Yountville

These days Yountville (population about 3,000) is something like Disneyland for food lovers. It all started with Thomas Keller's The French Laundry, one of the best restaurants in the United States. Keller is also behind two more casual restaurants a few blocks from his flagship, along with a very popular bakery. Perhaps by the time you read this, his proposed ice-cream shop will be open, too (permits can be hard to come by in this small town). And that's only the tip of the iceberg: you could stay here for a week and not exhaust all the options in this tiny town with a big culinary reputation.

Yountville is full of small inns and luxurious hotels catering to those who prefer to be able to walk rather than drive to their lodgings after dinner. Although visitors use Yountville as a home base, touring Napa Valley wineries by day and returning to town for dinner, you could easily while away a few hours in town, wandering through the many shops on or just off Washington Street, or visiting the many downtown tasting rooms.

Yountville is named for George C, Yount, who in 1836 received the first of several large Napa Valley land grants from the Mexican government. Yount is credited with planting the valley's first vinifera grapevines in 1838. The vines are long gone, but wisps of Yountville's 19th-century past bleed through, most notably along Washington Street, where a café at 6525 Washington occupies the former train depot, and shops and restaurants east of it inhabit the former Groezinger Winery. If you're up for a history walk, the visitor center of the Yountville Chamber of Commerce, a block to the south, has a good map.

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