Brody and I finally both had a few days off this past month and, because our schedules have been so hectic and Brody’s been dealing with a lot of stress, I decided to book us a surprise getaway to Napa! We’ve talked about visiting wine country together since we first started dating. The last time Brody was there was with an ex-girlfriend. They did a super fancy wine tour complete with a private chef and a sommelier who flew into town especially for them. Needless to say, I couldn’t quite afford the same extravagance, but I had saved up enough to still arrange something cozy and romantic.
After a lot of research, I decided on Calistoga Ranch as our hotel for the trip. They were running a special on their Oak Creek Spa Suites (it was still $$$ but I wanted to spoil him!), so I booked us into one of those for two nights. I made a dinner reservation at Press in St. Helena for our second night in town and scheduled us on a sunrise hot air balloon tour of the valley. I figured we could play the rest by ear and didn’t want to overbook us in case Brody had any input once he found out where we were going!
The morning we were supposed to leave came and I had kept our destination a secret for weeks. Brody guessed it on the way to the airport after I’d given him the clues that “we could technically drive there in a day” and “we’ve talked about going there since we first started dating.” We hopped a flight to San Francisco (but for anyone else planning to go from LA, there are multiple flights right into Sonoma County Airport (STS), which is so SO soo much more convenient.. I just didn’t know about it at the time!), grabbed our rental car and hit the road. We stopped along the way to buy a new camera (we chose the Sony Alpha A5000) and grab some lunch in Burlingame at The Plant Cafe Organic (we both opted for the Cobb Salad).
The drive to Napa was about 2 1/2 hours from SFO. Brody still had no idea where we were staying and was surprised when we passed by Meadowood, where he’d previously visited. The drive through Napa was so incredibly beautiful surrounded by all the mountains and lush greenery of the vineyards. One thing I was surprised by was how close each vineyard is to the next — they’re all essentially spread out over one massive field and you can walk between them easily.
We reached the resort and were greeted with glasses of Calistoga Ranch chardonnay and the most lovely receptionist I’ve ever experienced at a hotel, a young man whose name Brody and I said about 100 times throughout our stay and right this moment can’t friggin’ remember, agh!!). We were driven to our private cabin — the main facilities of the resort, including reception and the pool, are at the base of the resort and all cabins are built up a hillside in the woods — where we were met by a platter of cheeses and a bottle of cabernet sauvignon. So far, I really like Napa!!
By the time we were all settled, it was nearing dinner time. We decided to enjoy a meal at the resort restaurant, which is only open to hotel guests and overlooks the private lake on the property. Our waiter was incredibly knowledgable about wines and each dish on the prix fixe menu. Brody and I agreed to be a little adventurous with our eating on this trip; we generally eat vegetarian, but most of the menus in Napa were meat heavy so we figured YOLO! We enjoyed duck, pea soup and a fancy bottle of cabernet at our table by the roaring fire listening to the chirps and croaks of crickets and frogs.
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The next morning we were supposed to be up at 4:30 a.m. for our hot air balloon ride. This is another thing I wish someone would’ve advised me on. The weather in Napa Valley is actually not very conducive to flying hot air balloons normally, so the best thing you can do is plan a trip for a few days in Napa and try each morning to get on a flight (hopefully one day will be clear enough to go!). We only had one full morning there, so our odds weren’t very good we’d have a flying day, and we didn’t. They offered to take us out over some farmland an hour away, but that didn’t sound nearly as appealing to us, so we crawled back into bed and got a little more sleep.
I ordered breakfast to the room around 9, which came complete in a picnic basket with a little vase of delicious smelling rosemary to decorate the table. Calistoga Ranch consists of 157 acres with miles of hiking trails, so after breakfast we decided to explore a bit. We took a trail that led us to a hilly meadow with views looking over the ranch and down into the valley. It was picturesque! After our brief hike, we went down for a midday cocktail by the pool, which was nearly as lovely as the trails had been.
Rather than bouncing around between wineries all day, we decided on a late lunch reservation at Auberge du Soleil, a sister resort about 15 minutes away, where we could sample a bunch of Napa wines in one place. Auberge du Soleil has the only restaurant in Napa with a view across the entire valley and I’d been interested in seeing what we were missing because it was sold out by the time I booked our trip. Well, it certainly didn’t disappoint. We were given a table on the terrace (make sure you request this!) in a private corner and had a team of two servers who recommended we try a tasting of eight different red wines (we let them select their favorites). I am quite dedicated to pinot noir, so it didn’t come as a surprise that the pinot was my favorite of the day, but each of them was wonderful, especially paired with the asparagus soup, market salad, wild mushroom gnocchi, and cardamom poundcake with rhubarb and lemon meringue! Our lunch lasted nearly three hours as we enjoyed learning from our servers about the current drought in Napa, their favorite and rival restaurants, and histories of the local vineyards.
We took a taxi back to the ranch (during the ride we came across two fawns and their mom casually crossing the road!) and hopped in our private jacuzzi overlooking the creek with yet another bottle of cabernet — this is wine country, after all! After freshening up and changing, it was already time for our dinner reservation at Press. Yes, we basically went to Napa to eat and drink non-stop, but that’s my kind of vacation!!
Now, this is something I heard a lot of complaints about on my Instagram… We were told by our hotel concierge that the best thing to order at Press was something not listed on the menu: the Bacon Sampler. Both Brody and I very rarely eat red meat, both for health reasons and because we are sensitive to the suffering and lives of animals. However, like I said before, we’d decided to be adventurous on this trip and who were we not to follow the recommendations of the Calistoga Ranch concierge? So, upon further recommendation by our waiter, we ordered the sampler. OH. MY. GOODNESS. Admittedly, I haven’t been able to eat another piece of bacon since because of how rich and heavy that sampler was, but it was incredibly, insanely delicious, with seven flavors/cuts from different towns across the U.S. One was entirely coated in brown sugar and dijon mustard!
The restaurant on the whole, was perfect, and again, our server was very helpful and charming. The best part was that, because Napa is such a small community, he actually knew the driver who’d dropped us off at the restaurant and called her to come pick us up once we paid the check without us even asking!
The following morning we enjoyed breakfast in bed before packing up and heading to Sonoma County so we could make it home for a Nylon Magazine photo shoot Brody had scheduled. It was a whirlwind trip, but the perfect romantic, relaxing getaway!