Located in Northern California, St. Helena is a city within Napa County known for its combination of small-town charm, bold wines and epicurean experiences. The small city is home to more than 400 wineries and dozens of award-winning restaurants, as well as copious outdoor activities such as kayaking, biking and horseback riding.
Amid COVID-19, much of the region has been closed for some time. Slowly, the area is opening as it is safe. As such, here is a look at how to maximize a long weekend or quick trip to this northern California gem, observing all mask, distancing and other CDC-recommended protocols.
Spread over eight lush acres in St. Helena, the Harvest Inn oozes romance. Though it is just off the main drag in the region, once you enter the property, you are transported into another realm. The secluded resort is hidden between massive redwoods, botanical gardens, art installations and fountains that make one feel as if they stepped into a fairy tale. Given it is wine country; there are of course vineyards as far as the eye can see as well. There are even rooms set directly in the vineyards themselves just steps from Whitehall Lane Leonardini Family Vineyards. Several rooms on the dog-friendly property boast fireplaces or hot tubs, and the suites have so much living space that one is tempted to order in some wine and plan one or more nights in versus heading anywhere. Of particular note – beyond the rooms, of course – is Harvest Table, one of the most lauded restaurants in Northern California. The ingredients are heavily sourced from northern California to ensure freshness, and the dishes are second to none. www.harvestinn.com
PRESS St. Helena
Beyond the Harvest Inn, those in the know book a reservation at PRESS while in St. Helena. A true expression of the region, the contemporary farmhouse-style restaurant is tucked between rolling, vine-covered hills and has grand views of the Mayacamas Mountains and is home to the largest collection of Napa Valley wines in the world. The all-Napa Valley wine list celebrates current vintages as well as older wines going back over 50 years, as a result, wine is very much at the core of PRESS. With over 1,200 selections, the restaurant has become the ideal place to taste one’s way through the rich history of the Napa Valley and deeply explore the fabled wine-growing region. And then there is the food. Oh, the food! Under the direction of chef Philip Tessier, PRESS is a celebration of flavor. With these freshest of ingredients, he develops his menu as an epicurean tour California cuisine at its best. The outdoor garden and patio accommodate al fresco dining, featuring a large outdoor fireplace and stunning views of the Mayacamas Mountains. www.pressnapavalley.com
Napa Valley Paddle
Thanks to an urban renewal project in the 1970s, The Napa River is bigger and better than ever. Today, the 55-mile river travels through most of the Napa Valley region and notably rises in northwestern Napa County just south of the summit of Mt. St. Helena in the Mayacamas Mountains of the California Coast Ranges. Through Napa Valley Paddle, visitors can sign up for several kayaking and paddle board adventures, each of which starts with formal instruction to ensure safety. Many tours glide through a local nature preserve, and there is also rental pricing for those who prefer to go it alone. Knowing not all outdoor enthusiasts like to get a little wet, Napa Valley Paddle also offers hiking and biking tours, each exploring lesser-visited areas of the region. www.napavalleypaddle.com
Louis M. Martini Winery
This gem was first build in 1933 in anticipation of Prohibition coming to and end in the United States. Its founder, Louis M. Martini, is not just the namesake of the award-winning vineyard and renowned wine; he is actually a founder of the Napa Valley Vintners Association, which helped create the Napa we know today. A visit to this historic and important winery is a must. When visiting, consider reserving the Heritage Lounge Tasting beyond just a glass or bottle. Why? Martini happens to employ the one-and-only chef Jeffery Russell, who delights in dreaming up mouth-watering culinary pairings – think foie gras mousse with local jam and beet macarons –to highlight their most exclusive and sought-after small-lot sips. www.louismartini.com
Charles Krug Winery
In addition to Martini, Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena teems with historical significance in addition to its having an enchanting property and extraordinary wine selection. First founded in 1861, Charles Krug, the visionary father of Napa Valley winemaking, established the estate. In 1943, the Mondavi Family – perhaps the best-known name in all American wine – purchased iconic estate to develop wines that epitomize and honor the region. There are several viticulture and historic adventures to be had at Krug, but in true California fashion, they are anything but stuffy. Case in point: its Cabana Experience, which features one’s own outdoor, private cabana for six and the option for sips and bites, notably freshly made pizza from an outdoor brick oven. www.charleskrug.com
Joseph Phelps Vineyards
The 600 acres of oak-studded hills and golden valleys where this vineyard sits today was a cattle ranch once upon a time until Joe Phelps planted Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Riesling and Gewurztraminer on the property in the 1970s. The result, as one might guess, was legendary. In the decades since, the Phelps family owns and farms nine estate vineyards in St. Helena, Rutherford, Oakville, Stags Leap District, Oak Knoll District, South Napa and Carneros. But this continues to be home, and one of the best vineyard experiences in the region. From terrace tastings to wine blending to culinary experiences, the Phelps family continues to bring honor to its name and provide a little piece of heaven in every glass and dish. www.josephphelps.com
Long Meadow Ranch
Long Meadow Ranch is one of the coolest farms in the world. Actually, today there are several Long Meadow Ranch Farms, but St. Helena is the granddaddy of them all. The family-owned, biodynamic, solar-powered farm boasts wines, extra virgin olive oils, grass-fed beef, eggs and heirloom fruits and vegetables, and that is just to start. At the heart of the St. Helena property is Farmstead, a farmhouse restaurant that also features an outdoor café, general store and farmer’s market, each with its own vibe, tastings and tours depending on where your taste buds want to take you. www.longmeadowranch.com
– Alison Bailin, HMA Public Relations