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Napa Valley | Exploring California's Renowned Wine Country

Hi there, it's Ernest from Trip Astute. In this video, we wanted to share one of our

recent adventures -- exploring Napa Valley, California.

(light chiming music)

We visited Napa Valley in

February 2018 and it was the first-time visiting for both myself and Fiona. Napa

is located just north of San Francisco, and is one of America's most renowned

regions for wine. We'd heard great things from friends who

had visited the area, so we couldn't wait to explore the area for ourselves.

Most of the wineries in Napa are family-owned, so it's great knowing that

we were supporting local businesses during our visit. Since we were visiting

during the off-season, it was much quieter, and also meant that we were able to take

our time visiting the wineries without feeling rushed. As with all our

destination reviews, we always try to share with you highlights from our own

experience and also some top tips to help maximize your trip. So, here are some

of the highlights. Number 1: Wineries. No surprises here.

The top thing to do when visiting Napa is to check out the wineries. There are

so many to choose from and most of them are just off of the SR-29, which is the

main highway that runs through the region. Two of our favorite wineries from

the trip were Domaine Carneros and Sequoia Grove Winery. Domaine Carneros is

a larger winery that was founded by the family behind Taittinger champagne and

specializes in delicious sparkling wines. We tried four of their different

varieties of sparkling wine for $30 and really enjoyed sitting on their patio

which overlooks some of the beautiful views of the countryside and vineyards.

In fact, we flew our drone nearby after our wine tasting, so check out our video

to see the aerial footage. The Sequoia Grove Winery is a smaller winery with a

110 year old barn and tasting room located beneath gigantic sequoia trees.

This winery stood out because of the great experience we had at Sequoia

National Park last year, so we were excited to check it out. We tried four of

their wines for $25, which included their specialty Cabernet Sauvignon.

We loved the ambiance of this winery, and really enjoyed the

attention that we received during the tasting. These are just two of the many

options available in the area. Please comment below if you have any

suggestions or recommendations on wineries. Number 2 on our list was

hiking. We always enjoy the outdoors when traveling and definitely needed to walk

off the wine-tasting. We hiked in the Skyline Wilderness Park, which is a short

distance from downtown Napa. Entry to the park is only $5 and that covers

parking, a map of the trails, and use of the restroom facilities at the trailhead.

It was a quiet place to hike and offers 25 miles of different trails that are

really easy to navigate. It also gave us an opportunity to try out some of the

new features on our Mavic Air drone. Number 3: Great restaurants. On our

first night in Napa, we found La Taberna, which is a cozy

tapas place in downtown Napa. This place was perfect for what we were looking for.

It offered an awesome selection of small dishes, and of course, lots of wine. We

love the patatas bravas and the Spanish omelette, and really enjoyed the relaxed

atmosphere. We decided to try the Farmers Table at the Andaz which is known for

its fresh and locally sourced ingredients. We had a nice breakfast on

the first day of our trip here, which we needed before starting a day of wine

tasting. The farmstead in st. Helena was a great place for a midday stop and

quick meal. The property has a few dining options including a cafe, an upscale

restaurant, and also an outside terrace bar.

We chose the outside bar. The staff was super friendly and the restaurant

offered great lunch options. We decided to go with a couple of appetizers which

were delicious and a great way to break up the wine tasting. Though the highlight

of our trip, and really our top food experience for the year so far, was

Ad Hoc in Yountville. Ad Hoc is owned by Thomas Keller, who you may have heard

from his upscale renowned Napa restaurant French Laundry. This is

definitely a more casual and low-key restaurant from French Laundry, but the

food and the ambiance was outstanding. The restaurant has a fixed four-course

menu for $55 and is served family-style. The quality was the best we've tasted in

a while, and the casual dining experience made you feel right at home. If you're

interested in going, make sure you make a reservation well in advance since the

place gets booked pretty quickly, especially during the weekends. Number

4: The Andaz Napa. We stayed at the Andaz Napa which is located in downtown

Napa. I have to admit we love the Andaz brand and picked the hotel without paying

too much attention to the different areas that you can stay in within Napa.

Downtown Napa has a lively vibe and is full of restaurants, bars, shops, and lots

of art galleries. We did notice a few bachelor and bachelorette parties, so

it's definitely well-suited to a younger crowd. Though if we were to visit again, I

think we would have picked a more laid-back area like Yountville or St.

Helena. Maybe we're just getting old, but I think

these seemed more our style being relaxed but also offering some excellent

food and drink options within walking distance, and maybe with less of a

college party vibe. The three towns are within 15 to 20 minutes of each other

and close to all the wineries, so you can't go wrong staying in any of these

places. As always, we want to make sure you have the best experience in Napa, so

here are our top tips. Number 1: Use ride-sharing services to hop between the

wineries. There are plenty of ride-share options available in the area. Both Lyft

and Uber are active in the Napa region. Unless you have a designated driver,

we highly recommend making the most of the reasonably priced services to get

around the wineries. Most wineries are within fifteen to twenty minutes of

downtown Napa, which makes ride-sharing an inexpensive option, and you'll get to

relax and enjoy all the great wine that Napa has to offer without having to

worry about driving. Number 2: Fly into Oakland Airport. Oakland Airport is the

closest large Airport to Napa and is less busy than San Francisco Airport.

This made it easy to pick up our rental car and get straight on the road.

Door-to-door, you can expect to reach Napa in an hour and 30 minutes, depending

on the traffic. Number 3: Use the toll roads. When we

landed in Oakland, Waze was showing a 40 mile trip but estimated the drive

to be two hours and 30 minutes. This seemed

crazy and we were confused as to why we were given such a strange route. We

realized that we had the "avoid toll roads" option in Waze selected. When we

unchecked this option, our drive time reduced by an hour. While we did have to

pay a small fee for the toll, it was well worth it to arrive at our destination an

hour earlier. On the way back to Oakland, it

didn't seem to make a difference either as there weren't any toll roads. Number

4: Research wineries and make reservations. We highly recommend doing

your homework before heading to Napa. We don't consider ourselves wine experts by

any means, but we do enjoy sampling good wine. And honestly, we really weren't sure

where to start. We searched for some of the top wineries listed on TripAdvisor

and noted a few that sounded interesting to us. But also, we got good

recommendations just by talking to wine specialists throughout the day. It's

definitely a good idea to make reservations for the newer wineries, as

they tend to have a cap on the number of people that they can accommodate every

day. The older wineries generally don't have restrictions and will take people

on a drop-in basis, but it never hurts to check in advance. If you plan to

transport any wine home, check out our video on the topic for some tips on

packing wine and recommendations on useful gear. Number 5: Get off the beaten

path for some great photo opportunities. As you might have noticed, we love taking

photos and capturing videos on our trips. Everywhere we look, there were great

photo opportunities. However, some of the more popular stops along the way,

especially off the main Napa Road, were really crowded. So we decided to get off

the main road and head down some of the smaller country roads. We managed to get

some great photos and drone shots while avoiding many of the crowds. Have you

been to Napa? If so, what are your favorite wineries and restaurants? Please

share them below in the comments section. Also, if you have any questions, let us

know. If you enjoyed this video or found it useful, please hit the "like" button and

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travel safe and travel smart.