Part I: The Best of Napa Valley


It is no wonder that Napa and Sonoma Counties draw visitors from all over the world. The vineyard-lined hillsides and valleys, towering redwood and eucalyptus forests, rugged Pacific coastlines, and Mediterranean climate lure visitors like a Siren’s call. These wine country destinations are also home to some of the most indulgent and luxurious getaways, replete with Michelin-starred restaurants and some of the most sumptuous hotels and resorts in the United States. As Benchmark Wine is America’s leading fine and rare wine purveyor, it is not uncommon for our oenophilia clientele to pay us an annual visit to pick up their wine allotments and visit their favorite wineries along the way. As a result, we are often asked, “Where should I stay, and where should I eat?” (We will not focus on the obvious: French Laundry) Thus, with our epicurean connoisseurs in mind, we have put together the list of this year’s Napa Valley and Sonoma County ultimate destinations to dine and stay. There has been an explosion of new and renovated hotels, resorts, and restaurants that make for dream getaways. With all these places to stay, one theme pervades . . . each hotel or resort invariably houses restaurants worthy of the highest recommendations. So, if you are not staying there – eat there! Several of these posh establishments offer something for everyone, including those choosing to travel with their kids in tow. Let us assist you as you put your superlative trip to our gorgeous wine country on the calendar.

1. Four Seasons Resorts and Residences Napa Valley


Located “up-valley” in Calistoga, the Four Seasons is Napa Valley’s first and only resort set within a working winery. The property’s 85 rooms are set amid Elusa Winery’s 5-acre organic property. While lounging in the sun from your guest room balcony or poolside, a close-up perspective of the changing seasons is reflected in the vines surrounding the grounds. There are two pools with accompanying hot tubs on the property – one for adults and one for families. If you’ve brought your children along for the trip, they’ll love the daily afternoon poolside churros with chocolate and caramel sauces. (This is the only resort in Napa that offers daily programming for children). And, for those who need a little detox time post-tasting, various treatments are available at Spa Talisa, as well as guided meditation and yoga classes. The on-site concierge team can organize complete itineraries tailored to your interests, outdoor activities, guided tours, or winery tastings. Alongside the Campo Pool is a Bocce Ball court to enjoy with friends and family while sipping on cocktails. One of the best aspects of staying at the Four Seasons Napa Valley is the two superb restaurants within the resort. TRUSS Restaurant and Bar celebrates the best of Napa Valley cuisine, with breakfast, lunch, small bites, and dinner available in the dining room or on the outdoor patio, which overlooks the vineyards. Campo Poolside provides a more casual dining option with signature Cal-Mexican dishes that reflect a dedication to using the freshest and soak in some quiet, in-room dining is available from 6:30 am to 10:00 pm.


2. Solage, Auberge Resorts Collection


Not so long ago, there was a time when the town of Calistoga was primarily known for its natural hot springs and mineral pools. It was a sleepy little enclave where locals would go to take in the healing waters and spend a weekend relaxing in the gorgeous countryside. Solage seeks to make the most of the area’s history of health, wellness, and most of all . . . hedonism. Make no mistake; this resort is healthfully luxurious. The central focus of the resort is on the massive state-of-the-art spa and geothermal pools. The tagline on the website says it all, “detox, retox, and repeat.” If you have over-indulged during winery visits, staying at Solage will mop up your body’s mess. Staying at Solage is perfect for a girlfriend’s reunion or couples retreat, and though children are allowed, it is not the kind of place that encourages playing in the pool. The atmosphere is calm and soothing. The days are better spent reviving yourself with a morning yoga class in the gorgeous studio, followed by a massage and the resort’s deliciously healthful California cuisine. There are two fabulous dining options at Solage. Solbar boasts an outstanding array of craft cocktails and abundantly healthy dishes. There is also Picobar which is more casual and situated next to the pool. Sitting outside at Picobar, one gets a full view of the surrounding peaks encircle Calistoga. The dishes at Picobar are an incredibly delicious take on Cali-Mexican cuisine. The tacos are prepared with the freshest available ingredients and exude Mexico’s flavors without all the cheese and sauce. Solbar and Picobar offer a unique culture of food focused on local ingredients and showcase the best farm-fresh Napa Valley produce. Solage gets everything right if one wants to relax in between wine tastings and daytime adventures. The setting and the rooms are spectacular, the services are top-notch, and the food is the freshest anywhere.

3. Auberge du Soleil


This iconic Relais & Chateaux luxury resort continues its legacy, 31 years since its inception, as the quintessential wine country stay. Sitting perched on the eastern, oak-shrouded hillsides of the valley, one can view west across the valley to the Mayacamas Mountains, all the way to the southernmost end of the valley, right down to the San Pablo Bay. Drawing inspiration from the luxury inns of France, the resort’s centrifugal pull is the dining room. It remains an absolute culinary marvel year after year, garnering 13 consecutive Michelin Stars. Set among groves of heritage olive trees and oaks, the property has 33 acres encompassing 50 updated guestrooms and suites; meandering lavender-garden pathways; an outdoor sculpture garden with more than 100 works by more than 60 California artists; and a lap pool set on a sun-drenched terrace overlooking the vineyards below. Auberge du Soleil does not allow guests under 18 or dogs, thus lending a more peaceful environment where the focus can remain on two things: food and wine. The true masterpiece of Auberge du Soleil is, without a doubt, the dining room. Its perfectly appointed interior atmosphere, understated elegance, impeccable service, and a fusion of Franco-California culinary disciplines make this legacy restaurant synonymous with “wine country cuisine.” The outdoor patio tables off the western side of the dining room look out over the expansive panorama of the valley. There is no better place to be when sipping a pre-dinner aperitif or glass of champagne as the sun sets over the mountains. But it is the prix fixe tasting menus that take center stage here. Prepare to spend two to three hours savoring the tasting menu. This type of dining experience creates stories to tell on your return home. If it is a bucket-list experience you are seeking, Auberge du Soleil is your place.


4. Poetry Inn


Tucked on a hillside in the Stag’s Leap District, this hidden gem offers the opportunity for a perfect couples’ retreat. It houses five spacious suites with indoor and outdoor showers and beautifully designed sitting areas. Each suite has a terrace that faces the valley and mountains to the west, with some of the most outstanding views in the Napa Valley. The inn is just down the street from the town of Yountville but removed enough from the hubbub to feel like a privately held secret. The specialness of the inn resides in the intimate hospitality. The attentive staff are at your every beck and call, from the newspaper and pasties that arrive at your door in the morning, followed by the custom-made breakfast (which is included in the room price) – to the personalized and curated itineraries developed with your personal preferences in mind – there is an attention to detail that is unsurpassed. Private massages and dinners can be enjoyed in your room or terrace. The inn’s chef is available to custom create an exclusive food and wine pairing experience should you wish to dine away from the fray. This inn is not for those who want the see-and-be-seen resort experience but for discerning guests who desire maximum privacy and thoughtful respect for their relaxation.


5. Stanly Ranch, Auberge Resorts Collection


Situated in the southernmost portion of the Napa Valley is the newest of Napa’s luxury resorts, Stanly Ranch. It is a vast 712-acre property surrounded by vineyards and working ranchland in the Carneros District AVA. There are standalone cottages, guest rooms, four restaurants, and two large pools perched atop gently sloping hills overlooking panoramic views. The resort has a down-to-earth Modern-Chic-Farmhouse and rustic feel while maintaining the exclusive elegance for which the Auberge Resorts Collection is known. The elemental Northern California design aesthetic is fluid throughout the exterior gardens and interior spaces, making one feel they are living a curated winery lifestyle. The expanse of the resort and all its amenities means there is something for everyone, including families. There is a full spa with a myriad of services and complimentary yoga classes; however, the absolute stunner is the Activities board which reads like a novel. The list encompasses every level of physical adventure and creative endeavors imaginable. There are Saturday team bike trips through the vineyards, custom hat design workshops, behind-the scenes winery excursions, vintage motorcycle and sidecar adventures, and many more pursuits you’ve never dreamt of. It would be easy to spend a week at Stanly Ranch and never run out of new and fun things to do. Since Stanly Ranch is, in fact, a working, sustainably managed ranch, the cuisine reflects dishes centered around the use of the on-site vegetable and herb garden. Bear is the primary restaurant, and the food and interiors are both equally stunning with a chic-casual feel. The menus are seasonal and change according to what is readily available locally. There is a palpable connection between what is served at the table and the local farmers and makers who provide the ingredients for the chef’s use. To accompany the epicurean delights, there is an extensive menu of craft cocktails and a wonderfully exciting wine list, which lists under-the radar California wines and international producers. Even if you are not staying at the resort, Bear should be on your list of places to dine in Napa.


Not-To-Be-Missed Restaurants, Napa Valley:

1. Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch


Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch American farmhouse cuisine, outdoor café, and general store. The Hall family lovingly restored the 650-acre Long Meadow Ranch nestled in the foothills of the Mayacamas Mountains in the late 1980s and continued to purchase over 2,000 acres of additional farmland over a span of three counties. Today, it supplies its Farmstead Restaurant with an abundant menu of estate-grown wine, olive oil, grass-fed highland beef and lamb, honey, and fresh eggs. These ingredients are featured on the menu year-round. Additionally, fresh farm veggies and herbs are utilized in every dish. There’s an extensively curated wine list of old and new world wines, local artisanal brews and ciders, and a full bar. The interior is California casual and relaxed, and the mid-valley location makes Farmstead an easy stop between “up-valley” and “down-valley” winery tastings. If you desire, Farmstead offers wine and food pairing experiences, which are a fantastic treat.


2. Press


Napa Valley-centric cuisine and wine are taken to new heights. Innovative. Special. Unique. Beautiful. These are the words that come to mind when thinking of PRESS. It is all the best of Napa Valley, and its environs have to offer. At first glance, the menu does not seem that different from other high-end Napa Valley establishments; however, don’t let that fool you. The dishes’ presentations and preparations are distinctive, focusing on the fresh ingredients highlighted within each dish. PRESS contains the most extensive collection of Napa Valley wines worldwide and garnered the 2022 Grand Award from Wine Spectator. Wine is very much the center point of this restaurant, and serious oenophiles should get ready for a fantastic treasure trove of library Napa wines from which to choose. To boot, the interiors of the dining room are picture-perfect. Northern California chic and cozy, and there is also a lovely outdoor patio option. This is the place if you want to go where the local winemakers, growers, and vintners hang.


3. La Toque


High-end French cuisine boasting an outstanding wine list Oddly located within the Westin Hotel in downtown Napa, this is, in fact, the quintessential Michelin Star wine country restaurant reminiscent of comfy lodges in Burgundy or the Loire. It honors timeless French culinary aesthetics while embracing the freshness of California’s modern cuisine. The award-winning wine list includes some of California’s most exclusive cult wineries and an in-depth list of some of the finest old-world producers. The Wine Spectator has named La Toque as one of the best 20 restaurants in America. This is an establishment meant for serious epicureans. Plan to be committed to an impeccable dining experience for at least two hours. The time will fly by!


4. Kenzo


Traditional Japanese Slow-Food Dining Experience Receiving a Michelin Star and the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence in 2021, this tiny 27-seat ding room replicates an honest-to-goodness high-end Japanese restaurant where the culinary experience is not to be distracted but quietly focused on each flavor and texture like a meditation on gratitude. The seasonal menus fuse Japanese tradition with innovative techniques and inventive presentations honoring the California influence of Kenzo’s location. The Japanese Edomae Sushi and Kaiseki delicacies are created using ingredients flown daily from the world’s most acclaimed fresh fish market in Japan, Toyosu. Every artistic course is meant to harmoniously pair with a selection of eclectic wines and sakes, including Kenzo Estate’s exquisite Napa Valley wine collection. If virtual culinary transportation to Japan is possible, Kenzo has achieved it right in Napa Valley.