Napa Valley, California

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Discover Bliss: A Wine-Country Weekend

Sometimes a little getaway is just the thing to lift spirits, to celebrate a special occasion, to satisfy one’s wanderlust until life’s next big adventure. There are many great weekend destinations near and far, but few soothe the soul like Northern California, where the sunshine and spectacular valley views blend to form an atmospheric elixir of sorts.

Imagine taking an early-morning flight from the east coast, touching down on the left coast in time for lunch at one of the country’s most celebrated restaurants, where the wine, harvested from nearby fields, flows like liquid gold, and the laid-back vibe that permeates the area envelops you like an oversized sweater within mere hours of arrival. Gone are the worries of the world and in their place, an appreciation for the land and an appetite for everything that comes from it.

Gordon and I just returned from three days in the food-and-wine Mecca that is the Napa Valley. Our last trip there was in 1991, when we got engaged in nearby Carmel. Since then, Thomas Keller arrived and transformed the tiny town of Yountville, which lies in the center of the valley, into the gastronomic heart of America. Yountville is said to be home to more Michelin-starred restaurants (4), per capita, than anywhere else in the country. You may have heard of The French Laundry, the star of Keller’s culinary fleet? If a 12-course tasting menu there, priced at about $25 per taste, isn’t your cup of tea – we opted to visit the French Laundry garden across the street, no reservations required!, rather than the restaurant –  there are plenty of delicious dining options from Keller such as Ad Hoc, and other noted chefs from Redd, Bistro Jeanty, Bottega, Press, Mustards, etc., along Highway 29, the road stretching from Carneros to Calistoga, and farther afield off the less-travelled Silverado Trail (Auberge du Soleil).

Gott’s Roadside Diner, on the outskirts of charming St. Helena, is a popular attraction after being featured on Food Network’s Drive Ins, Diners, and Dives and a great spot when you’re craving a burger – beef or tuna. Hungry locals and visitors alike flock to the outdoor picnic tables, beginning at 8 AM every day. It was one of our favorite spots, along with the more upscale restaurant at Meadowood, the beautifully rustic resort near St. Helena, where we stayed and enjoyed the spectacular cooking of chef Christopher Kostow, a James Beard winner in 2013.

When we weren’t eating, we were drinking wine and touring some of the area’s 450 wineries or strolling and shopping or napping or sitting by the fire – all the while feeling like we were a million miles away with nary a care.  If there isn’t time for Tuscany this year, consider Napa, it’s the next best thing.  And if Napa is too far, there’s always Charlottesville, another getaway destination with beautiful scenery and fine wine. Take your pick of the three. Just go. Get away.

Caroline Travels the World…And So Can You.

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