Every summer, there is a crush on Napa’s main roads that cut through its plentiful vineyards, on the hot sidewalks in the small towns, (especially if they lead to baguettes at Bouchon), on the popular eateries on the side of the road, from upscale Redd to casual, atmospheric Gott’s. There is a crush on this otherwise quiet, country-like corner of Northern California, and so one of the most idyllic options for a San Francisco local is to deflect at a beautiful home in a tranquil neighborhood. Better yet if said home has a gorgeous pool, a prolific vegetable garden and fruit tree field, a deck just the right size for twice-daily yoga, and a group of friends bound together by the serenity of it all. This past weekend, I found myself in the company of all of the above, led by ever-endearing Nicole Cronin.
We woke up to the sound of the birds and vineyard views. After a blueberry and spinach smoothie and maybe a few California dates, we welcomed the day with yoga on the deck, followed by a full breakfast of fresh fruit, homemade granola, and an asparagus omelette made by Claudine, our natural chef for the weekend. There isn’t much cell service in Napa, which was fine by me. I managed the whole weekend without it, and it felt quite freeing to not strain my eyes on a screen of any sort. I was so tranquilized by the steady sun, the yoga, and the property, that I found myself laying on a beach chair with a book found in the home’s library. Sitting and doing nothing, nothing at all, is one of the most challenging things to do. It came quite naturally to me in this setting. Even my shower had a vineyard view. Every bathroom with a potential view should have a window in its shower.
The only moment that I felt my engine truly spike was when I discovered the fruit trees in the side yard, all charmingly labelled with a stone. Fig, nectarine, peach, plum, apricot, apple… all my friends were there. There were even wild raspberries growing on the road. I gathered them up in my shirt, a makeshift basket, and ran back to the kitchen with my bounty. I went back for more with Claudine, and we bit into our nectarines straight from the vine. That sequence of sounds is stored in my memory bank: snap from the tree, the soft crunch of the nectarine skin breaking, the juice dripping down my arm, and my girly squeal of delight. My future will not be complete without a full field of fruit trees; it’s decided.
If you do not have a friend of a friend or a trustworthy VRBO rental, you might find yourself at the hilltop Auberge de Soleil, known for its soaking tubs overlooking the valley and its friendly, Relais & Chateau service. It is ideally situated for visits to St. Helena and Yountville. If you seek a flatter property with a ‘hipper’ vibe, if you will, I might recommend Carneros Inn, which is closer to San Francisco on the idyllic Carneros Highway.
On the way back to the city, my friend and I stopped for lunch at one of our favorite spots: Oakville Grocery. They make a perfectly grilled wild salmon, and I love their marinated gigante beans and beet salad. It also happens to be a quintessential Napa favorite; with a thoughtfully curated selection of jams, oils, cheeses, and everything a fantastic gourmet store boasts. Their sandwiches sound divine, but Julie and I were on a yogi high, and we savored our salmon on the picnic tables out back. Driving back to the city, we were so blissed out, we hardly even noticed the traffic on 101. We felt as if we were floating above them, having skipped out on the crush of it throughout the whole weekend. So, this is how you do wine country in the crowded NorCal summer: a private home, a pool, a fabulous yoga instructor, and ubiquitous fruit trees.