Awards

Experts' Choice 2021: Sonoma & Napa Valley win Best of USA

California wine country is the top USA destination in 2021, according to professionals.

March 25, 2021

by Dena Roché

Awards

Experts' Choice 2021: Sonoma & Napa Valley win Best of USA

California wine country is the top USA destination in 2021, according to professionals.

by Dena Roché

We’ve named Napa and Sonoma Best of the USA in our Experts’ Choice destination awards for the counties’ award-winning vineyards, excellent restaurants and hotels, and focus on sustainability.

Post-pandemic, California Wine Country, with its options for responsible tourism and plentiful outdoor activities is an appealing destination, and has plenty of new hotels, restaurants and tasting rooms if you’re keen to travel after a year of being grounded.

Vineyards, wineries and tasting rooms

wineries

Aldina vineyard in Sonoma County

In Sonoma, don’t miss Aperture Cellars from one of my favorite winemakers, Jesse Katz. The winery’s new hospitality space is a perfect setting to taste the exceptional Bordeaux wines Katz is known for. On the coast, Marine Layer Wine has brought their Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs to a new tasting room in downtown Healdsburg. Also in Healdsburg, Bacchus Landing is opening a collection of wineries under one roof with a tasting room for each and outdoor space where you can picnic and enjoy the wines.

Several new tasting rooms have opened in Napa. The Faust Haus at Faust Wines in St Helena is a renovated Victorian home with original pre-prohibition cellar and outdoor terrace where you can enjoy the estate Cabernet Sauvignon. Be Bubbly is Napa’s first dedicated Champagne and sparkling wine bar.

In July, Baldacci Family Vineyards will open their hospitality center with private tasting rooms, wine bar and large outdoor patio where you can enjoy boutique wines from their Stags Leap District vineyards.

More than 70 percent of the Napa Valley Vintners’ members, including popular vineyards like St. Supery Winery 76 in Rutherford and Schramsberg Vineyards 88 in Calistoga are certified with the Napa Green program, one of the most rigorous sustainability programs in the industry.

Where to stay

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Montage in Healdsburg

One of the most eagerly anticipated hotel openings of the year is the Four Seasons Resort Napa Valley. The hotel will have a 7.4-acre organic vineyard led by world-class winemaker Thomas Rivers Brown, and a spa inspired by Calistoga’s hot spring wellness history.

The just-opened Montage in Healdsburg is taking Sonoma by storm. There are 130 bungalow-style rooms with a contemporary, wine country aesthetic. Moments away is Aperture Cellars winery. Also new is The George in downtown Napa with nine modern, luxurious rooms, housed in a gorgeous 19th-century Victorian mansion.

Solage, Auberge Resorts Collection 86has unveiled a $30 million renovation, adding 11 new suites. In summer,  the brand will open a 135-room luxury hotel and spa at Stanly Ranch featuring a winery, 70 vineyard homes and 40 villas.

Several properties have completed major renovations this year, includingDr. Wilkinson's Hot Springs Resort 76in Calistoga and the Milliken Creek Inn and Spa 79on the Napa River.

Where to eat

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Hazel Hill at the Montage

In 2020, PRESS Restaurant 79 in St Helena, which boasts the world’s largest Napa-only wine list at 1200 bottles, hired superstar chef Philip Tessier to update the restaurant. Tessier has worked at three of the best restaurants in the world; The French Laundry, Per Se and Le Bernardin.

TRUSS Restaurant & Bar opens this spring at the new Four Seasons Napa, led by Michelin-starred chef Erik Anderson. Foodies can expect California cuisine expertly paired with wines from the resort’s winery.

The newly opened Hazel Hill at the Montage in Sonoma offers a locally sourced menu with French flair that can be enjoyed in the main dining room, or al fresco overlooking the resort’s vineyards.

In January, Top Chef finalist Casey Thompson opened Folktable. On the menu are dishes like black truffle chicken hand pies and chicken fat butter rice made with Dungeness crab and trout roe.

Dry Creek Kitchen has a new menu created by newly appointed chef Michael Lewis with a focus on ingredients from local producers.

What else to do

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Osmosis in Freestone

With an abundance of natural landscapes to explore on foot or by bike, and a culture of promoting health, Napa and Sonoma are ideal destinations for a wellness break.

Try Spa Terra at The Meritage Resort and Spa 76 with its spa cave, or Osmosis which has the only cedar enzyme baths in the United States. Try some grapes a new way at the Fairmont Sonoma spa with a facial using Caudalie’s Vinoperfect products.

Yoga lovers can take classes among the vines at Emeritus Vineyards while cyclists can pedal to local wineries with Sonoma Valley Bike Tours.

For wine, food and nature lovers, there’s no better destination for 2021 than Napa and Sonoma.

Dena Roché is a freelance travel writer and owner of private wine services business, www.vinroche.com


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