WHERE TO STAY
The Westin Verasa Napa is a winning combination of luxurious amenities and ideal location. Located in downtown Napa, the Westin Verasa has shopping, wine tasting, and Michelin Star eating all within walking distance. The welcoming “craftsman” style lodge design features a beautiful lobby with wood floors, stone pillars, a large stone fireplace, and cozy seating area that opens up to a slate patio with fountain and pool. The modest pool is surrounded by shady cabanas and tall palm trees.
The color scheme reminds you of those often found in Napa: shades of brown and green that complement the view. I stayed in a one bedroom king suite room that had a balcony overlooking an oval lawn (perfect for a wedding) and the Napa River. The room featured modern wood furnishings and granite counters in the full kitchen and luxurious bathroom. It felt classic and modern and their heavenly beds are my favorite beds to sleep on.
WHERE TO EAT
The Michelin-Starred La Toque restaurant is attached to the Westin Verasa and Chef Ken Frank gave me a private tour of the kitchen before he opened the restaurant for dinner. The kitchen is a large show kitchen that allows diners to see Frank’s team at work. I got to see his team create some of the most mouth watering dishes that were all made with fresh, local ingredients while presented and paired with the perfect wine to complement the flavors. The menu is Contemporary French and the atmosphere is sophisticated with a casual elegance. I had some Seared Foie Gras that I watched cooked in a savory broth that melted in my mouth. It was sweet and juicy. I also had a beautifully presented desert made with flowers, a new creation by one of Chef Ken’s protégés.
I also went to Goose & Gander in Helena, known for its menu of mixed drinks created by famous mixologist Scott Beattie. The restaurant and bar is popular with both locals and tourists and the atmosphere was very cozy and cool. The ceiling above the bar is covered in hanging glasses. There the bartenders showed me how to make some of their featured cocktails like the Cucumber Collins and the Bali Spice Old Fashioned.
They use fresh ingredients grown behind the restaurant and they put so much thought into their presentations. The large ice cube in the Old Fashioned was cut from a block of ice so making it transparently clear. While there, I got to sample themenu by Chef Howard Ko. I had their Charcuterie plate: Grilled Spanish Octopus, Steak Tartare, Roasted Quail and their very popular G&G Burger with Foie Gras (which was my favorite). I was in foodie heaven. Chef Howard Ko had an exquisite and creative presentation for each dish, and the flavors were fantastic.
WHAT TO DO
Early in the morning I woke up to call Napa Valley Aloft Balloon Adventures to see if the weather was good for a hot air baloon ride. They said it was and I met with their crew in Yountville. The fog started to roll in so our launch was moved to Pope Valley. After a 30-minute drive, we hopped into our balloon. There weren’t many people in the basket so we didn’t feel crowded. Our pilot brought us up and down over the wineries of Pope Valley where the views were stunning.
There were some clouds but the sun managed to peek through. Floating along with the other balloons was extremely serene and relaxing. After an hour ride we landed safely in the middle of a Peju Province Winery-owned field. Afterwards they brought me back to Yountville for some brunch,mimosas, and delicious hot chocolate with our pilot.
In the afternoon I went to the Peju Province Winery in Rutherford to sit down and speak to Ariana Peju. We ate lunch and tried some of Peju’s blended wine like the Tess, a fruity blend that is served chilled, and Provence, which had a little more spice.
Ariana told me about how her parents started the winery in 1982 and was inspired by her father’s life in the Caspian Sea and France. The tasting room itself looks like a fairytale castle with a moat and a beautiful garden. It has a large stained glass window inside.
We also met with Alan Arnopole who provided some “Vinentertainment” by rapping about the creation of Napa Valley and singing for me in the tasting room. I was given a small behind the scenes tour where I saw the casks of wine being stacked in so they can age. I wished I could have spent more time at this lovely winery while the weather was perfect.