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The Perfect South Napa Day Trip

Trying to cover Napa in a day would test even the greatest strategic minds—so we're breaking it up into bite-size chunks.



Napa Valley is about 30 miles long, five miles across, and cross-hatched with dirt roads, winding mountain drives, and meandering lanes. Without a solid plan you could easily spend most of your day in the car and miss all the best spots. Fear not! In this series of stories, we are separating Napa Valley into three easy-to-decipher areas (north, middle, and south) so that you reduce your drive time. In this trip, we focus on the south of the valley, the closest part to San Francisco, known for its cool climate and for the stark contrast between downtown and farmland.


Your first stop is Domaine Carneros in Carneros, because what better way to start the day than with bubbles at a place looks like a French palace? Leaders in environmentally friendly farming, the winery offers six outstanding sparklers. Try the Estate Brut Cuvée for $35 or go big with Le Rêve for $115. Reservations are required, so book in advance for table service, which starts at $30 per person. Or choose one of their special tastings, which range from $85 per person for a food pairing to $500 for a private balcony tasting.

Next, make reservations at Truchard Vineyards on Old Sonoma Road in Napa, for a private tasting and tour of the vineyard gazebo and caves ($40). A family that has long been farming in Napa Valley, the Truchards are as kind as they are good at making wines. They have quite a few wines to try, but make sure not to miss the merlot ($35), which features flavors of blueberry, black cherry, and cedar; the complex and jammy syrah ($30); and the limited-production petit verdot ($38).


Head into downtown Napa for lunch at Tarla Mediterranean Grill. If you want a beer and pub food go to Palisades or, for sushi, Eiko’s. Other places to consider are Angele or Celadon for French food or Norman Rose for a burger or salad.

A bit sluggish after lunch? Hop over to Molinari Café for the best caffeinated beverages in town (including wine-infused coffee!). If you’re into espresso, ask for the “Ian.”


After lunch, you have two choices: Coombsville or Carneros.

Coombsville: The newest of Napa’s AVAs (American Viticultural Areas), Coombsville has just as much history as anywhere else in the valley. Porter makes big reds. The historical Farella offers truly complex wines. Shadybrook is less well known and worth checking out. If you want to try out a newcomer, try Covert or Italics, which happen to be close by each other.

Carneros: Conveniently on the way back to San Francisco, the rolling hills, vineyards, and farms of Carneros are known best for pinot noir and chardonnay. Should you choose this route, head to Etude for a sample of this winery's seven different pinot noirs. At the recently remodeled Cuvaison, try the estate chardonnay ($26), estate pinot noir ($42), or syrah ($40). Like Cuvaison, Artesa has a fantastic patio and also features pinot noir and chardonnay. Make sure you try the estate pinot ($45).


Downtown Napa has some stellar places to eat, but it can be tough to get last-minute reservations, so try to book in advance. You can’t miss with beloved staples like Bistro Don Giovanni (Italian) Celadon (steak and seafood), Angèle (French), and Morimoto (sushi). But you may want to go to one of the hot new spots in town like Gran Eléctrica (creative Mexican plus awesome tequila and mezcal cocktails) or the rooftop bar and restaurant at the Archer Hotel (views and eclectic Charlie Palmer dishes).


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