There are a lot of reasons to love Napa, California: the stunning vistas, the glorious California weather, the relaxed atmosphere, world class dining (yes, even gluten-free), and of course the wine.
When most people speak of Napa, they are actually referring to the Napa Valley – a world famous 30-mile wine region located just an hour outside of San Francisco that is comprised of several small towns, Napa being one of them. The city of Napa is located at the southern end of the valley. To the north you will find Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena, and Calistoga. Each city or town offers its own unique charm. One of the main reasons to stay in Napa proper is the Inn on Randolph, a dedicated gluten-free luxury bed and breakfast located just a short walk from Napa’s newly revitalized downtown.
If the term “bed and breakfast” conjures up the image of a dusty old house with kitschy knick-knacks and shared bathrooms, the Inn on Randolph will surely change your mind. Located in Napa’s largest residential historic district, the former home and cottages have been lovingly and painstakingly renovated, creating a serene and modern experience while still maintaining the classic character of the original structures.
With the Inn on Randolph, owner Karen Lynch has created not only a beautiful environment in which to stay while in Napa, but she’s also thought of everything possible to make your stay comfortable and memorable. The attention to detail is evident in the luxurious linens, pillow top beds, beautifully remodeled bathrooms, open kitchen, serene outdoor spaces, and drink area where you can help yourself to water, sodas, coffee, and a variety of teas 24 hours a day.
There are several private cottages on the property to choose from or you can stay in one of the luxuriously appointed rooms in the historic residence. Included in every room is a half bottle of Napa’s fine wine, organic body care products, fluffy robes, and spa tubs for relaxing after a day of sightseeing or wine tasting.
A full gluten-free breakfast is prepared daily in their dedicated gluten-free kitchen using the finest local ingredients. The talented chef at the inn strives to use organic ingredients whenever possible, including produce from their own gardens. Breakfast is served in the beautiful dining room or on the deck overlooking the gardens with the option of dining privately or with other guests of the inn.
Karen and her staff take extreme pride in their inn and in creating the exact experience you want. Knowledgeable and helpful, the staff is attentive without being overbearing. They can make arrangements that will enhance your stay or leave you to your own devices if that’s what you choose. They can also help point you to gluten-free or gluten-free friendly restaurants in the area.
Wine is what has made Napa famous and visiting local wineries is always a treat. If you have never been to Napa before, try visiting the Robert Mondavi Winery for their tour and wine tasting experience. Though it is a large commercial winery, they do an excellent introductory tour covering the history of Napa Valley and wine making. The tour gives new guests a good background so that they feel comfortable heading out into the valley.
For an over-the-top winery tour, check out the Full Circle Wine Experience at Long Meadow Ranch. Guests are chauffeured to the 90-acre Rutherford Estate property where they tour the organic vineyards and farms, which include a wide array of heirloom fruits and vegetables as well as hens and honey bees. From there, guests are taken to the 650-acre Mayacamas Ranch, situated high above Rutherford. There, guests explore the award winning winery and caves and learn about wine and olive oil production. The visit finishes with an extensive wine tasting and a farm-to-table dinner paired with Long Meadow Ranch wines. Reservations for the tour must be booked at least 24 hours in advance. Be sure to let them know you are gluten-free. The chef will prepare a delightful gluten-free meal especially for you.
The Caves at Soda Canyon is a popular destination for wine lovers. The unique property is one of the few fully underground wineries in Napa Valley. They offer a variety of wine tasting options. Other hidden gems in the valley that offer a personalized experience are Frog’s Leap Winery and The Terraces, a family-run winery that also produces balsamic vinegar.
If wine tasting is not your thing, there are plenty of other activities to enjoy, including bike riding through the vineyards, hiking on the gorgeous trails, hot air ballooning over the valley, or playing golf on one of the many courses.
For the ultimate in relaxation, visit the town of Calistoga and treat yourself to the healing waters of the natural springs and detoxify with their famous mud baths. The mud baths – which consist mainly of hot spring water, peat, and natural minerals infused with rich volcanic ash – have been valued for their restorative and therapeutic properties for thousands of years. The mud baths will leave your skin feeling soft and renewed, your muscles relaxed, and your mind blissfully clear. Calistoga is also home to Petrified Forest, where you can step back in time 3 million years and view the largest petrified trees in the world.
The town of Yountville is renowned for its world class restaurants and is home to many award-winning chefs. It has earned the unofficial title of “Culinary Capitol of the Napa Valley.”
If it’s shopping you’re looking for, Napa Valley will not disappoint. From fine local art to locally owned boutiques, each of the small towns in the valley offers a wide variety of delights. Stroll St. Helena’s Main Street and discover unique designer shops, olive oil tastings, and indulge your sweet tooth at Woodhouse Chocolate.
The Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa is a unique shopping experience not to be missed. Located adjacent to the Napa River and Napa River Trail, the marketplace offers an eclectic mixture of local artisans and food purveyors. Within the Oxbow Market are two gluten-free restaurants: C Casa, and Cate and Co. To keep safely gluten-free while out wine tasting, biking, or hiking, pick up a picnic lunch at Cate and Co. Ice chests and picnic supplies can be loaned to you by the Inn on Randolph if needed.
With all the gluten-free dining options available in Napa, it makes for a fabulous and safe “home base” for taking day trips to other California delights. Just an hour’s drive south will take you to the beautiful city by the bay, San Francisco. With its steep rolling hills, iconic Golden Gate Bridge, unique mix of architecture, distinct neighborhoods, and rich history, San Francisco is a visitor’s delight. To find one of the many gluten-free dining options in this fabulous city, visit glutenfreetravelsite.com.
Whether you are looking for romance, relaxation, or adventure, Napa is a must-see destination that can be enjoyed year-round. From May to August, the vineyards are in full vegetation, offering lush landscapes. Summers are warm (often hot) and offer a respite from the chilly, foggy summers of nearby San Francisco. The peak season in Napa is harvest season in September and October. By November, the valley is rich with the deep reds and golden hues of changing leaves.
It’s been said that Napa is for lovers. While it’s certainly a romantic getaway destination, it is also very familyfriendly and a great place to explore with friends. Napa is for lovers of great food, fantastic wine, and a beautiful way of life.
By Carol Kicinski
Images compliments of The Inn on Randolph