Downtown Napa Energized

By Amy Lively Jensen

By Amy Lively Jensen

As acclaim has grown exponentially for Napa Valley wines, downtown Napa’s reputation is flourishing as a “must see” destination. With its urban energy, there is a lot to love about this charming town on the banks of the Napa River. You can explore specialized tasting rooms, culinary hangouts, relaxing natural beauty, unique shopping and spirited nightlife.



If you want some guidance in planning your itinerary, visit the Napa Valley Welcome Center. They have a VIP concierge with insider information on must-see highlights. Consider purchasing a Downtown Napa Wine Tasting Card. It covers tastings at a dozen select tasting rooms for half the regular price; some are as little as 10 cents. You can also get details on the online Downtown Napa Walking Tour (donapa.com) designed for both smartphones and tablets. For art lovers, pick up a free map of the Napa ARTwalk to see an array of sculptures and download the AutoCast smart phone app for background on the artists and their inspiration.



Forty-five hotels and Bed and Breakfasts are available downtown to suit every budget. If five-star bedding is your priority, find heavenly sleeping accommodations at The Archer Hotel. It is a luxury, boutique destination where rooms come equipped with a wine refrigerator for storing your treasured bottles. To relax after winery visits, schedule a signature massage or facial, or chill out on loungers in the water of the sunning pool. Another pleasure is watching the resplendent sunset of the valley at the Sky & Vine Rooftop Bar. You need not leave the hotel for dinner; Charlie Palmer Steak House is just off the lobby where you can savor artisanal meats complimented with local ingredients.



If Bed and Breakfasts are more to your liking, try the impossibly romantic Churchill Manor. In the 1889 mansion, you will feel like you are staying at Downton Abbey. They feature a three-course breakfast and an evening wine and cheese reception. The rooms are adorned with antiques, claw foot tubs and wood-burning fireplaces. When you are ready to explore downtown, just help yourself to their complimentary tandem bicycles.

Enter the Old West at the Bounty Hunter Wine Bar and Smokin’ BBQ. As you sit next to the brick walls and beneath wild animal heads, you can’t resist the smell of barbeque wafting in from the smokers out back. Their top seller is beer can chicken; this is a whole Cajun-spiced bird perched atop a Tecate beer can. It is not surprising that for five years running, Bounty Hunter has been voted “Best Wine Bar in Napa Valley” since they feature 40 wines by the glass, an 18-page wine list and what seems to be an endless selection of bottles on the shelves. Their motto is “if it isn’t great, we don’t sell it.” They did not forget beer and whiskey lovers either with a collection of distinctive craft brews and 40 American whiskeys by the glass.



For cooking aficionados, a class at the Culinary Institute of America at Copia is an experience of a lifetime. Don your apron for hands-on cooking and baking education from epicurean experts. Finish with a generous gourmet meal with wine from your efforts and then walk off a few calories at the Oxbow Public Market next door. CIA chefs also offer interactive demonstration-style classes at the Napa Valley Vitner’s Theatre. If you would rather eat than cook, make reservations at the vibrant CIA restaurant. You will wish you could get the recipe for the Oxtail Ragu with Creamy Polenta.  



You won’t have to find a designated driver to enjoy the wine tasting rooms, which are in easy walking distance. Although it varies, some are open from 10 AM to 10 PM which is convenient since tasting rooms at the wineries often close by 4 PM.



The first tasting room to open in the city was Vintner’s Collective. They specialize in wines from small production wineries. They feature those with a maximum production of 1000 cases and don’t have a tasting rooms. Vintner’s changes their flights daily, so you can taste a variety of local wines and find new favorites.



John Anthony’s designer-chic tasting lounge is in the heart of downtown. Winemaker John Anthony Trouchard is well known for his exotic Sauvignon Blanc’s and sleekly styled Cabernet Sauvignon’s. Other nearby impressive tasting rooms include Acumen, Alpha Omega and Mayacamas.

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