Sipping Our Way Through Napa Valley: Three Day Itinerary

Sipping Our Way Through Napa Valley: Three Day Itinerary

Napa Valley, in central California, is a wine makers paradise.  Rows upon rows of vineyards dot the landscape, nestled among the hills.  The climate and soil conditions are prime for grape growing and what better way to put harvested grapes to use than to make wine?!  Napa has become ubiquitous with wine making in this beautiful setting.

When we visited

October, 2022, over fall break from school.  We could not have had better weather with mostly sunny skies and temps in the 60s-70s.  The fall colors were gorgeous!

Where we stayed

Andaz Napa | Napa Valley, California

The hotel was centrally located in downtown Napa.  The location is convenient in that it is walkable to shops and restaurants.

We spent three days in Napa Valley, doing a mix of different types of wineries, tours, and tastings.  We visited with my mom and Ava, age 16, so several of the wineries she couldn’t join.  She enjoyed some quiet time to herself instead, enjoying food delivery, reading, and getting some homework done.

DAY 1:

Itinerary for the day:

  • Leave San Francisco
  • In N Out Burger on the way!
  • Check into Andaz Napa Hotel
  • Laird Family Estate
  • Dinner:  Oxbow Public Market

We arrived in the early afternoon from San Francisco.  Along the way we had to get In N Out Burger for lunch – a must anytime we are out west!  The drive was just over an hour from San Francisco, which makes this a great add on if visiting San Francisco.

We checked in to our hotel and set off for our first Napa winery, Laird Family Estate.

Laird Family Estate

Laird Family Estate is a family-friendly winery.  The only non-alcoholic drinks they have on hand is water, so that is what Ava enjoyed.  But with beautiful views, anything tastes good!  

We adults sampled some great reds and whites along with a pre-ordered charcuterie board. 

Wine and charcuterie, a relaxing way to begin our time in Napa

The back deck over looking the vineyards was such a beautiful way to begin our time in Napa.  We enjoyed our tasting and, taking in the beautiful scene in the afternoon sun.  

The deck where we enjoyed our tasting overlooks the vineyards

Once back at the hotel, we walked to Oxbow Public Market for dinner, about a half mile away from The Andaz Hotel. 

Oxbow Public Market

The market has a fantastic mix of food and drink offerings.  I can’t pass up Mexican, which I ordered from C CASA Taqueria.  Mike had delicious BBQ and Ava and my mom shared pizza.  After we all had our food in hand, we headed out to the picnic tables on the back deck of the market and enjoyed dining under the string lights…and the stars!   

DAY 2:

Itinerary for the day:

  • Darioush
  • Del Dotto
  • Far Niente
  • Dinner:  Celadon

Today we had three wineries lined up.  We hired a company called Phenomenal Limos and Wine Tours as our personal driver for the day.  We all wanted to fully enjoy ourselves and this is a very recommended part of the itinerary.  Our driver, Oz, was great and we highly recommend his company.

Darioush

Oz picked us up at our hotel 30 minutes before our first tour of the day.  Soon, we arrived at Darioush, a palatial setting with a beautiful courtyard looking out onto the vineyards.

We loved all the fall decor at Darioush

We booked the Signature Mezze Outdoors Tasting and were seated in a lovely courtyard surrounded by trees.  Our awesome sommelier, Alex, was great at sharing some history of the place as well as what we were tasting.  The founder, Darioush, immigrated to the US from Iran, bringing with him his family’s legacy of winemaking.  Settling in Napa Valley, Darioush Winery was born, a perfect marriage of winemaking rooted in Iranian culture and American opportunity!

Here, we enjoyed the wines paired with Persian food such as eggplant, pistachios, flatbread, and chicken meatballs.  It was the perfect light fare to go with the wines. 

Persian food coupled with wine during our Mezze Tasting

And the outdoor setting could not be more perfect!  This ended up being our favorite experience of the day.

Darioush Winery

Del Dotto

After our tasting at Darioush, we were driven to Del Dotto, a beautiful Ventetian style estate.  From fountains and statues outside to a marbled interior with painted frescoes, Del Dotto makes you feel as if you are on an Italian estate. 

The Venetian inspired winery, Del Dotto

Here, we booked the Cave Experience & Barrel Tasting.  Our guide thieved wine directly from the barrels into our glasses as we made our way through the cave.  It was a unique experience for sure!  

Wine thieved straight from the barrel; the wine caves

After our tour and we had a tasting with a few additional wines in the main area coupled with comfort food of tater tots and pizza.  It was perfect timing as we were getting hungry for lunch.  We really enjoyed this experience as well.

The main area where we completed our tasting with some comfort food at Del Dotto

Far Niente

Far Niente was our last tasting of the day and it had the most beautiful grounds thus far.  The trees, flowers, fountain, and gazebo, set amongst the vineyards looked to be from a movie. 

The beautiful grounds of Far Niente

We explored the grounds for a bit before our seated tasting, including taking a peek at the massive vintage car collection.

 The amazing vintage car collection at Far Niente

We had booked the Estate Tour and Tasting and we were seated outdoors with this beautiful scenery surrounding us while tasting delicious wines and small plates.  The experience felt as though we were in a friend’s backyard, however, as it was so peaceful and relaxing.

The beautiful tasting area outdoors on these splendid grounds

We finished this final winery of the day and Oz brought us back to our hotel.  We walked to Celadon for dinner, a cool setting with delicious food near the Napa River.

Celadon, our dinner spot

DAY 3:

Itinerary for the day:

  • Domaine Caneros Winery
  • Lunch:  Napkins Bar and Grill
  • Castello di Amorosa
  • Dinner:  Copia at the CIA

Domaine Caneros

We had one more winery booked, this time one that specializes in sparkling and Pinot wines.  Right up my alley!

We drove about 10 minutes to the Domaine Caneros and took in the beautiful ambiance.  The large estate house is set high up above the vineyards below.  The massive stone deck, where we enjoyed our tasting, looked like a European manor.  

The beautiful balcony at Domaine Caneros

We sat outside in the lovely mid-morning sun and enjoyed a sparkling wine tasting coupled with a charcuterie board.  This was a lovely way to spend the morning!

My sparkling wine tasting; looking down on the vineyards at Domaine Caneros

We headed back to the hotel to meet Ava and walk to our lunch spot, Napkins Bar and Grill.  Again, we sat outside in the beautiful weather.  The food was delicious and we highly recommend this restaurant in Napa.

Castello di Amorosa

Our last winery in Napa was the family-friendly Castello di Amorosa, located in Calistoga, also known as “the castle”.

Yep, it’s a real castle!

Castello di Amorosa is modeled after an actual Tuscan Castle, complete with a moat and drawbridge!  The developer had a vision, as the land he patiently waited for and bought resembled that of the Tuscan countryside.  He spent 15 years building this authentic castle, with many materials coming directly from Europe.  It was then that he was able to combine his passion project, the castle, with his family’s legacy of winemaking in the area and Castello di Amorosa was born in 2007.

Are we in Europe or Napa?!

After having explored many European castles, this felt exactly like we were in a real European castle!  Truthfully, the wine was fine, but we came for the ambiance.  We really liked exploring this unique winery.  This is a great one for kids as well, as children are welcome and they offer them grape juice while the adults do their wine tasting.

The castle and the property are stunning at Castello di Amorosa

Dinner tonight was a unique experience.  We walked from our hotel to Copia at The CIA, The Culinary Institute of America.  Our meal was prepared by amazing student chefs. The ingredients for our meals included herbs, vegetables, and fruit which all grow in the grove in the front of CIA.  This was one of the best meals we had in Napa.

Copia at CIA, a fabulous dinner!

We had one more adventure the next morning before we left Napa.  This experience is one that is as ubiquitous with visiting Napa Valley as wine tastings and tours.  Mike, Ava, and I went on a hot air balloon ride!  We have a whole post about the experience including amazing photos from the ride.  Be sure to check it out:  A Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Napa Valley.

Tips for a great trip to Napa:

  • Book a transportation company.  As mentioned above, this is a must to add onto a Napa itinerary.  You want to be able to fully enjoy yourself and do all the tastings safely, so let someone else do the driving.  Many of the wineries have something called a “limo lounge”, where the drivers can hang out while you are doing your tasting!
  • Build your itinerary and book your tastings ahead of time.  I booked almost all of them a few months out.  I started with a list of wineries after getting recommendations from a friend and doing some research myself.  I mapped them out to see where they all were in relation to one another.  Next came checking availability.  Some were not open the day we would be in Napa so they were eliminated.  I checked into length of each tour, added in driving time via Google Maps, and gave an extra bit of time around each tour and tasting so we could explore the grounds a bit and account for a tasting running over.  I felt three tours and tastings in one day was perfect.  All the wineries were so different from one another, which was another reason I came up with the itinerary I did.  
  • Book your dining reservations ahead of time.  Napa is a popular place and even though we visited in October, restaurants were still full.  

Read more!

Be sure to check out our full article on our hot air balloon ride in Napa Valley entitled, A Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Napa Valley.

Our trip to Napa was part of a larger central California trip.  We have our full one week itinerary and guide posted here, The Ultimate One Week Central California Itinerary.  

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