Despite what many envisioned after watching the media coverage of fires that raged through Sonoma and Napa County in 2017, Napa Valley remains virtually unblemished to the eyes of visiting tourists…

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Napa Blossoms

Having spent several weeks in the area last summer, I anticipated a visual and emotional assault during my visit in February 2018. To my surprise, I found Napa Valley vineyards abloom with yellow mustard flowers, hillsides dressed in greenery, and local businesses open and engaging with customers. Phenomenal food, stunning scenery, and world-famous wines are the region’s claim to fame, and guests venturing to the area can expect to delight in those same luxuries.

Experience this first-rate destination with style. Stay at Auberge du Soleil, rated the number one resort in several high-end magazines and online sites, dine on California cuisine at the resort’s restaurant, feast on Japanese cuisine at Two Birds One Stone, and sample some of Napa’s world-class wines at Au Sommet Winery & Farm and Lokoya Winery.

Auberge du Soleil Delights

Auberge du Soleil, an adults-only resort, boasts elegant and tasteful accommodations, top-drawer service from start to finish, and Michelin-star dining under the helm of Chef Robert Curry. According to Renee Risch, the Director of Sales and Marketing, “The grounds at Auberge are inspired by the south of France and infused with Napa Valley.” This tranquil resort rests on the terraced hillside looking out over spectacular views of the valley.

Dining at Auberge is essential in reaping the full experience at the resort. Seated outside, during an unusually warm February evening, my friend Connie and I perused the menu as we watched the sun go down and the valley lights grow brighter in the darkness. Sipping a glass of bubbly, we made our dinner selections. We chose to participate in a four-course culinary event.

Each dish presented was both a masterpiece of culinary art and a spectacular adventure for the taste buds. My favorite was the Day Boat Scallop, a perfectly seared scallop resting next to prosciutto di San Daniel, a sunchoke, a baby carrot, and a puree of black garlic.

Be sure to get up early and commandeer a window or outdoor seat at the restaurant for breakfast in the morning. The resort is situated so that diners have an unobstructed view of the valley where hot air balloons launch early in the morning. Watching the colorful balloons slowly rise above the valley floor is a surreal experience only enhanced by charming company and a cup of steaming hot coffee.

Guests determined to stay at the resort during the day can unwind and take a dip in the pool, burn a few calories by working out in the gym, savor the pleasures of a relaxing spa treatment, or inspire their own creativity by wandering throughout the outdoor sculpture garden.

Two Birds One Stone Tantalizes

Napa Valley is home to numerous tantalizing restaurants, and Two Birds One Stone located in the chic historic space at Freemark Abbey is no exception. Owners Douglas Keane and Sang Yoon are two culinary powerhouses that have joined forces. Douglas, the previous Chef and owner at Cyrus, a former two-star Michelin restaurant, is both personable and talented. Sang Yoon competed on Top Chef Masters, and this dynamic duo delivers outstanding Japanese-style dishes created from California’s abundance of farm-fresh products. Douglas says, “My favorite thing about Two Birds One Stone is the uniqueness of the restaurant compared to the rest of the valley. There is a lot of similar-style food all through Napa Valley, and we wanted to do something different.”

The staff at Two Birds One Stone are happy to help diners navigate the eclectic Asian menu. GM and Master Sommelier Kevin Reilly revels in suggesting pairing options from the restaurant’s outstanding and creative beverage menu. Kevin says, “I love to work with the unique levels of acid and seasoning in the food and create celebrated untraditional pairings. My favorite part is working with so many local winemakers to make proprietary blends just for us.”

Choose several dishes at Two Birds to appreciate the variety of tastes and textures in the cuisine. The grilled striped bass with sunchokes and ginger-shiso dashi froth is delicate and light, while the Japanese wagyu beef with sudachi salt and Korean BBQ sauce is rich and hearty.

A visit to Napa Valley is not complete without tasting exquisite wines including their famous Cabernet Sauvignons. Instead of fighting the crowds, book private appointments with a couple of wineries that specialize in outstanding Cabernets.

Au Sommet Winery & Farm Thrives

Au Sommet Winery & Farm is a bit out of town, but while you drive up toward Atlas Peak you will get a chance to see a few scars from the 2017 fires. Although cleaning crews have worked diligently to remove debris, scorched trees are evidence of where the fires jumped around on the hillside.

Au Sommet sits perched on top of the hill overlooking the beautiful countryside, and is part of a collective that is owned by John Scwartz. Heidi Peterson Barrett, winemaker for some of California’s most notable cult wines, makes several wines with John including the Cabernet Sauvignon at Au Sommet. These cabernets are not only luscious and flavorful, but they also come in artistically decorated bottles.

Lokoya Winery Allures

The Jackson Family purchased the 77-acre Yverdon estate located on Spring Mountain in 2013. Fred Aves owned and hand-built the original house and Yverdon stone winery in 1970. The stone building, now the home of Lokoya Winery, opened in 2016. Craftsmen gutted and rebuilt the stone structure in honor of the original owner’s artistry and craftsmanship. The property boasts 25 acres of vineyard, a private residence for special invited guests, and the stunning winery rebuilt by artists with exceptional skills working with metal, stone, concrete, and glass.

This opulent winery is the perfect place to highlight and taste Lokoya’s exceptional Cabernet Sauvignons. The winery’s collection consists of four Cabernets from four different Napa appellations. Winemaker Christopher Carpenter uses the same technique for each wine allowing each terroir to speak for itself.

While tasting each of the four wines, I delighted in their subtle differences and simultaneously appreciated the artistry of the winemaker. Lokoya’s winery is counterpart to an art gallery but for wines. It is no wonder that fine wine collectors take pleasure in spending time tasting and deliberating over the nuances of each wine while basking in the upscale venue.

Plan Your Visit to Napa Valley

The Napa Valley is as vibrant and exciting as ever. As you revel in this magnificent setting, be thankful for the beauty and life in the area and take a moment to remember those that endured loss.