The luxurious Auberge du Soleil offers panoramic views of Napa Valley
This region northeast of San Francisco has become a generic for wine. Grapes account for more than 38,000 acres and 200-plus wineries turn them into some of the finest pinot noirs and chardonnays found anywhere. The dry, temperate climate that makes the area perfect for growing finicky grapes also makes it an ideal golf destination. After all, a memorable round makes for a great toast.
Silverado Resort has hosted tour events dating back to the 1960s. Its South and North courses received a revamping in 2003. Chardonnay Golf Club has three nine-holers to mix and match. Designed by Johnny Miller, who winters in the valley, Eagle Vines Golf Club ranks high among the newer offerings. Napa Golf Course at Kennedy Park is a well-conditioned muni along the Napa River.
Blue Violet Mansion represents Napas long, rich history. Its 1886 Queen Anne Victorian structure has won numerous accolades. Yountville Inn and Carneros Inn are in similar mode, only bigger, and offer superb dining rooms. Most luxurious of all is Auberge du Soleil, located on a hillside and offering gorgeous sunset views.
There is more fine cuisine than one can manage in a year. Topping the list are Thomas Kellers famed French Laundry and Michael Chiarellos nouvelle Italian Tra Vigne. Mustards Grill is more casual while Coles Chop House is a good choice for that perfect steak paired with a hearty cab. Other popular spots are the Mediterranean-flavored Hurleys and the Martini House, a mushroom lovers delight. The wine lists, needless to say, are encyclopedic.
Wine-tasting is de rigueur, of course. But theres more to Napa. In Calistoga, the 400-acre Safari West Wildlife Preserve has hundreds of mammals and birds on view. Go hot-air ballooning over the vineyards with Napa Valley Aloft. Or cruise the Napa River, which runs through the heart of downtown, with Napa River Adventures. Foodies can enjoy a cooking demo and a glistening utensils shop at the West Coast campus of the Culinary Institute of America.
by Al Barkow, LINKS Magazine