Napa and Sonoma Travel Guide
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10 Things to Buy in Napa and Sonoma

Winemaking and the Wine Country lifestyle inspire the creations of gifted local artisans.

Bottles of wine, many of them handcrafted in small lots at boutique wineries, are the most popular locally made goods to purchase during a Wine Country visit, but there’s much more worth seeking out. Northern California was the birthplace of the maker movement, a development reflected in the emphasis Napa and Sonoma artisans place on reusing and recycling the stuff of winemaking—barrels, bottles, and even corks—to craft furniture, jewelry, candles, and other items.

Wine-making concepts like terroir (how specific characteristics of a vineyard or region affect a wine) and blending (a little Merlot into Cabernet Sauvignon, for example, to soften it) inspire beauty and skin-care products. Fashion jewelry by area designers echoes the casual chic lifestyle the Wine Country excels at, and several books document wineries and their wines, people, and animals. Specially made wine glasses enhance wine appreciation, and ceramic tableware and gourmet cooking tools elevate the dining experience at home. Below are our top picks for shopping in Napa and Sonoma.

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PHOTO: Photo Courtesy of the Donum Estate
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Wine

WHERE: Napa Valley, Sonoma County

Yes, this one is obvious—buy wine in the Wine Country—but perhaps for reasons you haven’t considered. Familiar brands like Mondavi and Beaulieu have a few widely distributed wines you might easily be able to purchase back home. At the winery, though, the focus will be on higher-quality small-production offerings sold only in the tasting room or through the wine club. Many boutique wineries sell all their wines “DTC” (direct-to-consumer), not at retail wine shops, so, again, the tasting room might provide your only exposure.

INSIDER TIPA set of wines in a custom wooden box makes an excellent gift for yourself or a friend. Jordan Vineyards and Winery in Healdsburg sells a handsome two-pack of its annual Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon vintages. In Oakville, Far Niente, whose partners started four other Napa and Sonoma wineries, sells an Estate Collection five-pack with one wine from each label.

 

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PHOTO: archideaphoto/Shutterstock
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Wine-Barrel Furniture and Accessories

WHERE: Napa Valley, Sonoma County

Winemakers use oak aging barrels for a few vintages before the vessels are considered “neutral,” meaning they no longer impart any wood flavors to a wine. What happens to all those neutral barrels? Winemakers retain some, aging wine in them to add “roundness” and mouthfeel, but many are sold off, their staves, metal hoops, and lids transformed into furniture—Adirondack chairs, barstools, planters, and tables—along with wine racks, lazy Susans, swings, jewelry, and anything else enterprising artisans dream up.

INSIDER TIPYou’ll find wine barrel furniture throughout the Wine Country. Napa General Store in downtown Napa has a broad selection. Several winery gift shops, including Mumm Napa in Rutherford and Patz & Hall in Sonoma, carry Olive and Poppy’s stackable barrel bracelets.

 

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PHOTO: Photo Courtesy of Wine Country Botanicals
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Terroir-Driven Beauty Products

WHERE: Yountville

“Terroir” is the French term for soil, climate, and related conditions that make a vineyard or region, and therefore its wines, unique. Several Napa and Sonoma companies apply this concept to sourcing ingredients for beauty and skin-care products. April Gargiulo, whose family runs a boutique winery, spent two years locating the organic botanicals in Vintner’s Daughter Body Serum, a rejuvenating face oil. Former vintner Nicole Simpkin sold her winery and used the proceeds to establish Wine Country Botanicals—body washes, lotions, sugar scrubs, and other products. The aloe vera bubble bath in her Napa Collection (there’s also a Sonoma Collection) is an in-room amenity at the luxury Archer Hotel Napa.

INSIDER TIPIn Yountville, Hunter Gatherer and Forty Five Ten sell Gargiulo’s serum. The Archer’s gift shop in Napa has Simpkin’s bubble bath.

 

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PHOTO: Africa Studio/Shutterstock
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Wine Glasses

WHERE: Napa

High-end wineries pride themselves on serving their wines in the best possible stemware. After a few tastings, you might catch on that the quality and shape of a glass really do enhance wines’ aromatics and other attributes. Some wineries use different types of glasses (one or more per category) for whites, reds, and sparkling wines, while others choose one style, usually a Bordeaux-red glass or variation. Brands local wineries favor include Gabriel-Glas (Switzerland), Lehmann Glass (France), Reidel (Austria), and Stölzle Lausitz (Germany).

INSIDER TIPSome winery gift shops sell the brand used in the tasting room. At its downtown Napa brick-and-mortar location the online Feast it Forward lifestyle network sells reasonably priced four-packs of glasses Stölzle Lausitz designed for the store. With 5 percent of proceeds earmarked for charities helping women, children, animals, health, and international causes, that Chardonnay or Cabernet will taste all the better.

 

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PHOTO: Photo Courtesy of Napa Bookmine
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Gift Books

WHERE: Napa Valley, Sonoma County

With their photogenic mountains, valleys, vineyards, and architecture, the Napa Valley and Sonoma County inspire large-format gift books devoted to wine, food, and other topics. Perennial favorites include titles about winery dogs and cats or containing aerial photography. In addition to winery gift shops, check out Napa Valley Bookmine, with two downtown Napa locations, and the local mini-chain Copperfield’s Books, which has two Napa Valley and four Sonoma County locations.

INSIDER TIPFor a deep dive into wines, wineries, and history, check out sommelier Kelli A. White’s ‘Napa Valley Then & Now.’ Weighing in at 13 pounds, the book is hardly suitcase-friendly, but pound for pound it’s the most comprehensive survey of America’s premier grape-growing region. In ‘Wine Country Women of Napa Valley,’ top women vintners, winemakers, and chefs share recipes and tales of the valley.

 

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PHOTO: Kirkman Amyx/McEvoy Ranch
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Olive Oil

WHERE: Rutherford, Petaluma

By tradition that dates to antiquity, grapes and olives have been planted near each other, together supplying two staples of the southern European diet: wine and olive oil. Given that history and the Wine Country’s Mediterranean climate, it’s no surprise that 19th-century French, Italian, and other immigrants planted olive trees near vineyards here. As the Napa Valley and Sonoma County evolved into a culinary mecca, many wineries began growing and harvesting olives to produce high-quality extra-virgin olive oils.

INSIDER TIPOnly a few wineries mill their own olives into oil. Visitors to Round Pond Estate and Long Meadow Ranch’s Mayacamas Estate, both in Rutherford, and McEvoy Ranch, in Petaluma, can tour the milling facilities and taste and purchase oils produced entirely on-site. McEvoy’s tasting patio has views of alternating rows of grapes and olive trees planted Old World–style.

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PHOTO: Photo Courtesy of Jay Jeffers
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Pottery

WHERE: Napa, St. Helena, Calistoga, Healdsburg

Some Wine Country restaurants extend their support of local purveyors for farm-to-plate cuisine to the second part of the equation, serving meals on beautifully crafted ceramics sometimes made within a few miles. Napa Valley artisans of note include Amanda Wright and Richard Carter, who (independently) create elegant dinnerware in St. Helena, and Jeff and Sally Manfredi of Calistoga. For some of the Manfredi ceramics, Jeff collects ashes of grapevine shoots burned after pruning, curing the ashes for two months before Sally incorporates them into the couple’s conventional glaze to memorable effect.

INSIDER TIPThe Store at CIA at Copia in Napa and The Makery at The Prisoner Wine Company in St. Helena carry Amanda Wright’s pottery. Jeff and Sally Manfredi sell their ceramics at Calistoga Pottery near downtown. Chateau Sonoma in the Cornerstone Sonoma complex stocks Richard Carter’s ceramics.

 

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PHOTO: Photo Courtesy of Robindira Unsworth
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Jewelry

WHERE: Napa Valley, Sonoma County

“Everyday wearable chic” is the goal of many local jewelry artisans, some of whom put a bohemian spin on their output by incorporating leather or oxidized metals. Look for jewelry at winery gift shops, but also in downtown Sonoma, St. Helena, Healdsburg, Yountville, and Napa.

INSIDER TIPNapa resident Alexia Viola sells her jewelry at Makers Market across from the Archer Hotel Napa. Out of her shop in Petaluma, Robindira Unsworth crafts jewelry featuring labradorite, moonstone, and other semiprecious stones that contrast smartly with her trademark oxidized sterling. You can also find her jewelry and that of other local talents at Pearl Wonderful Clothing in St. Helena and Chateau Sonoma in Sonoma.

 

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PHOTO: Photo Courtesy of Napa Wine Candles
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Scented Wine-Bottle Candles

WHERE: Napa

Wine bottles are even more ubiquitous than barrels as a wine-making by-product in need of recycling and reuse. Many bottles are indeed recycled, with others finding a second life as water glasses, chandeliers, and in many cases vessels for soy-wax candles. Many a winery gift shop has a variation on the theme.

INSIDER TIPFeast it Forward in Napa carries a line of locally made wine-scented candles made from natural soy wax. The scents include Chardonnay and vanilla oak, Pinot Noir and cherry blossom, and Cabernet Sauvignon and blackberry jam.

 

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PHOTO: Victor M. Samuel/Culinary Institute of America
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Gourmet Cooking Tools and Utensils

WHERE: Napa Valley, Sonoma County

Home to destination restaurants, two campuses of the Culinary Institute of America, the Sunset Test Gardens and Sunset Outdoor Kitchen, and several small cooking schools, the Wine Country might awaken your inner gourmet chef. Should that happen, at numerous well-stocked emporiums you’ll be able to stock up on every type of cooking tool and utensil imaginable.

INSIDER TIPTwo spots not to miss are the Spice Islands Marketplace at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena and the Store at CIA Copia in Napa. Packed to the gills, the Marketplace is the kind of place you can get lost for hours. The experience at the Store at CIA Copia is more curated, with functional items—glassware, ceramics, olive-wood mortars and pestles, and knife sets—that seem like works of art in themselves.