Napa 102: First Timer's Silverado Trail | Local Wally's Napa Tourist Guide
Discover a quieter side of Napa on the Silverado Trail. Day 2 agenda for first timers to Napa uncovers the BEST wineries, restaurants, and picnic spots. Local Wally's Napa Tourist Guide.
Napa 102: Tasting on the Silverado Trail
Discover the Lesser Known Wineries
In a way the Silverado Trail, once a wagon trail for the silver mines, is like how all of Napa used to be. The crowds are fewer, the traffic more manageable, it's a leisurely drive in the country dotted with quaint wineries and friendly tasting rooms. Oh sure, there are a handful of gargantuan wineries but you'll mainly find smaller, more intimate experiences with a family run feel to the wineries.
Because there are no restaurants along the way you'll also want to pack a picnic lunch before you go. But that's just fine with me as a Napa picnic is just perfect for a laid back day in wine country - and do I have the perfect spot for you!
Like the big names on Highway 29, most of these wineries offer no coupons or discounts but no worries, in the next section is a Napa on a Budget agenda. Boy, I think of everything!
Where Can I Find Discount Napa Wine Tasting Coupons?
Every week I scour the web for free deals and put all of the legit offers on my Napa on a Budget coupon page. I was the very first Napa site to put every free deal on one page with no gimmicks or tricks and today remain the very best source for discount deals in Napa. I also do something no one else does - I'll build you a free custom agenda based on your wine tastes and experience featuring wineries that offer discounts and two for one tastings. You'll save money and have a great Napa experience! Email me for more info.
Stop 1: Oxbow Market
Located in downtown Napa, the Oxbow Market is a gourmet food emporium with stall after stall of good eats. During the day the crowds pack in for options such as Hog Island Oysters and Gott's Roadside but in the morning the place to be is The Model Bakery. It opens at 7:30AM and offers breakfast items - their English Muffins are legendary so make sure you add one on your order. Picnic tables outside, Stumptown coffee, good morning to you!
The Model Bakery also has picnic lunch items "to go" or check out The Fatted Calf, a high end deli where you'll find gourmet smoked or cured meats (ask for the picnic platter) that will go great with a baguette. On Tuesdays and Saturdays there is also the Napa Farmers Market across the street, a great place to pick up some fresh fruit to go with your picnic.
Stop 2: Frog's Leap
10:30: Tour an Old Frog Farm
You'll feel like a kid on a field trip when you visit Frog's Leap, once a frog farm for San Francisco diners who couldn't get enough of those delectable frog legs. The whimsical history carries through to their tour, winding you around the farm where you'll be sipping wine along the way as you learn a bit about the history and how their wines are made.
Best yet, the price for the tour is included with your tasting fee but book early as the Frog's Leap tour is very popular and limited to only 10 people, twice a day (10:30 and 2:30).
Those looking to maximize their time can opt for the garden or cellar tasting, a casual tasting experience in a relaxed setting.
Stop 3: Rombauer Vineyards
12:30: Drive North for a Picnic in a Secluded Forest
Take a 7 mile scenic drive north to our next stop, Rombauer Vineyards. This is what the Silverado Trail is all about, beautiful scenery and an open road lined with vineyards and dotted with wineries. Tucked on a hillside among soaring pine trees, Rombauer might be one of the best settings in Napa Valley.
Of course, Rombauer Vineyards just about invented the "buttery" chardonnay thing and no one does it better. Their reds are equally nice and priced well. Picnic tables are scattered throughout their gardens making it one of Napa's best and little known picnic spots. While others on Highway 29 are fighting for a piece of lawn like it was a Woodstock concert you'll be picnicking in a peaceful quiet forest.
Short on Time?
I totally understand. Wine Tasting and time tables are often at odds with each other with one glass of wine leading to another. So if you're running late after Frog's Leap or just don't want to picnic, head instead to Auberge du Soleil, one of Napa's finest resorts and restaurants, where you can grab a terrific burger or sandwich in the bar and bistro. Great view, great setting, so nice that you might stay here all afternoon. But don't! There are plenty more great wine tasting stops planned for your day.
Stop 4: Mumm Napa
2:00: Sip Some Champagne on the Patio
Mumm Napa is less of a educational tasting experience and more of a kick back champagne sipping one and that's fine with me. Enjoy a flight of different sparkling wines in their modern tasting room or better yet head outside to the patio for views of the vineyards. On a busy day it's a worthwhile splurge to move to their Oak Terrace where comfy chairs underneath a canopy of oak trees awaits. Tours at 10am, 11am, 1pm and 3pm, no reservations required, additional fee.
Before you go get one more glass and explore their free photography exhibit featuring black and white prints by great artists such as Ansel Adams or other rotating photographers. Oh how Audrey Hepburn you look sipping champagne as you stroll through the art gallery.
Stop 5: Regusci
3:30: Take a Side Trip to Tuscany
Regusci Winery doesn't hit too many tourists' radar which is why it's such a great stop. Fans of big reds will swear their love to Regusci as will romantics who won't be able to resist the appeal of this winery tucked away on the hillside like a Tuscany chateau. Take the drive up the dusty road past the mature olive trees and be prepared to be swept away.
The impressive stone building dates back to the 1800's, one of the original wineries in Napa. It managed to stay afloat during prohibition becoming a part time dairy and part time wine bootlegger, and in 1932 was sold to the Regusci family who did a loving restoration. You'll love everything about Regucsi, from the corgi sleeping in the sun to the guy in the kilt serving wine.
Stop 6: Yountville
5:00: Can You Squeeze in One More Tasting?
Some of the most fun Napa wine tasting experiences are found in small boutique wineries and there are plenty to choose from in Yountville. For a unique tasting experience head to Ma(i)sonry Napa Valley, a beautiful building that's part wine tasting and part art gallery. Open until 5:30, it's a worthy way to end your day of wine tasting along the Silverado Trail.
Or head to Cornerstone or Jessup Cellars, two wineries that are not only open until 6 but offer two for one tastings if you have a Wine Pass. If time has gotten the best of you then go to Silver Trident (Wine Pass deal), Priest Ranch or Girard Winery, tasting rooms open until 7. And don't forget to stop by the front of The French Laundry to take a selfie in front of their sign. How impressed your friends will be.
Stop 8: Dinner Options
Dine in Yountville
Why drive elsewhere when you are surrounded by great restaurants in Yountville? Some of my favorites are:
Redd Wood: Casual gourmet pizza in a rustic Napa setting, close to Jessup Cellars, Girard and Ma(i)sonry. Reasonble.
Bistro Jeanty: Wonderful French bistro, Michelin star dining, cozy dining room, moderate prices.
Bouchon: Thomas Keller's famous restaurant, French cuisine, lively, a celebration. Moderate - Expensive
Bottega: FoodTV chef and Napa local Michael Chiarello cooks up Italian cuisine in a comfortable rustic setting. Moderate
For more dining ideas to go my complete dining guide.