Napa Valley has drawn oenophiles and foodies since the 1970s. In recent years, this delicious destination has gained notoriety, leading to an increase in tourism and widespread growth. While some misinformed folks will tell you it’s “too built up,” savvy travelers know there’s more to this beloved viticulture region than pomp and chardonnay.
Seeking a down-to-earth escape? Turn your attention toward Calistoga, Carneros, Rutherford, and St. Helena. (There are few gems in Napa proper too.) The casual atmosphere and idyllic landscapes—sun-drenched vineyards and rolling hills—are downright delightful. From boutique wineries and farm-focused fare to tranquil treatments and refined yet relaxed lodgings, you’ll find plenty to appeal to low-key visitors. And, as to be expected, there’s no shortage of world-class vino.
Ahead are our favorite laid-back spots to sip, savor, stay, and spa (that’s a verb right?) in Napa Valley.
Auberge du Soleil
Auberge Du Soleil may set the bar for luxury but it does so without an ounce of pretension (not always the case when it comes to hotels of this caliber). Spacious suites offer neutral tones, cozy furnishings, hearths, and soaking tubs. The food at the Michelin-rated restaurant is as scrumptious as the views are spectacular. And the ambience is surprisingly easygoing. Chilly? Your server—having anticipated your needs—will bring over a pashmina. Speaking of, service goes above and beyond in every respect. While working poolside, a courteous staff member might offer a tray for your laptop or a cup of citrus-infused water. Also, we’d be remiss not to the mention the award-winning spa.
Ashes & Diamonds
Guided by a midcentury mind-set, Ashes & Diamonds delivers an experience like no where else in Napa—hip with a modern-meets-retro sensibility. Perhaps cool is the right word. Although the Kashy Khaledi–founded outpost doesn’t try to be, it just is. Saying it has a millennial vibe (although that’s true in many regards) would be an oversimplification of this treasure. Everything is thoughtfully curated, from the design to the viticulture techniques, and yet remarkably uncomplicated. Bottles are a true expression of grapes grown, harvested, and handled with care. Then there are the concerts and conversation series.
Carneros Resort & Spa
Carneros Resort & Spa captures the true spirit of wine country with its refined rural aesthetics, bucolic surroundings, and seasonal cuisine. Spread across 28 acres, guest cottages are endlessly charming, with vaulted ceilings, heated slate floors, and picturesque back patios. The reimagined tasting menu at Farm spotlights a single ingredient from the on-site culinary garden. Bocce and cornhole are compelling reasons to stay put. Then again, a leisurely bike to the nearby vineyards is pretty wonderful too. Afterwards head to the peaceful, adults-only pool—perfect for couples who would prefer not to deal with splashing and screaming kids.
Alpha Omega is something of a dying breed in Napa Valley, a family-owned winery with a focus on sustainability and quality over quantity. The annual production of 15,000 cases is far less than big-name competitors—and that’s a purposeful decision. If you’re looking to spend a lovely afternoon sipping Bordeaux-style nectar, the Rutherford tasting room (open daily from 10 to 6) is the place to do it. Reflective of the region, the setting is pastoral and picturesque. Umbrellas provide a reprieve from the sun. Another distinguishing feature is the fountain, which is particularly pleasant when the breeze gets going.
Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa
New kid on the block, er, in the valley, Calistoga Motor Lodge and Spa is actually a revamped roadside motel. The 1940s darling retains its vintage charisma thanks to the genius of design firm Avroko. Rooms pay tribute to classic car trips with quirky art, sputnik fixtures, and graphic tile. The lobby—more accurately described as a communal living space—boasts plush velvet sofas and old-school games that beckon travelers to hang out for a while. Plus, there’s a fridge stocked with snacks and drinks. String-light-draped pergolas, fire pits, Giant Jenga, and Yard Yahtzee also induce nostalgia. And did we mention pools are fed by geothermal hot springs from below the property?
Long Meadow Ranch
When in Napa...eat, drink, and be merry. That’s precisely why you need to experience Long Meadow Ranch. The Mayacamas Estate, where it all started in 1989, comprises 650 acres of grape vines, olive groves, fruit orchards, vegetable gardens, chicken coops, cattle pastures, and beehives. (The two-hour tour and tasting costs $75.) A few minutes away in downtown St. Helena is Farmstead. The celebrated restaurant showcases the beauty of fresh-grown ingredients. Patrons can dine indoors, alfresco, or book the chef's table—an extraordinary culinary journey. The most important thing to remember? If you’re planning to visit, be sure to bring your appetite.