Charges for checked luggage, airlines shutting down, travel warnings against vacations in other countries..what’s going on? We are not in an auspicious season for luxury travel abroad. In fact, I’d wager that this may be the Season of the Road Trip. After all, as we Americans tighten our belts and prepare for some rough financial times ahead, that romantic rental villa in Tuscany will have to wait. A more localized, North American vacation is how many of us will spend our travel budget. While renting a villa in Tuscany is way out of most of our budgets these days, there’s an almost perfect, romantic substitute in Napa Valley.
Miles and miles of low rolling hills, vineyards as far as the eye can see, and a hot California sun that approximates that of the Mediterranean – close your eyes, and you can smell the ocean breeze on a westerly wind – sounds pretty great, doesn’t it? Well, it is. A romantic getaway or long weekend in Napa Valley approximates the feeling of a honeymoon in the South of France, without the giant expense. All that’s missing are the crumbling Medieval cathedrals and renovated Renaissance-era castles. Great wine is made in Italy and France, but the climate of this part of California is so similar, that it’s no wonder some of the world’s best Pinot Noirs and Cabernets are made here. The romance of a European vacation, along with the plethora of wine tours, wine tastings, and overall wine ethos in Napa Valley makes it worth the trip for any romantic couple.
My favorite Napa Valley vineyards for wine tasting are The Frank Family Vineyards, Francis Ford Coppola’s Rubicon Estate, the Robert Mondavi Winery, and Joseph Phelps Vineyards. My favorite romantic luxury resort hotels and inns are the Auberge du Soleil, Meadowood Resort, and Carneros Inn. And the best restaurants for amazing, romantic dinners which rival any in France or Italy, include Bouchon, Redd, ad hoc, The Farm (at Carneros Inn) and of course, the world famous French Laundry. All are in the Napa Valley region called Yountville. Last, St. Helena, just north on route 29 from Yountville, has the best shopping, cutest stores, and the famous Culinary Institute of America; this institute is the short answer for why a few of the world’s best restaurants are clustered close together, right in Napa Valley California.
The best thing about a romantic getaway is the time, and opportunity, to reconnect with the love in your life. Napa Valley provides an abundance of these opportunities. Sure, you won’t see any Renaissance-era architecture like you would in Tuscany, Italy or Provence, France. But you won’t spend the next few years in debt for a luxury vacation either. The best of the European romantic wine tours, right here in America. Perfect.