Culture / Travel

The Tiniest Little Town You’ll Ever Love

This Postcard-Small Restaurant and Wine Haven Is a Major Travel Gem

BY Steffi Burns // 09.08.16

The saying goes that age is relevant only for wine, cheese, and scotch — and I couldn’t agree more. The saying that size does not matter is relative, as I find such joy in dwelling in the tiniest little towns the size of a postage stamp, places overflowing with delicious establishments waiting to be experienced.

My rosé adventures recently took me to Yountville for a long weekend. As you’re driving along Highway 29 toward Napa Valley, the land of wonder with sprawling acres devoted to rows and rows of meticulously planted grapevines, keep your eyes peeled. If you blink, you might just pass the exit for the town.

Yountville proper can seem rather unassuming, and it stretches for only 1.5 miles. I walked back and forth a dozen times, and grew fonder with each lap, each time coming across something new to divert my attention. Sidewalks are adorned with sculptural works of art, tasting rooms, and dining institutions.

Napa Valley has many great wineries, but the three I urge you to visit are Opus One, Silver Oak, and Darioush. Definitely plan in advance and make sure you have reservations.

Yountville vineyards
Yountville vineyards

Yountville is home, of course, to chef Thomas Keller‘s revered The French Laundry and Bouchon, La Bottega from chef Michael Chiarello (whom I used to enjoy watching on the Food Network), R+D Kitchen of the Hillstone family, and the most adorable two-pump gas station ever, Kelly’s Filling Station, also of the Hillstone family.

For a town of its size, Yountville also offers a healthy selection of hotels and bed and breakfasts in which to hang your hat. After much research, and recommendations from friends, I checked into North Block Hotel for four nights. As soon as I arrived, the gracious front desk team escorted me into a precious living room that served as the lobby; it felt like I was being welcomed into my best friend’s house. A bonus: The guest reception staff offered me a glass of pink bubbles to enjoy while I handed over my credit card. Yes, please.

North Block Hotel feels very European, yet still honors its California heritage, and has perfected modern branding with its one-of-a-kind toiletries and candles. Frankincense, orange, and jasmine linger delicately in the air, heated bathroom floors comfort, and a fireplace and comfortable bed set a lovely scene: One could easily never leave this hotel.

There is, however, much to see outside the hotel’s walls. Spend one afternoon in St. Helena to shop the town and have lunch at Farmstead — order the cheeseburger. Then drive over to Gott’s Roadside for one of the most decadent milkshakes you’ll ever have. Also — and I know it sounds ambitious — but you must experience Bouchon Bakery at 7 am. The bakery offers delicately rich French pastries and the best latte you will ever have.

Sunday brunch is a must at Lucy, located in the Bardessono Hotel. The pastry basket is filled with delicious mini scones and mini muffins. Order a glass of Champagne, because this meal is worth lingering over. The jewel-toned beet salad is one of the best, and certainly prettiest, I have ever enjoyed. Save room for dessert — the lime semifreddo is a perfect palate cleanser. The executive chef even gave me a tour of Lucy’s organic vegetable garden, the only certified-organic vegetable garden within a hotel in California.

The beet salad at Lucy
The beet salad at Lucy

Back at the hotel, snuggle up on one of the outdoor sofas in the courtyard near the fireplace. Open a bottle of wine from one of the local wineries, order pizza or homemade pasta from nearby Redd Wood, and savor the evening.

A weekend in Yountville is not complete without indulging in a Ding’s Crispy Chicken Sandwich at R+D Kitchen, visiting the cheese shop and tasting room of Atelier JCB, and picking up a soft-serve cone from Kelly’s Filling Station. And to my dearest North Block Hotel, please save my room, because I plan to return sooner rather than later.

Steffi Burns is a DJ and Impeccable Rosé Wine ambassador.  She is inspired by the secret gems, local flavors, and unique beats that make travel an adventure worthy of a postcard. Find her on Instagram @steffiiburns.

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