The stone barn at Ehlers Estate was built in 1886.
Napa Valley has always been a feel-good destination – spend a day touring some of the area’s finest tasting rooms and you’ll know what we mean. But as more travelers seek out vacations with sustainability in mind, the winetasting capital of the U.S. is showcasing a different set of feel-good attributes: several farm-to-table restaurants, a LEED Platinum-certified hotel, and, at last count, an impressive 89 Napa Green-certified wineries. (The soil-to-bottle sustainability certification is one of only four of its kind in the U.S.)
“The community has a deeply rooted sense of pride in land conservation and stewardship,” says Sarah Lang, a Virtuoso advisor who specializes in sustainable travel. “There’s an understanding that what’s good for the soil, air, and water will also benefit the grapes.”
With the air warming and wildflowers in bloom, now is a great time to get away. Here, our guide for a safe, socially distant, and sustainable wine country weekend.
Social distancing in style at Domaine Carneros.
An afternoon arrival calls for a glass of bubbly: Domaine Carneros produces some of the area’s best, and it’s home to the largest solar-powered energy-collection system of any winery in the world, which it installed back in 2003. Have your travel advisor reserve a spot for you on the palatial outdoor terrace, where you can sip your way through a four-glass flight of sparkling wines. Stop in the Oxbow Market for a sustainably raised California beef burger at Five Dot Ranch and Cookhouse before heading to Frog’s Leap, one of Napa’s first LEED-certified wineries. Its dry-farmed, certified-organic vineyards yield supple, concentrated wines with a satiny texture – especially the lush 2018 merlot.
Home base for the weekend is the Bardessono Hotel & Spa in Yountville, one of only seven LEED Platinum-certified hotels in the U.S.. Every detail of this contemporary property with 62 rooms and suites (and three private villas) was considered in the context of sustainability, from the geothermal heating and cooling system to the organic linens on each room’s king-size bed. For dinner, indulge at Lucy, Bardessono’s locally focused restaurant. In the airy space, chef Jim Leiken pulls inspiration (literally) from the hotel’s organic garden and serves it up in dishes such as seared Pacific swordfish with carrot puree and French lentils.
Bardessono Hotel & Spa
After a leisurely breakfast, meet your driver (your travel advisor can arrange one) and head to Saint Helena and the historic Heitz Cellar Estate – although it was established in 1961, the winery just recently opened its doors to visitors (with reservations). Heitz’s critically acclaimed wines include a silky Martha’s Vineyard cabernet sauvignon, made with organic and sustainably farmed grapes.
Reset your palate with a glass of Provençal-inspired rosé on the patio at Clif Family Winery, where all 90 acres of estate vineyards are certified Napa Green. For lunch, keep it simple and convenient: Order from Clif’s farm-to-table food truck, Bruschetteria. If you’d prefer to linger, Long Meadow Ranch’s Farmstead Restaurant is just across the street.
A morning of sitting and sipping calls for an afternoon of strolling – and more sipping. Quintessa’s Private Estate Experience gives visitors a chance to explore one of Napa Valley’s prettiest vineyard settings. Guests walk through some of the 280-acre estate’s organic and biodynamic vineyards with a guide before heading to the sleek pavilion to taste some of the winery’s sultry and polished cabernet sauvignons.
The Charter Oak’s leafy courtyard.
Have dinner at The Charter Oak in Saint Helena, helmed by Restaurant at Meadowood chef Christopher Kostow. His family-style dishes expertly show off Napa’s local bounty – think coal-roasted sweet potatoes with yogurt, brown butter, and herbs, and celery leaf chicken with preserved lemon.
Rutherford’s solar-powered Honig Winery is known for its savory, herbal sauvignon blanc. Tastings take place on a large patio with views of the vineyards and the Mayacamas Mountains. Next stop: Ehlers Estate for a private seated tasting in the olive groves amid the winery’s organically farmed varietals.
Prep for your flight or drive home with a stop at Oakville Grocery for decadent grab-and-go sandwiches and a dense selection of local cheeses and olive oils. Between that and the bottles of wine you might have been stocking up on all weekend, you’ll have no trouble bringing a taste of sustainable Napa home.
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