Arbiter Insider’s Guide: Carolyn Thacher x Napa Valley
This summer, domestic travel is everything (well, pretty much the only thing). Napa Valley makes for a perfect weekend getaway, and it’s truly wonderful all year round. It’s only an hour drive from the city for San Franciscans, and there are easy nonstop flights from pretty much everywhere else to SFO, OAK or STS. It also makes a great stop on a classic California road trip! The hotels are fabulous, the food and wine is [obviously] unparalleled, and it is set up perfectly for social distancing with outdoor dining options and plenty of picturesque open-air tasting options on the vineyards.
We have been sending lots of Arbiter clients to Napa this summer and fall, and we always consult with Napa native and Arbiter bestie Carolyn Thacher (find her @cthacher) when finalizing itineraries to ensure we’re sending them to the best of the best every minute of the trip.
Carolyn, who’s family is from St. Helena, shares her scoop on “The Valley” (as the locals call it) with her Arbiter Insider’s Guide…
First stop off the plane: During the summertime, keep it casual and throw on your swimsuit and have a glass of rosé by the pool at Meadowood or head up to Auberge and enjoy a cocktail on the deck as you look over The Valley — the view is amazing! And during the winter, nothing says “Welcome to Napa” like a hot bowl of Bistro Jeanty’s legendary Crème de Tomate en Croute soup paired with a nice glass of red.
Signature drink: [When not wine tasting] The Green Flash at Solbar!
Local flavor: If you go to Brasswood Bar + Kitchen for a meal, be sure to ask for the off-menu mozzarella dish. This is the same dish that the classic restaurant Tra Vigne was known for and still tastes as good as ever! (Bonus: during the summer months, ask to pair the mozzarella with a side of heirloom tomatoes.)
Can’t miss: A fresh English muffin at The Model Bakery. Trust me, you will thank me.
Worth the splurge: If The French Laundry or The Restaurant at Meadowood for a special occasion. (Pro Tip: Book the “kitchen counter date” at The Restaurant at Meadowood to eat inside the kitchen for an unforgettable dining experience.)
Stay at: For a romantic getaway, Calistoga Ranch or Auberge du Soleil. For families: Meadowood or Solage (note, these are both great places to go without kids too!). However, if you want to be walking distance to restaurants and not have to drive, I’d recommend staying in Yountville at either Bardessono or Hotel Yountville. There’s also a really cute hop-on, hop-off trolley that takes you up and down the street!
Shop at: Carter and Co. (beautiful local pottery), ACRES Home+Garden (a great assortment of refined household items – think candles, Farmhouse pottery, coffee table books, linens), and Oakville Grocery (the cutest gourmet food market with a great outdoor patio). If you’re a chocolate fan, be sure to stop by Woodhouse Chocolate to taste (and admire!) their stunning display of chocolates procured from a local chocolatier who was trained in France.
Uniform: Napa is casual! Think boots and coats during the winter and dresses and flats during the summer. That doesn’t mean you can’t dress up, but if you are doing any tastings that include tours, be aware that you will likely be walking through the vineyards, which can be very muddy or dusty. It is rare that you will see someone in high heels in The Valley, unless they are visiting
Local secret: Make a pit stop at W F Giugni & Son Deli on Main Street in St. Helena for the best deli sandwich you will ever have! This tiny, hole-in-the-wall deli has been around since the early 1970s and is a go-to spot for locals. Tip: get the secret “Giugni’s juice” on your sandwich – you won’t regret it.
Insider tip: You will sorely miss out on your trip to the Napa Valley if you don’t stop by the Napa Valley Olive Oil Manufacturing Co. in St. Helena. Nestled a few blocks back from Main Street, it is an iconic old Italian market filled with the most delicious olive oils, cheeses, and cured meats (makes for perfect supplies for a vineyard picnic). Run by the wonderful Particelli family for several generations, I make sure to never leave St. Helena without stocking up on their amazing olive oils to bring back to Los Angeles.
Most ‘grammable: Croquet at Meadowood. Don’t forget your whites!
Theme song/playlist: I’m not typically a country western girl, but a little bit of Zac Brown Band always makes me feel right at home. If country music isn’t your thing, Red Red Wine by UB40 is a worthy contender!
Souvenir: Wine of course!
Next on my bucket list: I’ve visited the US and French wine regions, so it’s time to tackle the Italian wine regions next!
Check out Carolyn’s all-time Napa favorites below, and reach out to Arbiter Travel Co. to plan your wine country getaway!
Inspired to take a trip of your own? Get in touch and go!