Weekend Traveler

Rutherford: Safe in Napa Valley

Stay at Rancho Caymus Inn. Photo: Bo Links

After the tragic fires, it’s important that people continue to visit Napa Valley. Rutherford was spared in the recent disaster. Set almost in the middle of the valley between Napa and Calistoga, this compact place is filled with everything you need for a getaway.

In the late 1800s, wine was produced by the Rutherford family on just over 1,000 acres. That Rutherford parcel was part of a Mexican land grant dating back to the first part of the 19th Century. Today, the area boasts wineries, boutique inns, and authentic Mexican food.


In the late 1960s, the original land on which the Rancho Caymus Inn (part of the original Rutherford parcel) was built was purchased by Mary Tilden Morton. Tilden was a well-known artist and designer and the first female grape grower in the valley. One of her many projects in this part of Rutherford included adding what became the Rancho Caymus Inn (completed in 1985).

This luxury wine country retreat has been updated. The dramatic style of beams and oversized ornate wooden doors are showcased throughout and incorporate wood from a 19th century Ohio barn. The inn has drawn from American artisans for many of its decorative pieces.

The large rooms include a spacious bathroom, fireplace and seating area, private patio, and all the high-tech accessories and luxe amenities. The pool and hot tub are in the center of the inn for quiet and privacy. The friendly service is there when you need it. Breakfast is served in the guest lounge (see EAT below). (707-200-9300,


Our first wine tasting stop was minutes from the inn down Rutherford Road. Honig Winery is set back off the road, complete with comfortable tasting rooms, outside patio area, and an oversized golf cart to take you on an eco-tour of the vineyards. Passionate about sustainability, the implementation of this philosophy is evident in all aspects of the winery’s operation — from managing water use to cover crops and solar panels, to creating habitats for bees and their hives and various birds that protect the vines.

Taste Honig Wine. Photo: Bo Links

Originally focused solely on Sauvignon Blanc, in 1989 Honig expanded its winemaking to include Cabernet Sauvignon. Depending on which tasting you choose, sample some of these favorites: the 2105 Reserve Sauvignon Blanc from their Rutherford estate and the four vineyard-designated Cabernet Sauvignons — the 2013 Campbell, the 2013 Bartolucci, the 2012 Vyborny, and the 2012 Rafael Vineyards (all usually served as part of a food/wine pairing). They also make a late harvest Sauvignon Blanc. (800-929-2217,

Frog Leap’s Winery is an idyllic location to while away the afternoon. Farming organically as well as dry farming has always been a part of their focus. Frog Leap’s sizeable gardens produce year round.

Enjoy Frog’s Leap. Photo: Bo Links

Choose a tasting on the expansive back porch of the Vineyard House or out in the gardens — either way, you’ll have the chance to take in the vineyard scene as you try interesting wines. You can also choose a tour of the property.

We walked around the gardens drinking the 2016 La Grenouille Rouganté, then settled at high tables on the porch to taste some reds, including the 2015 Zinfandel, 2014 Merlot, and the 2014 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Rutherford. Cheese, crackers and jam (made from peaches grown on the property) was served with the wines. (707-963-4704,

Peju offers a variety of experiences incorporating wine and food as well as a tour of the winemaking facilities and tower, one of Napa’s tallest structures, complete with massive stained glass window, high ceilings, and numerous tastings rooms. The winery is certified organic.

The Wine and Culinary Exploration pairs small bites (like salmon tartare, grilled shrimp, and fig with blue cheese) with several wines. The food changes regularly, but wines currently poured include these 2014s: Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, Fifty/Fifty (Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend), and the Reserve Cabernet Franc. (800-446-7358,

The tasting room in the Peju tower. Photo: Bo Links


Find a hearty continental breakfast in the guest lounge of the Rancho Caymus Inn. (There is also outside seating.) Choose from fruit, yogurt, granola, cheese, and glorious pastries from Model Bakery (including their renowned English muffin for the breakfast sandwich) as well as eggs with applewood bacon. (707-200-9300,

Situated right across the street from the inn, La Luna has been an institution in the Valley for 40 years. This market and taqueria sells traditional Mexican ingredients and other goods as well as prepared food to go. Selecting from tacos, quesadillas, and more, we couldn’t resist a carnitos burrito with all the fixings, including rice, beans, and salsa. (707-963-3211,


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Patty Burness can be found on Twitter at @pattygb or reached by e-mail at [email protected]