Napa's Yountville is the Unexpected City Drawing Wine Lovers to its Charming Destination

From by Steve Mirsky
Napa's Yountville is the Unexpected City Drawing Wine Lovers to its Charming Destination

Yountville, California embodies many quintessential visions you undoubtedly have when planning a Napa Valley excursion. It all started in 1836 when George Calvert Yount founded the town and planted Napa Valley’s first official vineyard. Today, vines stretch from the Mayacamas mountains to the Napa River. Yountville’s compact layout clustered around Washington St. is also perfect for biking not only on the existing street grid, but along the ever-expanding Napa Valley Vine Trail, which when completed, will extend 47 miles from Vallejo to Calistoga.

Yountville has the highest concentration of Michelin-star rated dining in the valley and a wide array of luxury hotels to stay in. When you need a break from wine tastings, be sure to drink in some culture at The Napa Valley Museum and explore Yountville’s sculpture-filled Art Walk. If you’re headed to the valley, check out these hotels, dining hot spots and wineries:

vintage innPhoto Credit: Vintage Inn


Despite growing exponentially within the past 10 years, the town’s small-scale feel remains, even with new developments popping up such as the 23-acre Vintage Estate featuring V Marketplace. Formerly an 1874 winery, it is now a lifestyle center listed on the National Register of Historic Places offering boutique shopping and dining. The estate is also home to the Vintage Inn.

The AAA four diamond Vintage Inn offers 80 newly-remodeled guestrooms and cozy cottage-style villas with gabled roofs and plantation-style shutters. Each room has either a private balcony or garden patio furnished with oversized Brown Jordan wicker furniture. Interiors are graced with Acacia hardwood flooring accented by hand-woven Indian wool area rugs, original photography shot by local artists, and glass front mini-refrigerators. Stone-framed wood burning fireplaces, vaulted ceilings, and marble-tiled bathrooms with oversized sunken bathtubs complete the spaces. Amenities include complimentary in-room wine, nightly turn-down service featuring craft-made chocolates, and a full Champagne breakfast buffet await guests each morning.

vintage innPhoto Credit: Vintage Inn

Spa Villagio, a 13,000-square-foot, residential-style sanctuary adjacent to Vintage Inn offers sixteen state-of-the-art treatment rooms. As part of their Signature Suite Experiences, you can revel in relaxation a bit longer in one of their five private spa suites outfitted with fireplaces, jetted infinity soaking tubs, steam showers, wet bars, private patios, and flat screen TVs with Bose surround sound systems.

If you’d like to explore the area, consider a Napa Aloft hot air balloon ride as the sun rises. Tours depart daily, weather permitting, from the V Market parking lot providing spectacular sunrise vineyard views. If you opt in, you’ll still get your Champagne breakfast post-ride at Pacific Blues Café.

Lucy Restaurant & BarPhoto Credit: Lucy Restaurant & Bar

Distinctive dining in Yountville dates back to 1977 when Philippe Jeanty opened Domaine Chandon‘s restaurant. The dining scene is ever growing, with plenty of Michelin-star restaurants keeping the city hot, such as The French Laundry, Bouchon, Lucy Restaurant and Bar, and Redd Wood. Redd Wood is an osteria with an ultra-modern eatery offering various cuts of meat aging in a glass door walk-in refrigerator. Its build-your-own wood fired pizzas are a masterpiece. It all starts with a finely blistered crust with a subtle smokiness topped with Neapolitan-style sauce (whole peeled tomatoes, salt and olive oil), fresh mozzarella and basil. Next, pick from toppings including their in-house aged pancetta, goat cheese, smoked mozzarella, ham and bacon, Calabrian chili, and just-picked arugula. Although heavily focusing on local varietals, roughly 50 percent of the restaurant’s 200 wine bottles are Italian, including 21 by-the-glass offerings.

Ensconced within the Hotel Bardessono, Lucy Restaurant & Bar cultivates an equally-inspired menu based on what’s available from their kitchen-side garden. Executive Chef Victor Scargle regularly leads garden tours identifying and harvesting herbs and produce like Persian limes, eight different mint varieties, as well as salad greens and other vegetables. And if they don’t have it, local farms make up the difference in dishes like Schmitz Ranch Pork Chopand Liberty Farm Duck Breast. While Lucy does showcase Napa wines, their list specifically focuses on small vintners from around the world committed to organic and biodynamic practices.

wineriesPhoto Credit: Jessup Cellars

A standout among Yountville’s wineries is Jessup Cellars, which turns out great small-production vintages expertly-crafted by winemaker Rob Lloyd. You can explore their bold Cabernets, smooth Bordeaux–style blends, crisp whites, and rich Ports in their Tuscan-styled tasting room across the street from Redd Wood. Like many Napa tasting rooms, art takes just as much of the stage as the wines. At Jessup, this is taken a step further with their artist-in-residence program allowing artists to spend time in Yountville performing in their gallery space. Regularly scheduled events include an Art House Short Film Series featuring four award-winning shorts paired with a Jessup Cellars wine and Chef Mike C’s Wok-Popped Flavor-Infused Popcorn.

Rob Lloyd’s simple yet crucial wine-making cornerstone is sourcing particular grapes from where they grow best in the Valley. This requires an intimate knowledge of microclimates that can only come from years of walking vineyards during all seasons. Pinots, Chardonnay and Merlot grapes from Carneros Bay are a case in point. These cooler climate grapes benefit from ocean breezes which naturally slow maturation allowing proper ripening before they sugar up. “A longer hang time amply softens the skins before the Brix level gets too high,” said Lloyd. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel and Petit Verdot are sourced from “up valley” regions where it’s hotter and drier. The best part is that Jessup’s wines are richly concentrated and accessible when young, yet poised for the benefits of cellaring.

wineriesPhoto Credit: HALL Wines

Be sure to make the trek one town up on Route 29 to St. Helena’s HALL Wines. Run by Kathryn Walt Hall and her husband Craig, HALL’s distinctive Cabernets and Sauvignon Blancs are among the big tasting attractions here. But as impressive as those wines may be, their tasting room is a work of art in itself. Entering is like being admitted to a contemporary art museum, even the bottle labels are painted by local artists depicting distinctive characteristics of each varietal. Roughly half the grapes HALL uses come from their vineyards, the other half are sourced from over 130 certified-organic Napa vineyards. Rooted in a potent combination of hands-on and high-tech wine making here begins with handpicked grapes that are then sorted with a digital optical sorting machine outfitted with laser powered sensors to identify just the right grapes for predetermined flavor profiles.