The Best Day in Wine Country Ever

The Napa Valley of California has become a mecca for wine lovers around the world, and in the peak travel seasons, touring the epicenter of American wine production can be hectic and crowded. The best times of the year to tour the area are spring and fall, but whenever you plan to visit the Napa Valley, be sure you make reservations for wine tastings, tours, dinners and lodging ahead of time to get the utmost of enjoyment from your time in this wondrous place. To find out more about this region go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wine_Country_(California).

Start Your Day In Napa

When you are going to spend a day of utter indulgence in the world famous Napa Valley of California, you must start out on a full stomach. A hearty breakfast sets the stage for a day filled with sensual delight and there is nothing better than some down home cooking to get your day in wine country off to a proper start.

The ABCs of Breakfast

Located in Napa’s West End, the ABC in this case is the Alexis Baking Company – a place where you can start your day with gluten-free cornmeal hotcakes, or maybe some apple smoked chicken sausage and a locally produced cheese omelet, or go native and try the tart, but sweet, lemon ricotta pancakes doused in homemade blueberry sauce. Fresh squeezed California orange juice and a a cup of fine coffee make your morning at the ABC complete. The restaurant is located at 1517 West Third Street in Napa. For reservations, go to: www.alexisbakingcompany.com.

Make Your Day Historical

New visitors to the Napa Valley may be unaware that the area claims heritage to two distinct eras of wine production: wineries in production before Prohibition and those wineries that emerged after Prohibition. For wine historians, the pre-Prohibition era is particularly fascinating. The Napa Valley Wine Estate, known as Far Niente, dates back to 1885, and is a landmark winery set back on the Oakville Bench just north of Napa. Scottish sea captain Hamden McIntyre was the architect of this marvelous stone estate, and also designed the Christian Brothers and Inglenook Wineries in the area. Far Niente stands above a lush and robust landscape and a system of limestone caves - the crown jewel of Napa Valley estates. The Chardonnay and Cabernet wines produced here are extraordinary, but the tour makes the tasting a memorable experience. Go to the winery website at: www.farniente.com to make an appointment for a tour.

Opus One Is Number One

The world acclaimed Cabernet Sauvignon wines bottled under the Opus One label are born at this more contemporary Napa Valley estate just up Highway 29 from the Napa Valley Wine Estate. When the Baron Philippe Rothschild and Robert Mondavi families merged to create Opus One, a new age for exquisite wines was born. Guests are invited to make an appointment for wine tastings at $40 per person to sample the current release, and earlier vintages. The Opus One experience is intended to be a “serene and unhurried ambiance in which to enjoy the layered complexity of [the]wine.”

Visiting the Estate

Opus One also offers an afternoon estate tour at 1:30 pm or 2:30 pm daily. Guests are escorted through the winery and production areas, and concludes in the Grand Chai with a taste of the current vintage of Opus One. The $65 tours are limited to groups of 6 and are approximately 90 minutes in length.

To fully embrace the Opus One experience, a Double Vintage Tour and Tasting is the ultimate in intimate Opus One revelation. This tour starts in the Salon and continues with a personally escorted winery tour, then guests are invited to the Private Library for a formal seated tasting of two vintages of Opus One. This exclusive two hour tour starts at 10:30 AM and is $95 per person. Make tasting or tour reservations at: www.opusonewinery.com.

Hop Up The Road To Rutherford

After bathing in the opulence of Opus One, a visit to Frog’s Leap Winery is a journey to the other side of the serendipity scale. Built on the site of place called Frog Farm, their slogan "Time's Fun When You're Having Flies," sets the stage for one of the more unusual tours in the Napa Valley. While you take a leisurely stroll through the vineyards you can enjoy tasting the Chardonnay, Merlot, and Cabernet Sauvignon produced here as you go. Unlike tours where you earn your tasting after an hour tour, Frog's Leap garden tours are interactive. Appointments are required, so get in touch with the winery at their website: www.frogsleap.com.

Bottle Your Own Blend

The Conn Creek Winery was recognized as world's "Most Innovative Wine Tourism Experience" in 2011. At the Best Of Wine Tourism awards annual meeting in Christchurch, New Zealand, the original Mediterranean style winery was applauded for offering a unique barrel tasting experience. Participants taste barrel samples of Conn Creek Cabernet Sauvignon and other varietals from vineyards throughout the Napa Valley, then blend their own bottles to take home. The Barrel Blending Experience is offered at 10:30 AM and 2:00 PM every day except Wednesday for $95 per person, allowing visitors a chance to experience being a winemaker for a day. What could be a more fitting way to experience the wines of Napa Valley? Make your reservation at: www.conncreek.com.

A Fine Finish To Your Day

The massive Greystone building in St. Helena, designed by Hamden McIntyre and once home to the Christian Brothers, is an impressive setting for even more impressive food. The Culinary Institute of America now resides here offering gourmet foods crafted by budding world class culinary chefs. The Wine Spectator restaurant at the CIA has a spacious open kitchen so guests can watch chefs prepare delicious innovative offerings while sampling pairings from the abundance of fine wines handcrafted in Napa Valley. The restaurant is not open every day, so check the schedule and make reservations at: www.ciarestaurants.com.