If You Like
Fine wine attracts fine everything else—dining, lodging, and spas—and shopping is no exception. The five towns below stand out for quality, selection, and their walkable downtowns.
Healdsburg. Hands-down the Wine Country’s best shopping town, Healdsburg supports stores and galleries selling one-of-a-kind artworks, housewares, and clothing. One not to miss: Gallery Lulo, for its jewelry, small sculptures, and objets d’art.
Napa. A good place to start is the Oxbow Public Market, where stands selling teas, spices, honey, and chef’s tools do business alongside upscale eateries. To the west along Main Street, the best shopping is between 1st Street and 5th Street, where the chocolate-covered wine bottles at Vintage Sweet Shoppe, in the Napa River Inn, make great gifts.
St. Helena. Galleries, housewares, and clothing and other boutiques are packed into Main Street’s 1200 and 1300 blocks. Of note for ladies are Pearl Wonderful Clothing, where celebrities and regular folk pick up the latest fashions, and Footcandy, known for drool-worthy heels.
Sonoma. Shops and galleries ring historic Sonoma Plaza and fill adjacent arcades and side streets. Head south of town to Cornerstone Sonoma for its groovy but tasteful furniture and housewares shops.
Yountville. The town’s one-stop retail spot is V Marketplace, right on Washington Street. Its two floors of shops include Knickers and Pearls (lingerie), Montecristi Panama Hats, and Kollar Chocolates. You’ll find additional stylish shopping along Washington Street between Mulberry and Madison.
Spa choices abound, and—with ornate treatments involving brown sugar, Cabernet, and other ingredients—the only real question is how much pampering can your wallet withstand. The facilities below stand out among other worthy contenders in Napa and Sonoma.
Spa at Bardessono, Yountville. The spa at the Hotel Bardessono brings treatments to guests in their rooms, which are equipped with concealed massage tables, but in the main facility guests and nonguests alike can enjoy massages, body scrubs, facials, and other relaxing and rejuvenating regimens.
Spa at Kenwood Inn, Kenwood. The experience at the Kenwood Inn’s small spa is marvelously ethereal. Signature treatments employ the French line Caudalíe's wine-based Vinothérapie treatments, among them the Honey & Wine Wrap and the Crushed Cabernet Scrub.
Spa Dolce, Healdsburg. This popular day spa just off Healdsburg Plaza specializes in skin and body care for men and women and waxing and facials for women. Spa Dolce’s signature body-scrub treatment combines brown sugar with scented oil.
Spa Solage, Calistoga. The experts at Solage Calistoga’s tranquil spa developed the "Mudslide," a kinder, gentler version of the ooey-gooey traditional Calistoga mud bath. Instead of immersing yourself in volcanic ash, you slather on fine mud mixed with French clay in a private heated lounge, then take a power nap in a sound-vibration chair. In addition to enjoying spa treatments, you can take fitness and yoga classes here.
Driving from winery to winery, you may find yourself captivated by the incredible landscape. To experience it up close, you can ride in a balloon, hop on a bike, paddle a canoe or a kayak, or hike a trail.
Bicycling. The Wine Country’s mostly gentle terrain and pleasant daytime climate make a two-wheeled spin past vineyards a memorable event. Full packages at outfitters may include bikes, lodging, winery tours, and a guide—or you can just rent a bike and head off on your own.
Canoeing and kayaking. The Napa and Russian Rivers provide serene settings for canoe and kayaking trips past trees, meadows, vineyards, and small towns. Half- and full-day self-guided trips are the norm. You can float with the current to a pickup spot, from which you’ll be whisked by van back to your starting point.
Hiking. Of many worthy hiking spots, two associated with literary luminaries have unforgettable views, and a third winds through scenic redwoods. A 10-mile hike (a bit steep in spots) in Calistoga’s Robert Louis Stevenson State Park leads up Mt. St. Helena, and 20 miles of trails traverse Glen Ellen’s Jack London State Historic Park. Over in Guerneville, redwoods tower over trails both easy and strenuous at Armstrong Woods State Natural Reserve. In spring and fall you can hike through the grapevines at Healdsburg’s Alexander Valley Vineyards.
History buffs often head to Sonoma to view its mission, near Sonoma Plaza. Winery stops east of the plaza provide insights into the origins of California wine making. Visits to Charles Krug and Beringer in St. Helena reveal the Napa Valley side of the story.
Buena Vista, Gundlach Bundschu, and Scribe, Sonoma. These sites occupy land farmed in the late 1850s by three wine-making pioneers. Count Agoston Haraszthy of Buena Vista receives all due credit for his viticultural and promotional accomplishments, although Jacob Gundlach (of what's now Gundlach Bundschu) and Emil Dresel, who grew grapes on the current Scribe site, appear to have been wiser businessmen.
Charles Krug and Beringer, St. Helena. The Napa Valley’s oldest winery opened in 1861 after Agoston Haraszthy lent Charles Krug a small cider press. Beringer Vineyards, founded in 1876 by brothers Frederick and Jacob Beringer, is the valley’s oldest continuously operating property. Tours at both wineries focus on early Napa Valley wine making; for more 19th-century history, take the tour at Inglenook in Rutherford.
Sonoma Plaza, Sonoma. The last of 21 California missions established by Franciscan friars sits northeast of Sonoma Plaza. You can tour the mission, its barracks, and a small museum. A tall sculpture in the plaza marks the spot where in 1846 American settlers raised a crudely drawn flag depicting a bear and declared independence from Mexico. The "Bear Republic" lasted only a month, but within five years California had achieved statehood.
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