A Perfect Day
in the Heart of Napa Valley

Paul Franson

A balloon ride. There’s no better way to appreciate the valley from above, especially from the quiet of a balloon early in the morning. A number of companies offer similar trips, all starting mid-Valley, then drifting slowly south. You enjoy a sparkling wine breakfast afterward.


A visit to Castello di Amorosa. Daryl Sattui's new "old" Tuscan-style castle is remarkably authentic, an amazing visit and great fun. The wine is great, too.


Tasting wine at Frank Family Vineyards. There are more than a hundred places to taste wine in Napa Valley, but none is more fun than Frank Family Vineyards, the old Kornell Larkmead Cellars. Start with sparkling wine, and then move to the ripe wines.


A picnic at Rutherford Hill Winery. High above the valley, you can enjoy a picnic with one of the  winery’s excellent wines. But you have to pay these days.


A wasted afternoon on the patio at Tra Vigne. Buy a $15 rosé or a $250 cult classic and sit under an umbrella, imagining you’re in Italy. 


A glass of sparkling wine on the deck at Auberge du Soleil. Even if you’ve seen the view from Rutherford Hill above, the deck at sunset gives a completely new view of the Valley. Prices are reasonable at the bar for the setting, too.


Dinner at Bottega. Deciding where to eat in Napa Valley is tough; there are too many great choices. Michael Chiarello's Bottega offers superb California-infleuenced southern Italian foodin a great atmosphere.


A suite at Napa River Inn. The new inn in an old grain mill offers luxury right on the Napa River in the heart of the new Napa and within walking distance of restaurants, wine bars and entertainment.


Paul Franson writes about wine, food and travel from Napa Valley.


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