This April, we’re looking ahead to a summer filled with wine-, beer-, and spirits-fueled travel featuring the world’s best drinking destinations. Discover more from VinePair’s Summer Travel Planning series here!
You’ve undoubtedly heard of Napa Valley — but do you know why?
It’s a region steeped in history. Winemakers in Napa helped put American wine on the global stage, forever altering its reputation. One of those vintners was Louis M. Martini, a Genoa, Italy-born winemaker who made the move to Napa to pursue his belief that the best grapes make the best wine. And that mission continues today at his newly restored namesake winery in St. Helena, where since 1933, the team has been crafting the award-winning Cabernet Sauvignons that have made Louis M. Martini a household name.
In 1944, post-Prohibition and three decades before the Judgment of Paris, six winemakers came together to combat the key issues and obstacles (price controls, shortages of labor, wine bottles, and rail cars) facing Napa’s industry. Louis M. Martini was one of them. Together, they joined forces to advance the notoriety of the region’s wines and dubbed their “eating and drinking society” the Napa Valley Vintners. And that’s only a small part of the Martini legacy.
There’s plenty to learn about Louis M. Martini — and plenty to explore and experience at the winery, from family-style tastings in a private outdoor cabana to small-lot samples in the cellar. As you prepare to book one of your next tasting experiences, we’ve done the research to build out the ultimate itinerary with key recommendations for dining, lodging, and activities for all. Summer is coming and Napa is calling!
Thanks to the still-active organization’s activities and advocacy over the past nine decades, the world’s wine lovers have not only discovered Napa’s predilection for exquisite wines but returned to it again and again, solidifying the area’s global recognition and establishing it as a must-go destination for any oenophile.
So pour a glass and read on. Then, start making your reservations at Louis M. Martini and experience some of the best Cabernet Sauvignons that Napa has to offer — plus a whole lot more.
Fill Your Cup (and Your Plate)
At Louis M. Martini, there are options for every palate. Though the winery is best known for its collection of robust Cabernet Sauvignon, it also offers a variety of other reds, many from Napa’s famous Stagecoach Vineyard and the historic Monte Rosso Vineyard. At the winery, you can discover new favorites at one of the many tastings offered. Whether you’re looking to feel the California sun on your face during an outdoor cabana tasting or interested in learning more about rare bottles in Martini’s heritage lounge, a variety of experiences means you can explore the parts of Louis M. Martini that interest you the most. Plus, each tasting comes with the option to sip alongside creative culinary creations dreamed up and prepared by Napa-born-and-bred executive chef Aaron Meneghelli.
Unfortunately, you can’t stay at Louis M. Martini all day, but luckily Napa has an incredible dining scene and options for every preference and palate, no matter your budget.
For breakfast, brunch, lunch, or simply a stop to shop, look no further than Napa General Store. Dig into a decadent dish like the brioche French toast or choose your own edible adventure with a build-your-own-omelet experience; sink your teeth into a triple-decker club sandwich, nibble on an artisan cheese plate, or snack on Champagne-poached shrimp. And after you eat, scoop up some gifts or souvenirs at the store itself, where you’ll find jewelry, housewares, and more. (Peruse the catalog here.)
For those in the mood for something fancy, whose dining philosophy is to shoot for the Michelin stars, Napa is ripe with award-winning options. While often not for the faint of wallet — some could be considered bucket-list eating experiences — many offer tasting menus that change daily, making for meals that are literally once-in-a-lifetime experiences.
Look no further than one of Napa’s farm-to-table restaurants for ultimate freshness. With orchards, gardens, and vineyards aplenty, there’s plenty of flora-packed acreage with on-site eateries where innovative and sustainability-focused teams are taking advantage of Mother Nature’s bounty to craft menus sourced from the surrounding earth — paired with what else but local wines.
And you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy a great bite. For more casual, and affordable, experiences, from pan-Asian cuisine to locally loved pizza spots, there are restaurants throughout the Valley with reasonably priced menus, killer happy hours, and even pet-friendly patios, should you choose to bring your canine on vacation.
But wait, it gets better. In addition to cooking up quality cuisine, many Napa restaurants are BYOB, so you can bring in that bottle of Louis M. Martini Monte Rosso Cabernet Sauvignon or perhaps their Petite Sirah, and enjoy it wherever and whenever you choose to dine.
What to Do
Pair tunes with tannins at one of the many arts and culture events taking place in Napa this season. Beyond ongoing events at local wineries and music venues, there are festivals scheduled throughout the season that feature talent from across the world and wine from just around the corner.
Whether it’s a massive three-day affair featuring chart-topping stars, a jazz event where patrons can unwind before the performance at a wine tasting, or an event series featuring arts of all mediums and talent from across the globe, there’s always something exciting happening in Napa during the summer. While lounging in the grass and under the sun enjoying the entertainment, uncork a bottle of Louis M. Martini Sauvignon Blanc — a crisp yet rich bright white that always hits the right notes. (In this case: lime, honeydew melon, and oyster shell.)
All about enjoying the “grape” outdoors? Beyond its famous (and photogenic) vineyards, Napa Valley offers swathes of other stunning scenery to soak up and escape into. To ease into the great outdoors, start your string of Instagram-worthy photo ops at Louis M. Martini’s elevated and comfortable cabanas.
On the hiking front, achieve instant serenity among the Redwoods in Bothe Napa Valley State Park, where you’ll find 10 miles of hiking trails, plus a swimming pool to relax in and around afterward. For those in the market for a challenge, the Oat Hill Mine Trail is a 14-mile round trip with an elevation change of 1,500 feet. And Skyline Wilderness Park, located in the foothills of the valley, is home to 25 miles of hiking trails of all levels, as well as Sugarloaf Mountain, the tallest and tastiest-sounding peak in the park, which on a clear day offers sweeping views of the San Francisco Bay, Mt. Diablo, and Mt. Tamalpais.
As for the Napa Valley River, the best way to enjoy the 50-mile waterway is to get right on it. Rent a kayak or paddleboard to go your own way and explore at your own pace, or sign up for a history tour to learn more about local lore and legends from one of the region’s guides.
Prefer not to paddle? No problem. You are on vacation, after all. Take in those uniquely Californian views with a truly Venetian twist by going on a gondola ride — by far the most relaxing, and romantic, way to enjoy the river, especially at sunset. Just don’t forget the wine. We recommend Louis M. Martini’s Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé, a rose-gold Bordeaux-style wine with notes of watermelon, raspberry, and strawberries with a lovely cream finish.
Where to Stay
It’s time to treat yourself. Napa is home to some of the world’s most stunning hotels, outfitted with turquoise pools, sunny patios, sculpture gardens, and valley views. And when the dinner bell rings, there’s often no need to leave your resort of choice. At many, you’ll find in-house restaurants where renowned chefs whip up dishes that take room service to a whole new level.
For a more down-to-earth stay, check out Calistoga, where your sleep might come with a soak at one of the wellness-focused resorts. There, you can partake in the tradition of plunging and enjoy a natural spa experience courtesy of the area’s mineral springs.
Or, if you want to be in the middle of it all, try downtown, where you can grab a room at one of the quaint inns located just a stroll from shops, tasting rooms, and restaurants. Book a bed for yourself, make friends over breakfast, and solidify your new bond over a bottle in the evening. (To really wow, try one from Louis M. Martini’s Crown Cabernet Collection, which showcases the unique characteristics of the winery’s mountainside Cabernet vineyards.)
Prefer privacy? From single rooms with river views to sprawling houses that practically double as spas with pools, saunas, and hot tubs, short-term rentals collectively offer more than a thousand options in the Napa Valley for travelers who prefer homes to hotels. Whether planning a solo getaway or designing a dream vacation for a dozen, a charming residence checks all of your travel boxes.
When to Go
Carpe diem! Napa boasts a mild Mediterranean climate that grapes and visitors love, meaning no month is too hot to handle. On top of that, during the summer there’s seldom a rainy day, meaning the setting is always ideal to wine and dine al fresco.
If you’re looking to plan your trip around a winery event, consider becoming a member. Being a member at Louis M. Martini means you get first dibs on sought-after releases and exclusive events, like Louis M. Martini’s quarterly Wine Club Release Weekends (May 6-7, September 16-17), where you can connect with fellow members and taste a curated selection of wines paired with specialty bites.
No matter what you decide, don’t dally. Head out to the best coast to soak up the California sunshine and spend a glorious weekend treating yourself to the food, wine, and art that have earned Napa its status as a cultural capital. Cheers! Book your visit to Louis M. Martini Winery now!
This article is sponsored by Louis M. Martini Winery.