A Travel Guide to Napa the City, Not the Valley

A Travel Guide to Napa the City, Not the Valley

When planning a trip to wine country, don’t overlook the lively metropolis that is Napa, Calif. By: Valerie Chen
<p>The Napa Wine Train runs on a historic passenger railroad. // © 2017 Napa Wine Train</p><p>Feature image (above): Napa is the principal city of...

The Napa Wine Train runs on a historic passenger railroad. // © 2017 Napa Wine Train

Feature image (above): Napa is the principal city of Napa Valley. // © 2017 Getty Images


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Napa is more than rippling hills topped with grape-bearing vines; an exemplary terroir, including a dry Mediterranean climate; and a giddiness-inducing maze of tasting rooms. An economic and business hub, Napa is also the flourishing principal city of the county bearing its same name. Here, clients can pause from a vineyard blitz for a taste of city life — sauntering along the riverfront, shopping at local boutiques, dining at top-notch restaurants — while still staying within arm's reach of some of the world’s finest wines.

Eat
Each dish is better than the last when feasting at The Restaurant at CIA Copia — a remarkable truth realized somewhere between my initial forkful of local halibut crudo dressed with ponzu, kumquat and cilantro, and the beautiful moment that a prime hanger steak coated with chimichurri and garlic confit hit my taste buds. 

Open since February, the contemporary-chic restaurant is housed inside downtown Napa's The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) building (a few notable CIA alums include chefs Anthony Bourdain, Roy Choi and Anne W. Burrell). 

A rotating menu celebrates seasonal ingredients sourced in California farms and gardens, and the often-refreshed selection of beer, craft cocktails and — of course — wine is just as thoughtful. For dinner and a show, snag a seat at the bar in front of the  open-air kitchen. 

www.ciaatcopia.com

Sleep
If a Napa trip simply isn't the same without grapevines in close vicinity, then book a stay at The Meritage Resort and Spa, a AAA Four Diamond Resort located 10 minutes by car from Napa’s main drag. Guests wake up to a view of the sprawling property’s 9-acre vineyard if they book a Superior, Deluxe or Premier room. 

Forty feet underneath the vineyard is the underground Spa Terra (tip: order a spa lunch of cheese, charcuterie and bubbly to follow a treatment); guests taking the walking trail by the vines may inhale a subtle rosemary scent, which rises from the spa below. 

More fun awaits at the outdoor bocce ball court and the sports-themed Crush Lounge, which offers not only food and drink but also six bowling lanes, shuffleboard and a pool table. But there’s even more to come: By summer 2018, Meritage will expand to include 145 additional guestrooms and suites; a culinary market; a concert and events lawn; an exhibition kitchen; additional tasting rooms; and a wellness center.

www.meritagecollection.com

Photos & Videos
The city of Napa, Calif., is the bustling metropolitan center of Napa Valley, which features superb restaurants such as The Restaurant at CIA Copia. // © 2017 Victor M. Samuel

The city of Napa, Calif., is the bustling metropolitan center of Napa Valley, which features superb restaurants such as The Restaurant at CIA Copia. // © 2017 Victor M. Samuel

In addition to excellent wine and beer lists, the contemporary restaurant offers handcrafted cocktails. // © 2017 Victor M. Samuel

In addition to excellent wine and beer lists, the contemporary restaurant offers handcrafted cocktails. // © 2017 Victor M. Samuel

Enjoy seasonal cuisine with locally-sourced ingredients. // © 2017 Victor M. Samuel

Enjoy seasonal cuisine with locally-sourced ingredients. // © 2017 Victor M. Samuel

Diners near the open kitchen can watch as chefs masterfully whip up tasty dishes. // © 2017 Victor M. Samuel

Diners near the open kitchen can watch as chefs masterfully whip up tasty dishes. // © 2017 Victor M. Samuel

The Meritage Resort and Spa is a sprawling property located about 10 minutes from downtown Napa. // © 2017 The Meritage Resort and Spa

The Meritage Resort and Spa is a sprawling property located about 10 minutes from downtown Napa. // © 2017 The Meritage Resort and Spa

The resort has its own 9-acre vineyard. // © 2017 The Meritage Resort and Spa

The resort has its own 9-acre vineyard. // © 2017 The Meritage Resort and Spa

Below the vineyard is the 22,000-square-foot Estate Cave, which also houses the underground Spa Terra. // © 2017 The Meritage Resort and Spa

Below the vineyard is the 22,000-square-foot Estate Cave, which also houses the underground Spa Terra. // © 2017 The Meritage Resort and Spa

A rendering of Meritage’s future expansion, which will include more guestrooms and suites; a culinary market; a lawn for concerts and events; and more // © 2017 The Meritage Resort and Spa

A rendering of Meritage’s future expansion, which will include more guestrooms and suites; a culinary market; a lawn for concerts and events; and more // © 2017 The Meritage Resort and Spa

The Napa Wine Train takes passengers through Napa Valley onboard restored vintage Pullman railcars. // © 2017 Napa Wine Train

The Napa Wine Train takes passengers through Napa Valley onboard restored vintage Pullman railcars. // © 2017 Napa Wine Train

Indulge in a made-to-order gourmet lunch, including dessert — a slice of “14-carat” carrot cake embellished with edible-gold-dusted walnuts — as well as coffee. // © 2017 Valerie Chen

Indulge in a made-to-order gourmet lunch, including dessert — a slice of “14-carat” carrot cake embellished with edible-gold-dusted walnuts — as well as coffee. // © 2017 Valerie Chen

The Castle Winery Tour stops in Castello di Amorosa winery in Calistoga, Calif., for a tour before heading back to the Napa Wine Train Station near downtown Napa. // © 2017 Valerie Chen

The Castle Winery Tour stops in Castello di Amorosa winery in Calistoga, Calif., for a tour before heading back to the Napa Wine Train Station near downtown Napa. // © 2017 Valerie Chen

Play
Running on a historic railroad track, the Napa Valley Wine Train transports passengers back to the early 20th century as well as to renowned Napa Valley wineries of present day. Guests wine and dine inside restored vintage Pullman railcars as picturesque vineyards whiz by. 

On the operator’s Castle Winery Tour, I nibbled on a made-to-order gourmet lunch — of note was the slice of “14-carat” carrot cake embellished with edible-gold-dusted walnuts — before taking in the view from the alfresco observation deck. My 1.5-hour train journey culminated with a private tour and tasting at Castello di Amorosa winery in Calistoga, Calif. 

Clients can also consider one of the four new daytime Quattro Vino tours, with a rail tour lasting six hours and tastings at three wineries, as well as the Saturday-evening-only Twilight Private Tours, launched July 22, which feature an exclusive dining experience at Raymond Vineyards or Grgich Hills Estate. 

All guests board and disembark at the Napa Valley Wine Train Station near downtown Napa. 

www.winetrain.com

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