The Best of Napa Valley

LDV in Napa: Our Stay at Auberge du Soleil | Luxury Travel | Napa Valley | California

{The Spectacular View from the Restaurant at Auberge du Soleil}

Yesterday, I shared a recap of our recent stay at the marvelous Auberge du Soleil in Napa Valley. As I mentioned in that post, the concierge there crafted a completely customized itinerary for us and made all of our dinner reservations and winery and spa appointments. Today, I’ll share a bit more on some old favorites along with some new ones that we discovered on this trip. It was such a lovely luxury to have someone so well-connected and with so much insight on Napa take the reigns and plan activities that were tailored to our tastes and preferences. The result was nothing short of perfection as we loved every minute– along with each sip and bite!


The Best of Napa Valley | La Dolce Vita |

{Fabian and I at Alpha Omega}

We left our itinerary completely open on the afternoon of our arrival and it worked out that our dear friends, Jeni and Robbie came down from Sacramento to spend the day with us. We had lunch, visited Alpha Omega which is a favorite winery of ours, then had drinks on the terrace at Auberge du Soleil. We love Alpha Omega for several reasons– the striking architecture, beautiful grounds overlooking the St. Helena Highway and Mayacamas Mountains, and the fact that you can pop in without an appointment, which made it perfect for us that day. We’ve returned to Alpha Omega on our last three visits to Napa and always purchase wine to have shipped home because it’s so good. Alpha Omega is fantastic for large groups and sitting outside overlooking their reflection pool and vineyards is a must. Be sure to try their Proprietary Red Blend which is excellent.

The Best of Napa Valley | La Dolce Vita |

{Catching up with our Dear Friends at Alpha Omega}

Auberge du Soleil Bar

{The Bistro & Bar at Auberge du Soleil}

With over 1,500 wines on its wine list, the Auberge du Soleil boasts the most comprehensive wine program in the Napa Valley. As guests of the Auberge du Soleil, we had the distinct pleasure of experiencing a very rare treat– a personal wine tasting lead by Wine Director, Kris Margerum. Everyone in the wine industry knows who Kris is because he has the most impressive knowledge of the region’s wines and holds the keys to the most sought-after wine list in Napa. Our tasting was based on the various Napa Valley AVAs, or American Viticultural Areas, such as Rutherford, Oakville, and St. Helena and the subtle differences in taste and color between them.  We had such a great time and learned so much during our tasting with Kris in the Bar at the Auberge du Soleil.

The Best of Napa Valley | La Dolce Vita |

One of the new wineries we visited on this trip was Arkenstone high atop Howell Mountain in St. Helena. The drive up the mountain is worth the trip alone! Even better, the building is beautiful, the wines are wonderful, and we had the loveliest tasting and visit with the mother and son who own and run the winery. We were thoroughly impressed to visit such a stunning winery that is completely family owned and does not sell through retail at all.


The next winery we visited was Vineyard 29, one of the most high-tech wineries in the Napa Valley which counts the legendary Heidi Barrett and Phillipe Melka as its top-notch winemakers. We were hosted in the lovely cellar inside the wine caves by Austin Gallion, the winery’s Director of Hospitality. Austin also happens to be a trained chef, so we were treated to a delicious food pairing. This particular winery is not open to the public and does not sell through retail either. We were fortunate to have a tasting because Auberge du Soleil arranged it for us. If you can manage to visit, you absolutely should. Their wines are spectacular and unlike anything else I’ve ever had– robust, yet completely smooth. Their spectacular Estate Sauvignon Blanc is my favorite wine of all right now. Believe me when I say it will blow you away!

The Best of Napa Valley | La Dolce Vita |

The most impressive winery we have ever visited is Kenzo Estate, which was also arranged for us by Auberge du Soleil. The concierge at the hotel, Yahell Peralta, knew that I am a huge admirer of architect, Howard Backen’s work, so she made sure that we would be visiting a few places that he had designed. Kenzo Estate is stunningly beautiful. It is owned by one of the wealthiest entrepreneurs in Japan and spans 4,000 massive acres. Just imagining the property value in this part of California is enough to make one’s head spin! The estate is located high on Mount George in a part of Napa we had never visited before. It is near Yountville, for reference. The grounds, from the perfectly manicured vineyard, to the private lake, and bird sanctuary are extraordinary. By the way, the wines are exceptional as well! In fact, I am awaiting my shipment to arrive as we speak. The winemaker, Heidi Barrett is now at Kenzo full time. She is essentially the Queen of Napa Valley and is married to Bo Barrett of Chateau Montelena fame. Have you seen the movie, Bottle Shock? He was part of the team that made the world take notice of Napa Valley for the first time.

The Best of Napa Valley | La Dolce Vita |

Evidently, if you walked for six hours over the mountain in the distance, you would still be on the grounds of the Kenzo property.


The Best of Napa Valley | La Dolce Vita |

Archetype is the most charming restaurant, right in the heart of St. Helena. The restaurant was designed and is owned by Howard Backen and is managed by the Auberge Resorts group. Naturally, it is completely chic and features incredible food and service. The space is just gorgeous, which is why I have so many photos to share. It looks like the set of a Nancy Meyers movie and I always secretly hope that Ina Garten will walk in because she certainly belongs in this beautiful setting.

The Best of Napa Valley | La Dolce Vita |

Are you familiar with Sand Dabs? They are fish from Half Moon Bay and taste like a cross between shrimp and lobster. Archetype is famous for them and they are so delicious! I’m so glad I tried something that is only available in Northern California. We also had the most delicious salad of baby lettuces, beets, and avocado toast. The produce in Northern California is the best there is. I think at one point, I exclaimed “Mmm! This lettuce!”. Who gets excited about lettuce? I do, but only in California. My husband had a reuben that he raved about and the manager sent us an order of the Tater Tots which were a fun treat!


The Best of Napa Valley | La Dolce Vita |

The Best of Napa Valley | La Dolce Vita |

The Best of Napa Valley | La Dolce Vita |

The Best of Napa Valley | La Dolce Vita |

{I could move right in. Archetype is a must for lunch or brunch!}

The Best of Napa Valley | La Dolce Vita |

Farmstead is another favorite destination for us in Napa. It is the restaurant at Long Meadow Ranch which is a completely sustainable farm, vineyard, and winery. Their model is completely farm to table. It is so fun to see things come from circle, from tasting organic strawberries out of the ground to seeing them on your plate. On our last trip to Napa in November, we did a very cool wine tasting at Long Meadow Ranch during which we visited their Rutherford Estate, 650-acre Mayacamas Mountain Estate, and organic farm. It was one of my favorite Napa experiences, which I would highly recommend. The grounds are simply beautiful and Farmstead itself is housed in a very cool, modern farmhouse-style building.

The Best of Napa Valley | La Dolce Vita |

The food is what I would describe as California Comfort Food. The burger at Farmstead is probably my favorite I’ve ever had, just don’t tell my dad. I seriously long for it sometimes. If you love a good burger, you simply must try the one at Farmstead. You can thank me later.

The Best of Napa Valley | La Dolce Vita |

Another of our favorite restaurants in Napa Valley is Redd. With the exception of one trip, I have eaten at Chef Richard Reddington’s restaurant on every visit to Napa. The dining room is modern and hip and the food is always beautifully executed and absolutely delicious. We usually start with the Yellowfin Tuna Tartare and the Lobster Risotto, both of which are out of this world. On this visit, Fabian ordered a halibut special atop the most beautiful carrot puree, while I ordered the Caramelized Diver Scallops. I always recommend Redd when anyone asks for Napa suggestions. It never disappoints.

The Best of Napa Valley | La Dolce Vita |

On the actual evening of our anniversary, July 10th, we had dinner at the spectacular Restaurant at Auberge du Soleil. Chef Robert Curry’s menu draws upon the regional flavors of the Napa Valley and executes fine cuisine with a Mediterranean accent. To start, I had the Sweet White Corn Soup with Maine Rock Crab. It was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever had. It was like summer in a bowl. For my second course I had the English Pea Risotto with Gulf Shrimp, which was delicate and prepared to perfection. For my main course, I opted for the Prime Beef Pave, which was also delicious. Finally, I capped it off with the scrumptous Garden Mint Ice Cream dessert. Throughout the meal, we enjoyed the most perfect wine pairing and enjoyed the incredible views as the sun set over the Napa Valley.

The Best of Napa Valley | La Dolce Vita | www.ladolcevitablog.comIsn’t the view from the terrace at Auberge du Soleil amazing? We were lucky enough to enjoy this everyday at breakfast and again on our anniversary dinner.

The Best of Napa Valley | La Dolce Vita |

Finally, on our last night, we had dinner at Press in St. Helena, which was also designed by Howard Backen. I love this restaurant as much for the architecture as I do for the food. By the way, they have the delicious Vineyard 29 wine I mentioned earlier on the list here! Press is famous for its steaks, so knowing that I was in for a heavy dinner, I opted for lighter meals earlier that day. This is another example of a restaurant that serves the finest quality meat and produce, prepared to perfection.

The Best of Napa Valley | La Dolce Vita |

We usually sit in the main dining room at Press, but they also have a great bar and patio.


The Best of Napa Valley | La Dolce Vita |

{One of my Favorite Shops in St. Helena, Acres Home & Garden}

We didn’t have a chance to do very much shopping on this trip, but St. Helena’s charming Main Street, whose buildings date back to the 1800s, is usually our favorite destination. Everything is privately owned and the town is so distinctively charming. A few of my favorite places to shop are Acres Home & Garden, Napa Valley Vintage Home, Pennyweight, Flats, and Pearl Wonderful Clothing. Jan de Luz and the Olive Oil shops are also a must, as is a visit to Erin Martin‘s cool showroom. There are plenty of art galleries and jewelry stores, along with some favorite restaurants and bakeries including Cook, Giugni’s (ask for the Giugni Juice), and Model Bakery with its out-of-this-world English Muffins.

I hope I haven’t overloaded you with information and have instead inspired you to experience Napa Valley. It truly is my favorite place and holds such a special spot in my heart. Everyone in the Napa Valley is so passionate about what they do, whether it is winemaking, cooking, or curating a lovely shop. Being around that kind of love and passion for one’s craft is energizing and inspiring. If you search for “Napa Valley” on La Dolce Vita, you’ll find plenty of information and recommendations. If you’re planning an upcoming trip and have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask because I am passionate about Napa.

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And don’t forget– in honor of another anniversary– La Dolce Vita’s 8th since I started the blog in 2007, Auberge du Soleil is offering a very special treat to LDV readers!

Enjoy a $250 resort credit to enjoy during your stay at Auberge du Soleil in August or September of this year. The credit is applicable towards dining, spa treatments, merchandise at the boutique, or anything at this incredible property.

Offer is valid for stays of two nights or more, Sundays through Thursdays in August and September 2015. Holiday weekend excluded. Valid for NEW reservations only. To book, guests should call (800) 348-5406 and use booking code PALOMA when making their reservation.


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Tell Me What You Think! leave a comment...

  1. Loved your recap! We were there a couple of weeks ago and loved Archatype and Farmstead/LMR (did a chef’s table). Kenzo and Press were on our list, but we ran out of time. Sad we missed them. So many great suggestions for our next trip!

  2. Which restaurant out of these would you recommend for a 40th birthday. Redd vs Auberge patio vs Farmstead?



    1. Hi Tim,

      That’s a tough question, only because all three restaurants are wonderful. Seeing as how a 40th birthday is a very special occasion, I would say my first choice would be Auberge du Soleil. It is more “fine dining” than the other two, but not at all stuffy. The food is incredible and the views are incomparable. Redd is great, too. The food is fabulous and the dining room is more modern in design. It would be good for a big group. Farmstead is delicious and a must on any trip to Napa, but I would save it for lunch. It’s definitely very casual and not the place I’d recommend for a more formal, adult birthday celebration. Auberge has my vote because it would make for a most memorable evening!


  3. I can’t wait to put some of your recommendations to work! I am in the process of planning our 10th anniversary trip here for next May, and I am thinking we have to stay at Auberge!