I’ve been living in California for a long time now; and while I have seen many of the Golden State’s most beautiful places (Yosemite and Big Sur come to mind), I have to admit that I haven’t fully explored it yet. To me, that’s a good thing because there’s still a lot in my state that pleasantly surprise me.
Take Napa Valley for example. I have avoided it for so long because of several reasons, including the fact that it just seemed to me very predictable, just another tourist destination that’s bland and trite. But during a recent weekend visit to Yountville, California—Napa Valley’s culinary center—I am not ashamed to admit that I was proven wrong…
There’s a reason—or rather a few remarkable reasons—why Yountville is considered Napa’s culinary capital. This idyllic haven is home to some of the most stunning sceneries you’ll ever see in California as well as many of the most amazing restaurants and wineries not just in California but also in the country.
Our first stop during our visit was M(a)isonry, a wine collective and art gallery that not only offers tastings of the best wines produced in the region but is also home to an eclectic collection, all for sale, of cool and eccentric art pieces. We very much enjoyed our tasting paired with Redd Wood’s cheese and charcuterie board, but we LOVED exploring its gorgeously decorated rooms and garden.
North Block Hotel
I’ve stayed at a number of hotels and resorts over the years, some of them simply fantastic, luxurious and award winning. I have to say, however, that North Block Hotel has officially made it to my top 10 favorites.
Staying at this lovely boutique hotel during our Yountville weekend, we were able experience and take advantage of most of its complimentary offerings (we had to skip their spa because we were scheduled for treatments at Bardessono—more on that later). These include a glass of wine upon check in and cruiser bikes that you can pretty much use anywhere around town. The staff is also super friendly and always happy for a nice chat during non-busy times.
Our gorgeous, newly-renovated room boasted an intimate furnished patio; a luxurious bed with oversized pillows and a pretty chandelier overhead; mood lighting everywhere; a massive bathroom that has a separate shower, a big tub and yummy toiletries; free WiFi; and complimentary filtered water and espresso.
We also enjoyed the surprisingly spacious pool and whirlpool area, which has a big heated pool, several lounge chairs and free Cabana-style seating with Moroccan decor.
Insider Tip: North Block Hotel also offers complimentary use of their all-new Volvo XC90 SUVs. See guest services or call ahead to schedule your preferred time.
It doesn’t take long for Yountville to unravel its many charming qualities. Our first day there not only included cheese and charcuterie tasting at M(a)isonry, but also an unforgettable dinner at one of Chef Thomas Keller’s highly-rated restaurants. Bearing in mind the fact that I travel all the time and have had the pleasure of eating at some of the most wonderful restaurants, it’s definitely saying something when I say that our dinner at ad hoc is one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life.
ad hoc has a four-course, family style, prix fixe menu that changes daily, and it just so happens that the restaurant was serving their legendary Buttermilk Fried Chicken the night we dined there. The chicken was addictive, and so were the other items on the menu—Endive Salad (yummy), Clam Bake (more spinach please and how is that corn so very juicy?), Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam (best preserve, cheese and biscuit combo ever!), Butterscotch Pudding, and the cheesy grits and greens as slides. Even their cocktails were amazing.
It’s no surprise that every single item on the menu here is amazing, considering that the kitchen staff work like a well-oiled machine (General Manager Elias Mandilaras was kind enough to show us the behind-the-scenes action.) The kitchen was basically an obsessive-compulsive person’s (like me!) dream—clean, neat and super organized.
Insider’s Tip: ad hoc’s daily menu is available at around 9 am every day. Check their website to see what’s on the menu that day or let them surprise you. The restaurant also hosts Sunday brunch at addendum, its garden-slash-outdoor space.
This is only day one of our Yountville adventures. We have a ton more to share so stay tuned for Vignettes from Yountville, Day Two.
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