NAPA VALLEY My Do’s & Don’ts

I’m off up to my parents’ house in Napa, and couldn’t be happier for the break! We don’t get up there often enough, but when we do, my dad (who works in the wine industry) always makes sure we have a good time. A few simple things I’ve learned through the years that I thought I’d share…

DON’T visit more than 3-4 wineries a day.
People seem to want to cram in as much as possible, but it’s just not as much fun if you’re pissed drunk or passed out.

DO visit smaller wineries and those off the main hwy.
There are two main roads that go from the bottom of the valley (Napa) to the top (Calistoga). Hwy 29 to the west is the most popular, while the Silverado trail to the east is off the beaten path — not as much traffic and a picturesque 45-minute drive without stops. Also meander across the valley on the smaller roads that connect the two. Try: Taste of OxbowLuna, Reynold’s Family WineryRegusciCliff LedeMumm, Duckhorn and Paraduxx, to name a few.

DO schedule at least one tasting and/or tour.
I’ve been lucky that my dad always takes care of this for us, and we’ve had fantastic tours and tastings at Jarvis (all underground), Castello di Amorosa (Tuscan castle recreation), Nickel & Nickel (single vineyard wines), Elizabeth Spencer (a boutique winery and a real find), and Chateau Montelena (where I had my wedding reception — it’s famous and the grounds are really beautiful), amongst others.

DON’T miss the Napa outlets.
I find the best deals at the Barney’s, Coach and J.Crew outlets! Worth a trip.

DO check out the renovated downtown Napa.
They’ve put a ton of money into revamping the River Walk, complete with new restaurants and a gourmet marketplace at Oxbow. Yountville, Saint Helena and Calistoga are also very walkable and very cute.

DON’T feel like you have to only go to the “top” restaurants.
Honestly, I’ve never had a bad meal there, and in my experience, the food in Napa Valley beats New York cuisine by far! A few faves: Zuzu, Gott’s RoadsideKitchen Door, BarBers QBistro Don Giovanni, Bistro Jeanty, Hurley’sBrix, TerraGreystone and All Seasons Cafe (our wedding caterer).


Monday I’ll be sharing something I’m excited and honored about, to get this holiday season started! Until then, some wine humor for the week:

Yes, they really do talk like this. (letterpress coasters, $11)

For those in the states, have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday!

Erika Brechtel

Erika Brechtel

Creative Director

Desiring an online space to explore well-rounded, inspired content in all topics she loves most, Erika created 'The E List' (formerly the Small Shop blog) in 2010. When not enjoying an “occasional" glass of wine and wanderlusting for even warmer climates, Erika can be found sharing laughs with friends and family, and trying her very best to keep up with her 6-year old daughter (yet failing miserably).

  1. Loved this post Erika! Thanksgiving in Napa sounds just dreamy. Love, love, love it there and all these insider tips. I agree- my favorite memories of Napa always go back to some of the smaller wineries. I just put a few more on my bucket list. Cheers!

  2. Seriously great tips! I was there last year for work, and one of my favorite memories was heading to The Model Bakery for an English muffin sandwich and walking back to my hotel (the AVIA), munching on my sandwich with an umbrella in the other hand. I got a lot of strange looks from locals heading to work during rush hour, but it was nice to hang out alone. I would love to go back! I need to coerce my parents into retiring there.

  3. You are the luckiest girl ever having parents living in Napa!! How wonderful! I hope your vacation is perfect. These are great tips. I went once and loved it. We took a tour of the Seghesio Winery. Can’t wait for your good news! Happy Thanksgiving!! xx

  4. Have a wonderful time in Napa! Thank you for these tips, I’ll have to bookmark them. I’ve never been to Napa, but I’m hoping to go sometime soon. It looks like the most beautiful and relaxing vacation spot!

  5. i am loving the napa dos and don’ts! i really want to visit napa one day in the near future, so i will definitely be bookmarking this! have a wonderful thanksgiving 🙂 xx

  6. Lovely post Erika! We recentlyhad a weekend getaway in Philo and went to a cooking school for the weekend. It was amazing, I can’t recommend it enough. On the way there we visited a handful of wineries but Schramsberg Vineyards was the standout! We had a tour/tasting and we just loved it.

  7. We are returning back to Napa this fall for a big birthday…. Can’t wait and your information is going to be very helpful….FYI – On our first trip we used My Napa Valley Driver to get from vineyard to vineyard – great experience!