West Coast Road Trip Begins: Napa Valley

Lavender Fields at the Robert Sinskey Winery on the Silverado Trail in Napa, California.

Lavender Fields at the Robert Sinskey Winery on the Silverado Trail in Napa, California.

Recently we went on a road trip from Los Angeles to Portland, Oregon and I wanted to share some of the awesome and unexpected gems along the way. The agenda was to stick to the Highway 5 North until Portland, with a detour to Crater Lake, and come back down to LA along the Pacific Coast. 

First Stop: Napa, California!

Wild Flowers Napa
For years I’ve had a favorite stop for picnic fix’ins in Napa, it’s Oakville Grocery on the main highway. You can sample the meats and cheeses at their deli or just wander the isles of oils, tapenades and jams. I make it a point to always try something new when I’m there.
If you’re looking for a great restaurant in Napa, there are many to choose from but I recommend ZuZu for spanish tapas, La Taberna for small plates of the Basque region (I love the cheese and honey empanadas), or Oenotri for the torchio pasta with basil pesto, lemon, parmesan and pine nuts.


It’s pretty easy to find a great picnic spot in Napa, but I thought I’d point you to a list of Napa Vineyards with picnic areas. I found the perfect picnic spot for us at Rombauer VineyardsThey have beautiful gardens with about four picnic tables, each are relatively private and shaded by trees. Oh, and it’s free. I was totally prepared with my cute little picnic backpack that kept our food and wine cold, with utensils and plastic wine glasses! (By the way, I use my picnic backpack all the time so it was a great purchase.)

Rombauer_Napa_Picnic_003b Rombauer_Napa_Picnic_001 Rombauer_Napa_Picnic_004 One place with lovely gardens is the Mondavi Winery, I love the vibrant purples of the artichoke blooms and the lavender gardens…. the purple fields actually inspired me to buy my own bag of lavender flower seeds so I can grow my own and look at them all the time! (I’ll let you know how it goes.)


Next Stop: St Helena!

Nearby is a very lovely little town called St Helena. It’s only 3 or so blocks of charming boutiques and galleries. It was here that I first discovered Olivina natural bath and body products created by a family olive farm in Napa. My favorite is the Olive Body Lotion, though they have other dreamy skin care products made with Meyer Lemon, Fig, Honeysuckle Rose, Grape Seed Oil, Lavender, Fennel & Orange, Pomegranate, Milk & Honey and Rosemary Eucalyptus.

If you enjoy being immersed in nature, I highly recommend the Beringer Brothers Vineyards who have free shaded picnic tables nestled in their forest-like grounds. Of course their wine tasting room is also open daily and they offer wine making tours, too.

Have you ever wanted to make your own wine? I have, but I’ve never tried. Yet. I found a kit where you make your own wine of your favorite variety (Cab, Merlot, Chardonnay, etc.) and it only takes four weeks. I might be more inclined though to try this ‘Fruit Wine’ making kit where you actually ferment fruit juice and make wines flavored with melon, black cherry, white peach, or apple, whatever you like. The wine tasting room at V. Sattui in St Helena is another great place to visit (I suggest going when you are hungry!). They have wine tastings, a European-style deli and marketplace which is pretty popular: (Photos by John Hyun)

Vsattui winery_StHelena

Want Free Wine Tastings?

The wine tasting room at Sutter Home offers free tastings and is located in St Helena. Much to my surprise, their varieties cover a lot of ground and you’ll get a chance to taste specialty and reserve wines that you won’t find anywhere else. Even if you might not think so, chances are that they have something you will like. The Sutter Home Sweet Red has been a favorite go-to red wine ever since.

Wine tasting coupons and discounts can be found HERE.

Sutter Home specialty wines Napa

Special bottles of Riesling, White Zinfandel and Triple Cream wines I purchased at the Sutter Home winery in Napa after free wine tastings. The White Zin tastes of a fantastic strawberry wine and not too sweet at all!

In Search of Lavender Fields?

First thing to know if that typically June is lavender month in Napa Valley and Sonoma County, so schedule your trip accordingly is lavender is something you have your heart set on.

Harms Vineyards, located in the Napa valley, is a husband-and-wife owned and operated lavender farm with natural lavender bath and beauty products for sale on their website. They only open their lavender fields to public once per year at their open house, usually in mid-June. Sign up to get on their mailing list and go visit when they open.

Just slightly north in the town of Santa Rosa, there are some great opportunities to walk among dreamy lavender fields. Matanzas Creek Winery has a lovely lavender garden spanning nearly two-acres. Much of their lavender are the types known as Provence and Grosso, French varieties known for their herbal aroma. Nearby at Sonoma Lavender is a family business cultivating five acres of fragrant lavender. Their varieties include English lavender which has a sweet flowery aroma, Provence and Grosso too. Both destinations will let you enjoy the fields but don’t forget to browse their natural lavender-based aromatherapy and bath products.

Next Stop: Calistoga!

Just 30 minutes north of Napa is the town of Calistoga where they are known for the minerals in their natural hot springs. I found the Golden Haven Hot Springs Spa who have an early bird special (50% off!) on mineral mud baths for couples. It was refreshing and a good laugh, that’s for sure. Continuing North up to Oregon we were giddy to drive past the gorgeous Mount Shasta!
Mt Shasta_roadtrip Oregon Road trip Scenic Sky2

Where to Stay When Visiting Napa Valley

I personally love staying at Bed & Breakfasts, especially in such a gorgeous place as Napa Valley. The best choices are any of the three properties run by Old World Inn: the Hotel Napa Valley, Cabernet House and the Merlot House. Rooms are $149 and up. Here is a directory of all B&Bs in the Napa area.

Alternatively, if you’re in search of an easy, more budget-friendly place to spend the night and continue on your road trip, Expedia has offers starting at $60/night. My mid range budget suggestions are Double Tree Hilton Napa Valley or Chardonnay Lodge, both under $110/night and offer free parking.

Thank you for reading and I hope this helps you to have a great trip to Napa!

Next Stop: The Oregon Border! Come with me

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Meet Suzette
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