow paced and perfect for the adult who wants to enjoy a real vacation and a food and wine tour.

In Napa Valley, it’s ok to wake up late and enjoy a mid-morning brunch in a little red barn that sits just off the highway. In Napa Valley, it’s absolutely normal to replace your morning coffee with wine or a mimosa and swap out your 10 a.m. conference call for a wine tour.

Napa Valley is plush and settled. And if you’re scurrying around from mall to mall trying to find the latest buy, you’re sorely out of place and you feel it. Shopping comes in at a distant second, or third, to wine tasting and wine buying.

Napa’s vineyards are welcoming; their aromas, intoxicating.

They sprawl along acres of healthy earth and boast of rows and rows of vines, laden down with ripe, sweet grapes.

mondavi estate wine country

The Kunde Family Winery and the popular Mondavi Estate were where we got slightly inebriated and enjoyed every bit of it. It’s hard to keep up with the history lessons while drinking some of the finest wines in the world.We swirled, sniffed, swished, but opted to swallow rather than spit. The wines were way too good to go to waste.

Before we knew it, the sun was setting on a lake in front of us. The smell of fermented grapes was trapped in the still evening air, further adding to our intoxication.

It was a welcomed addition.

While the wine was delightful, I found that the grapes they’re made from are even tastier. On our way into and out of each winery we visited, we stopped in the vineyards to pick grapes. I was blown away at how bright, bountiful and full they were! Purple and green grapes grew in thick bunches in their respective rows. They huddled below the bushy hedges that hid them in the distance.

They were so rich and sweet and free.

napa valley

The guilt that usually follows you around the grocery store while you shop and eat a whole bag of grapes, wasn’t there; though we weren’t so sure we should be picking the grapes in the first place.

The food and wine tour definitely saw more wine than food, but we got our fill of amazing dishes and plates.

Some of the most highly rated restaurants reside in Napa Valley; Michelin star rated eateries that require reservations be made a minimum of four months in advance if you want to get in.

With wines this refined and rich on our palettes, the food options had to be the perfect complement, and everything we ate definitely was.

Our days mostly started with dessert wine and pastries; like the English muffin from Model Bakery which made Oprah’s “Favorite Things” list in 2016.

I had to have it. And when I did, I saw just why “Auntie Oprah” loved it. The buttery, crispy bite was coated with more butter and homemade blackberry jam that melted on my lips.

mini model bakery napa valley

The line at Bouchon Bakery snaked along the sidewalk for what seemed like miles. But the popular French-styled bake house famous for their almond croissants and salted caramel latte is so worth the wait.

French breads, more English muffin, cookies, caramel pop corn, macaroons, pies, cupcakes, quiches; Bouchon Bakery is, simultaneously, a foodie’s paradise and nightmare.

Our first night in Napa, we dined at The Restaurant at Meadowood. It’s a super exclusive; invite only, reservation only Michelin Guide Three-Star restaurant which also received a Condé Nast Traveler Readers Choice Award in 2016 and a Travel + Leisure, World’s Best Award that same year.

I was still jet lagged from the six-hour flight so it never really dawned on me what it meant to take in a 15-course meal. And this wasn’t just any 15-course meal. It was gourmet, it was decadent and rich, it was fresh and my taste buds told me the entire meal was made with so much love.

Servers who moved in sharp synchronization as if they’d been taught choreography; hostesses who knew my name and profession before I even arrived and a handwritten bill at the end of the night let me know exactly why the wait list for a spot here extends to the end of January next year.

We dined on caviar, oysters, foie gras and avocado, an eggplant dessert and so many other dishes; I ate myself to amnesia.

This certainly set the tone for our other dinners for the entire trip. We were constantly on the hunt for gourmet food and we weren’t leaving Napa without it.

bouchon bakery napa valley

Morimoto Sushi Restaurant certainly met the standards already set in place. The eclectic and chic spot made famous by Japanese chef and Iron Chef America TV show star Masaharu Morimoto, served me some of the best sushi I’ve ever had in my life.

I took a break from wine that night and sipped on the restaurant’s cocktails. Tailored to perfection and spot on are the best ways to describe the drinks that, I dare say, rival Napa’s fine wines.

kunde family winery napa valley

kunde family winery napa valley

And then there was Ad Hoc, the Bouchon Bistro, Grace’s Table, ABC Restaurant and The Boon Fly Café that served up the best breakfasts, lunches, brunches and dinners.

A Napa Valley food and wine tour is perfect for anyone wanting to enjoy an adult vacation and indulge themselves on gourmet.

Again, take a designated driver…they don’t call it Wine Country for nothing!


kunde family winery napa valley

mondavi estate napa valley

Did you know my travel blog is now a travel column? Check more travel stories, tips and tricks in The Tribune newspaper! 

Have you been to Wine Country before? Thinking of going? Let’s chat in the comments! 


7 Responses
  • Claire
    October 28, 2017

    This was absolutely a fun read! Makes me want to go!!!

  • Asline
    October 12, 2017

    Absolutely loved this article!!!

    • Carmen Moss
      October 13, 2017

      Great article! I enjoyed the trip/tours.
      Felt as if I was there…..😃

      BTW, “ta hell with it!” is another thing we need to learn to say. Lolol

      • ianthia
        October 13, 2017

        thanks, Carmen! Yes “ta hell with it” is a great one to add lol!

    • ianthia
      October 13, 2017

      Thank you so much for reading!