There’s something for everyone in the Napa Valley. While a girls getaway might be all about spa days, bubbly, and blow-out bars, the region offers plenty of options that seem to resonate with men, too.
Here, then, in no particular order, is a list of some of our all-time faves, along with some recent newcomers that opened during the COVID-19 pandemic and quickly have established themselves as great places for fun with the guys (and gals!).
Places to Drink (and Eat)
- California Brandy House. When Gallo bought beloved brandy label Germain-Robin, the wine juggernaut vowed to market the awesomeness of California brandy. This tasting room in downtown Napa is an effort to do just that. Flights include samples of two different brandies—Argonaut and G-R. Visitors who wish to buy bottles can have them engraved for a small fee.
- Napa Valley Distillery. This upstart outfit claims to be the first distillery in the city of Napa since Prohibition—quite an honor in a city built around beverages. A visit to the Grand Tasting Salon includes an educational tour and samples of gin, bourbon, vodka, and some bottled cocktails. A tasting bar outpost in the Oxbow Public Market pours brandies and sells bitters.
- Stone Brewing. The first NorCal outpost of Escondido-based Stone opened in the historic Borreo Building back in 2018, and has owned the best patio in town ever since. Outdoor seating looks out on the banks of the Napa River—a great, though scorching, spot. While the hoppy beers pack a punch, the food here is delicious, too; the Bavarian pretzel is always a good pairing.
- Tank Garage Winery. If you’ve driven Highway 29 through Calistoga you’ve seen this iconic spot: An old gas station turned into a hipster winery. All of Tank’s wines are limited-edition one-off blends, meaning that once they sell out, Tank never bottles another vintage. Depending on when you visit, that means you might get orange wine, pet nat, or something even crazier.
- Faust. Big, bold red wines are the name of the game at Faust, which runs tastings out of a 19th Century Victorian north of St. Helena with stellar views of Howell Mountain. A flagship (and eponymous) cabernet sauvignon sources grapes from around the Valley, while The Pact is a cab with grapes from the estate in Coombsville. Whatever you do, don’t ask to taste whites.
- Memento Mori. This cult-favorite cabernet house had an impressive showing at this year’s Premiere Napa Valley, where its top-selling auction lot was one of just two that sold for more than $1,000 per bottle. The tasting room, in the Tannery Bend complex, has serious mancave vibes, and is an intimate place to sample some of winemaker Sam Kaplan’s latest masterpieces.
Places to Do Other Stuff
- American Canyon Wetlands Open Space. This 7-mile trail system on the southern edge of Napa County is, without question, the best-kept secret in the area. From the trailhead parking lot, follow trails past the resource recovery plant and out along the wetlands at the northernmost part of San Francisco Bay. Be sure to look for egrets, herons and other wetland birds.
- Bann at Oak Knoll. Thailand meets Napa at this three-room bed-and-breakfast that has upped the game on overnight elegance in the South Valley. Room décor is straight out of East Asia, complete with platform beds, tapestries on the walls, and bold, bright colors. Three-course breakfasts capture the same vibe—elaborate creations from owner (and restaurateur and chef) Lalita Souksamlane.
- Napa Cigars. Napa’s favorite smoke shop is as much a place to stock up on stogies as it is a spot to sit for a while and enjoy a few puffs. The humidor stores a wide range of cigars, from small boutique blends to classics old-school smokers likely have enjoyed for years. There also are incredibly rare, limited production cigars. The shop also sells and pours wine, beer, and port.
- Wombat Fishing Charters. Yes, there are stripers and various other fish in the Napa River. And a guided and geared-up tour with this American Canyon outfitter is a great way to get out there and catch ‘em. The company offers a variety of other trips as well, including sunset cruises, half-day wetlands tours, and full-day sightseeing cruises under the Bay Area bridges.
- New West Knifeworks. Knives are art at this new-ish shop on Main Street in St. Helena, which is the first California outpost of Jackson Hole-based New West Knifeworks. All the knives are custom-made and most have ergonomic or wooden handles that are one-of-a-kind as well. The store sells knife sets, as well as “knife sculptures” that double as storage implements.
- Ace & Vine. Napa’s newest card room is a surprisingly lively place to spend a night. On one side, a restaurant serves up pan-Asian cuisine and cocktails all night long. On the other side, visitors can play live poker, blackjack, baccarat, and three-card poker, to name a few. Perhaps the best spot in the house is the back patio, which has Vegas-style cabanas and overlooks the Napa River.