Perhaps the most elegant agricultural region in the U.S., Napa Valley is the country's most famous wine region. The vineyards of more than 400 wineries are spread out across the hills that frame the 35-mile-long valley, which encompasses the communities of American Canyon, Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga. The attitude in Napa Valley event venues is completely California casual, but wine country sensibility permeates everything, from the placement of terraces to take full advantage of the view overlooking a vineyard, to the attention to detail and innovation in restaurants with famous chefs at their helm.
San Francisco, Oakland and Sacramento International Airports are each approximately 60 miles away from the Napa Valley and can be reached within 1.5 hours driving time. Most major airlines operate out of one of these airports, along with low-cost carriers, such as Virgin America (SFO), Southwest and JetBlue.
Hotel venues in Napa Valley feature 25 properties that can accommodate a group of 50 or more people, with three of the major hotels in the town of Napa. After the 2012 upgrade completed at the 500-room Meritage Resort & Spa, the hotel now offers 32,000 square feet of function space and a six-lane bowling alley. The 435-room Silverado Resort & Spa provides 37,000 square feet of function space, and the 180-room Westin Versa has 12,000 square feet of function space. The town of Napa continues its downtown revitalization, recently opening the reflagged Andaz Napa, a boutique hotel with 141 guest rooms. Auberge du Soleil in Rutherford has a newly renovated spa and Calistoga Ranch in Calistoga is currently renovating its spa.
At the Vintage Estates in Yountville, the 112-room Villagio Inn and the 80-room Vintage Inn share 3,000 square feet of indoor and 20,000 square feet of outdoor function space that can handle a meeting for up to 375 people and a banquet for 1,000.
When considering event venues in Napa Valley, the first choice that springs to the mind of any planner is a winery. Because regulations protecting the agricultural habitat limit the number of visitors to many wineries, only a small handful of the vineyards can host group events. And whenever a reception or party is held at a winery, it must include a learning experience connected to wine, which can be anything from a tour and tasting or wine bottling experience, to an expert talking about blending wines or food and wine pairings.
The two wineries that can accommodate the largest numbers for a party are V. Sattui Winery in St. Helena, which has a large outdoor space in the middle of the vineyard that can host 200 people, and Castello di Amorosa in Calistoga, an actual castle that was brought over from Italy. Groups of up to 300 people can have a party indoors or outdoors there.
Other unique venues include the Napa Valley Wine Train, which runs from Napa to St. Helena and allows groups to charter a single car or the entire train (up to 376 people). The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, located in what was considered to be the largest stone winery building in the world when it was completed in 1889, houses not only teaching facilities, but a highly regarded restaurant and function space that can host special events of up to 350 people.
As one would expect, Napa Valley has a wealth of world-class restaurants, with new ones led by big-time chefs opening on a regular basis. Local favorites include the Italian family-style Don Giovanni; Oenotri, with its sophisticated wine country approach to Italian eating; Oxbow Public Market's Kitchen Door, which is famous for the chef's creative use of mushrooms; and Solbar, with a casually hip attitude to California cuisine.
Photo by Flickr user: elcapitan79