We’re kicking off Cabernet Season in style with some trip tips from Emma K. Morris. Emma is an in-the-know local making a name for herself as a freelance photographer, creative director, and brand consultant in the Napa Valley and beyond. Here are her favorite things to experience — both new must-sees and established local hotspots — during our gorgeous late fall season. In addition to wineries, scenic spots, and restaurants, she also highlighted a few incredibly progressive small businesses and arts & cultural happenings.
Here are her tips for what to do during your visit:
Start in the heart of Downtown Napa at Oxbow Public Market, where I often begin my day. Grab the best mocha in town from Ritual coffee, and sip while you browse. Just down the row of vendors is another favorite, Hudson Greens & Goods — I swear by their green juice and avocado toast. Oh, and did I mention there’s now a Napa Bookmine the Oxbow in addition to their Pearl St. location?! Dreams do come true. These gorgeous finds, friendly faces, and delicious treats are guaranteed to start your day of Wine Country adventures off right!
There are hundreds of wineries in Napa Valley and Frog’s Leap Winery has been my absolute favorite since my first visit, prior to moving here. Their cozy wrap-around porch, gorgeous gardens & chickens, and friendly staff make it feel like a home away from home. Much of their organically grown fruit is located on the property, and 100% of their operation has been dry-farmed since they began in 1981. This allows their beautiful wines to truly reflect their terroir. This place means a lot to me and represents so much of what real Napa is all about! When you visit, be sure to give Frog’s Leap winery dog, Abbie, a good belly scratch for me!
Sometimes I get fancy. Solage Calistoga is located “up-valley” (as we locals call it) in Calistoga, and it’s most certainly where the magic’s at for a relaxing spa day/poolside lunch experience. Off-season is the perfect time for an ultra laid-back, peaceful vibe. In fact, I’m working poolside as I type! Not a bad situation. Also on property is Michelin-rated Solbar which happens to serve a fabulous Chopped Cabbage & Chicken Salad that veggies can enjoy with seared tofu instead!
St. Clair Brown is a sweet little greenhouse tasting room serving up fancy cheese plates, rosemary olives, and creamy hummus — all made in-house using ingredients from their garden — to pair with a handful of seasonal wines. It’s very much a neighborhood hotspot, great for happy hour, is dog-friendly, and almost always has a sunset view during Cabernet Season.
A can't miss pink and white striped building north of downtown Napa, Buttercream Bakery is a local staple. Whether it's biscuits and country gravy, a chocolate old-fashioned donut or a hearty grilled cheese you're after, Buttercream's offerings will leave you satisfied. Be sure to get there early, especially on weekends, as this place is bustling with locals eager to get their sugar fix. Pro Tip: The pink wall makes for a great background for your next Instagram shot.
Clemente’s Italian Take-Out
Throughout this post I wanted to highlight a few things that are highly cherished by Napa Valley locals but aren’t often thought of as destinations for visitors – here’s one more. Clemente’s Italian Take-Out is a Napa legend thanks to their invention of the “malfatti” — a dough of cheese + herbed ravioli filling that’s rolled in flour, boiled, then doused in red sauce. Italian slang for “mistake,” once you eat malfatti, you’ll dream about it until the next time you have it! Still 100% owned and operated by the amazing Cittoni family, Clemente’s is an institution in itself. At 78 years old, Clemente himself is still in the kitchen cooking up malfatti every day alongside four generations including great-grandsons! A true Napa success story.
Whether you’re planning a visit, or are a local, hope to see you around town! To follow along on my everyday adventures in Napa Valley and beyond, feel free to follow me over at @emmakmorris.
All photos courtesy Emma K. Morris.