The Rich Flavors of Yountville

Shafer Vineyards offers private tastings for 10 people or less twice daily appointment only.

The small Napa Valley town offers world-class palate pleasures

By Sarah Lunsford

Napa Valley, with its rolling hillsides, waves of vineyards, and world-renowned wines, provides a window into both the historic and the contemporary. Each of the handful of small towns in the valley has a unique flavor, much like the area wines themselves.

One of those towns is Yountville, known for its multitude of culinary offerings, historic shopping, and its fruit of the vine. In 1836, just before the California Gold Rush, George Yount became the first settler in the area to plant grapevines. In 1850, as people streamed into the state looking for gold, Yount drew the boundaries of the town that would become Yountville.

When visiting the area, you can’t help but be taken in by its beauty, but seeing it from the air gives you a totally different perspective. Taking to the air in a hot air balloon is an extraordinary experience, and Yountville’s Napa Valley Aloft will give you a bird’s eye view of the picturesque valley, including vineyards, wineries, and nearby golf courses.

Just south of town, you’ll find outstanding 18-hole, par 72 courses. The Silverado Resort and Spa is home to two courses, including the North, which hosts a PGA Tour event in October. While not open to the public, guests of the resort can play Silverado. Not far away, the Chardonnay Golf Club is a semi-private course that will take you through 150-acres of Chardonnay vineyards and wildlife preserves. If you’re in the mood for a quick nine holes, the Vintner’s Golf Club in Yountville is a par 34 course designed by Casey O’Callaghan.

Just past the historic and private Napa Valley Country Club, cutting-edge Palmaz Vineyards is located on property that has a long history with wine. The Palmaz family not only replanted vineyards above ground, but also carved an 18-story gravity flow winemaking system into the underground rock. Visitors can tour and taste at Palmaz by appointment, providing the opportunity to see the winery’s underground operations.

Among its many culinary choices, Yountville has two Michelin starred restaurants. The one star Michelin rated Bouchon Bistro serves up traditional French bistro fare, along with a wine list that includes their own Vin De Carafe, which are wines sourced from local winemakers. Yountville is also home to Chef Thomas Keller’s famed restaurant, The French Laundry, which has three Michelin stars and has been named “Best Restaurant in the World” by Restaurant Magazine on two occasions. Housed in a building listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The French Laundry gives you two tastings menus created daily.

At the historic V Marketplace, you can enjoy the best of today alongside a taste of history on the 23-acre estate that’s also on the National Register of Historic Places. Founded in 1870, it was once one of the largest operating wineries in California. The Tuscan-inspired Villagio Inn and Spa is part of the historic estate that gives you ample opportunity to relax and unwind. Just a few steps away from the Villagio, celebrity chef Michael Chiarello’s Bottega is a farm-to-table Italian restaurant that uses the best of the rich agriculture the Napa region has to offer.

Home to the cutting edge in sustainability, Yountville’s Bardessono Hotel is one of the top 10 green hotels in the country. It’s the only LEED Platinum certified hotel in California, achieving this distinction by meeting sustainability in building criteria. It includes an all-green spa and farm-to-table restaurant, Lucy, as well as a rooftop pool where you can enjoy the countryside view.

Enjoying the outdoors is a must in the town, and restaurant Redd provides the option of sitting in an outdoor, olive tree-shaded courtyard with exceptional views. Led by chef/owner Richard Reddington, dishes include tea spiced Sonoma duck breast, and you’ll have the option of a tasting menu with wine pairings.

With the area being ideal for growing grapes, Yountville became it own appellation in 1999. Many of the local wineries are open by appointment only, but two tasting rooms, the V Wine Cellar and V Wine Style, and NapaStyle Paninoteca & Wine Bar, provide ample opportunity to taste the local fruit of the vine. Just across the highway from the town, the Cottages of Napa Valley offers cottage style lodging, nestled in vineyards, for those who want a bed and breakfast combined with privacy. Each cottage is fully appointed, and breakfast is delivered to your door every morning complete with baked goods from the Bouchon Bakery.

Just a short drive from town, Schafer Vineyards has been making benchmark wines since 1978. The winery is operated and owned by the Shafer family, and has garnered wide recognition for its wines, especially its Hillside Select. Unlike other wineries in the area, Schafer includes all its wines in its tasting flight. Just make sure you book your tasting ahead of time, because they’re only offered twice a day by appointment.

A winery that will give you a taste of the far off and exotic is just a short drive outside of Yountville. Darioush Winery blends historic notes of old world Persia with modern day Napa winemaking to create a one-of-a-kind experience. The winery is a 22,000 square foot nod to Persepolis, the capital of ancient Persia. The tasting room is open daily with flights costing varying amounts.

Beyond having great wines and restaurants,Yountville is also home to one of the oldest Veterans Homes in the country. It opened its doors in 1884, and is still home to many men and women who served their country.

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