In 1836, Yountville was part of a land grant that transferred territory from Mexico to George Yount. Yount, the first white settler in the Napa Valley (and first to plant grapes), originally named the town Sebastopol, even though another town of the same name existed nearby. It was renamed Yountville in his honor two years after he died in 1867.
Today, this small enclave is well known for restaurants, shops, art galleries, wineries, and its picturesque location. Just over an hour’s drive from San Francisco, Yountville is ideal for your next weekend getaway.
In an area less than two square miles, Yountville offers an interesting selection of places to stay. Most everything is within walking distance. Here’s what we tried:
Situated on a 23-acre estate, the Villagio Inn & Spa is a serene escape from the rigors of a 24/7 life. With an Italian influence, the inn’s two-story stucco buildings with red-tiled roofs are nestled in lush gardens and along pathways lined with fountains and flowing water. The large rooms are tastefully decorated and have fireplaces, views of the verdant grounds, private patios, and espresso machines. The separate double sinks and shower/whirlpool bath areas provide ample space. 707-944-8877, villagio.com
If your focus is environmental, then it’s Bardessono. This upscale boutique hotel maintains its LEED Platinum certification through its use of local materials, artisans and purveyors — materials are reclaimed, art is repurposed, spa and restaurant products are from organic or sustainable producers (including their own garden), and solar panels reduce energy reliance. Fashionable rooms offer sleek furnishings, private patios, gas fireplaces, and large bathrooms with room for spa tables and organic linens and robes. 707-264-6000, bardessono.com
Another option is the recently renamed North Block. The interior courtyard, with plantings, fountain, relaxed seating, and fireplace, is surrounded by the stone architecture and arched windows of the hotel. The comfortable rooms boast huge bathrooms, luxe furnishings and linens, high-tech gadgets, and connections; some have their own fireplace. 707-944-8080, northblockhotel.com
Within with its small area, Yountville has several walking tours. Depending upon your interest, try the Historical Tour or the unique Art Walk with all its sculptures, many of which are for sale. The Napa Valley Museum (napavalleymuseum.org) offers a different look at the evolution of the valley.
We started wine tasting just south of the Yountville AVA at Silenus Vintners in the Oak Knoll AVA. Find a unique collection of artisan winemakers who both make their wine onsite and showcase it in the contemporary tasting room. Favorites included the 2010 Poe Chardonnay, the 2007 Highlands Napa Valley Zinfandel and the 2007 Matthiasson red wine blend. 707-299-3930, silenusvintners.com
No trip to Yountville is complete without a visit to Domaine Chandon. Known for its sparkling wines, the modern tasting room and casual terrace are the perfect spots to sip bubbles. Hard to choose, but we kept going back to the Reserve Brut, the Blanc de Noirs and the Étoile Brut. Pair your favorites with something from the tasting lounge menu (see below in Dine). 888-242-6366, www.domainechandon.com
In the hills across town, Goosecross has been making wine since 1985. The friendly environment in the tasting room (the barrel cellar) and the knockout views make for a fun visit. We especially liked the 2009 Estate Chardonnay and the 2009 Cabernet Franc. Goosecross has a creative program to raise money through wine sales for nonprofit organizations. 800-276-9210, www.goosecross.com
Back downtown we visited Cornerstone Cellars. Open and airy, it’s a wonderful place to people watch and taste wine. From their two labels, don’t miss the 2008 Cornerstone Cellars Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2009 Stepping Stone Cabernet Franc. 707-945-0388, www.cornerstonecellars.com
When it’s time to unwind, find heated swimming pools at the Villagio (with private cabanas) and Bardessono. And if it’s luxurious treatments you’re after, both have their own spa, as does the North Block.
Even though Washington Street is lined with art galleries, restaurants, boutiques, and wineries, many shops are concentrated in the V Marketplace. In 1870, it was the Groezinger winery, barrel room and distillery built by Gottleib Groezinger, who purchased 20 acres from George Yount. Now discover home accessories, jewelry, photography, glasswork, chocolates, restaurants, and wineries. 707-944-2451, www.vmarketplace.com
Don’t forget, wineries hope you’ll buy wine when you visit, so don’t disappoint.
Everyone knows the restaurant scene in Yountville is intense. During this visit, we chose casual and easy and tasted some scrumptious food.
It was sunny and warm at The Tasting Lounge at Domaine Chandon, so we headed straight for the terrace to indulge in bubbles with appetizers from Étoile, the Michelin-starred restaurant. We started with oysters and a yuzu mignonette. Our favorite sparkling wines are listed above in Play, but if you can’t decide, the menu suggests pairings that also include still wines. The Scottish salmon (smoked and rillette) was served with a caper-shallot tapenade and fennel slaw. The chef’s selection of charcuterie included duck terrine and rabbit roulade, among others, accompanied by pickled vegetables.
Dinner at Redd Wood is a delicious experience. Choose a cozy seat inside by the windows or outside on the patio. In either spot, you’ll appreciate the clean flavors of the shaved vegetable salad and the ricotta and white corn pizza. The plum agrodolce served on the quail and creamy polenta dish is outstanding. Don’t let the decadence of the chocolate caramel tart with sea salt scare you — it’s a short walk to the hotel. 707-299-5030, www.redd-wood.com
Of the three hotels, only Villagio includes breakfast — and it’s amazing. Sip a mimosa as you choose from the hearty buffet of hot entrées, cereals, fruits, juices, pastries, and more. There’s even a separate omelet station. When you first arrive at the hotel, find a complimentary bottle of wine. And in the afternoon, there’s tea and coffee with sweet and savory options in the lobby.