Mar. 14th, 2013

Swirl, Sip and Savor: The Best Wine Tasting In Downtown Napa

The Meritage Hotel wraps around a large swimming pool/cabana/fi
Photo Courtesy of Andaz Napa
It’s no secret that the City of Napa has spruced itself up sufficiently to be a wine country destination in its own right. The main streets offer plenty of shops, art galleries, boutiques and tasting bars. The restaurant scene rivals that of its upcountry cousins in depth, breadth and price point. But what sets this city apart is its walkability and that is significant when it comes to imbibing. Downtown Napa offers 22 wine tasting rooms and over 75 restaurants, all within walking distance. Four more tasting rooms are slated to open by June 2013, which helps to address the safety concerning drinking and driving in the area. Napa is fast becoming the safest wine destination in the Valley. So put your walking shoes on and take a stroll on the wine side!
Photo Courtesy of Andaz Napa

Though typically small in size, wine bars and tasting rooms are full of character, and much like the pub culture across the pond, you will probably develop a few go-to favorites. They all offer a selection of Napa’s boutique wines as well as thoughtfully chosen global additions. From cult to garagiste, these wine establishments pride themselves in offering something for everyone’s palate and wallet. You can simply sip or go for the gusto with a glass.
Photo Courtesy of Andaz Napa

As food and wine are natural partners in pleasure, you will typically find some savory bites to enhance your experience. One of the best parts of the stroll is the chance encounters and great conversations that ensue over a sip of syrah or cab. Wine enthusiasts are notoriously curious, quirky and full of opinions on both wine and life. Enjoying the camaraderie as you swirl and sip is part of the culture, so take your time, leave your car keys in your hotel room and safely savor the moment.
Photo Courtesy of Carpe Diem Wine Bar

Downtown Wine Bars and Tasting Rooms

If you can’t make it to all of the 22 wine bars, here is your premier list: Make Carpe Diem (Second St, your first stop. You may not be a local but you will feel like one at this cozy wine bar restaurant that showcases Chef Scott Kendall’s take on classic comfort food. Join the lively crowd which includes the regulars from Napa’s wine industry. At the wine bar, flights, pours and drafts of boutique producers create a buzz from happy hour to late night. Pair your sips with bites of finely crafted food at the bar or move into the restaurant where savory morsels and mains enhance whatever you choose to drink. From truffle popcorn and crispy flatbreads to gourmet tacos and Chef Kendall’s signature quack and cheese, the creative menu is seasonally driven and downright delicious. Continue your tour with sips at these popular spots.

1. Back Room Wines – Dan Dawson and Back Room Wines are long time figures in the Napa wine scene. Dan was the original sommelier for French Laundry and his wine shop boasts one of the most diverse selections of wines from the region and beyond. (First & Main,

2. pureCru – The tasting room is operated by award-winning winemaker Mitch Cosentino. It also partners with Napa restaurant, Oenotri (which has been recognized by Food and Wine) to serve food during select hours and for private parties. (First St,

3. Ceja Vineyards – Subject of a 2012 documentary, Ceja vineyards is family-owned and offers a variety of award-winning Napa wines. The family also owns Bistro Sabor—a favorite restaurant of the locals, featuring flamingo dancing on Saturday evenings. (First St,
Photo Courtesy of Andaz Napa

4. Mason Cellars – One of the few remaining wine tasting rooms that do not charge for tastings. Mason Cellars let their wines speak for themselves! (First St,

5. Uncorked – Owned by Celeste Carducci and Bruce Ahnfeidt, Uncorked offers some of the best Napa reds in the region. Two complimentary tastings are offered upon arrival with a fee for flights or barrel tastings.(First Street,

6. Ca Momi – Located in Oxbow Market, Ca Momi offers some of the best Italian pizzas, pastries and Napa wine. Its wine list provides a range of varietals and price points. (First St,

7. John Anthony – Owned by John Anthony & Michele Truchard of Truchard family winemakers, John Anthony wines include some of Napa's best small production wines. John grew up in Carneros and has applied his family's history and experience to his own wine label. (Wexford Street,

The Napa Tourism Improvement District (“Do Napa”) also offers Culinary Crawls,–walking food and wine tours for visitors and locals throughout the year. The Downtown Napa Association sells a Wine Tasting Card for $25. The card provides tastings at 10 cents each to 12 downtown wine tasting rooms.

Where to Stay Around Napa

Andaz Napa

Stay at Andaz Napa for downtown convenience. Step off of First Street in Downtown Napa and step into the earth toned, wood hewn lounge of Andaz Napa where you will be greeted by a host who uses an iPad for check in. Enjoy your complimentary welcome beverage of espresso, tea or wine as you take in the local art and the laid back wine country scene. Stroll out to the terrace where rockers surround a fire pit and guests share their day’s adventures. If they get it right at this Hyatt property, you’ll come as a traveler and leave as a local. That’s the spirit of “Andaz,” which is a Hindi term for personal style.

Every aspect of the hotel is thoughtfully designed to enhance your sense of place. From the choice of building materials, including hardwood floors in every room, and the grape seed amenities by Lydia Mondavi, to the locally sourced food, wine and beverages, you will experience all that Andaz Napa has to offer. Besides a comfortable, sleekly styled room with complimentary Wi-Fi, snacks and beverages in the mini-bar and the congenial social gathering spaces inside and on the terraces, Andaz’s signature restaurant, Farmer’s Table is an apt extension of their philosophy.

Their menus list their producers of food and the chef highlights the seasonal offerings through her unique recipes. At breakfast, try the chicken sausage hash, caramelized onions and peppers, roasted potatoes, two fried eggs, crusty bread and fire charred tomato salsa. Dinner delights with seasonal items from the property’s garden including roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon croutons and balsamic glaze; white bean and bratwurst cassoulet with smoky tomato broth; and fennel pork sausage pasta with kale, butternut squash, red chili flake, anchovy, and parmesan. A dessert must is the almond and sweet corn doughnuts with peach jam and whipped cream. If you’re looking for downtown digs with an uptown vibe, choose Andaz Napa.
Photo Courtesy of Meritage Resort and Spa

The Meritage Resort and Spa

If you are longing for the vineyards and want to be minutes from the City of Napa, stay and play at The Meritage Resort and Spa. Personalize your wine country adventure by combining the best of a four-star resort with easy downtown shuttle access, allowing you to leave your keys behind. The spacious and comfortable Tuscan-inspired rooms boast views of the vineyards and come complete with all the expected amenities. The grounds surrounded by vineyards beckon with walking paths, a bocce court, fitness center, wine bar and spa. In addition, a pool with luxurious cabanas and fire pits, sports bar with billiards and bowling alley and fine dining venues offering something for every taste and pleasure.

And speaking of taste, the fine dining at Siena is a hidden gem. The California cuisine with touches of Tuscany and the Mediterranean tempts with succulent fare and palate-pleasing wine pairings to complement each item on the menu. Tantalizing appetizers such as seared scallops in a curry based sauce or cinnamon glazed Kobe beef short rib sliders are sure to make you salivate, especially after wine suggestions from Manager cum Chef, Ricardo Chavez who knows his pairings.

The pasta and risotto selections are spot-on renditions of the classics with creative twists. Entrées include a sea bass and scallop dish with lemongrass curry sauce that is the current favorite of repeat guests. Every morsel is soul-satisfyingly good with a price point to match. Work off those delicious calories by strolling in the vineyards or going to the fitness center where aerobics can be completed while facing the vines in an open air setting that is sure to inspire your hardiest efforts.

If that’s not enough, save some stamina to bowl your socks off at Crush, a sports bar which includes psychedelic bowling, billiards, TV screens and plenty of libations. Sooth your wine weary limbs at Spa Terra, the only underground wine cave spa in Napa. This luxurious subterranean environment provides a unique experience from the moment you enter. Womb-like enclaves surround you in warm, mellow tones and skilled masseuses soothe and revitalize all that aches. Whatever your desires, The Meritage Resort and Spa offers options to help you harvest your vineyard dreams.
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