Welcome to St. Helena located in Napa Valley, California. It has been one of my favorite escapes in wine country for years and I’m so excited to share this weekend guide.
St. Helena, also known as Napa Valley’s Main Street, is one of those places that after your first visit, you’ll keep returning. I grew up going to St. Helena because my extended family lived there. Some of my fondest memories were riding the bikes down Spring Mountain, exploring the town, and grabbing a burger at Taylor’s (now Gott’s Roadside). As I got older, it became a place that my husband and I escaped to for warmer weather and rest.
St. Helena offers the best of all worlds. For me, I find myself drawn to the slower pace, small town-feel that St. Helena has. But it’s so much more. There is world-class cuisine with restaurants offering true farm-to-table menus with local ingredients. There is stunning scenery, where vineyards meet rolling mountains lined with redwoods. Then there is the wine — where to even begin with the incredible hidden gems in this part of Napa Valley?
This is why I love St. Helena so much. It’s one of those choose your own adventures in wine country, where you can do as much or as little as you want. For me, it’s a restorative getaway, a place to slow down to appreciate the smaller moments.
I’ve yet to share about St. Helena and this trip was the first time I took a camera out to capture the experience. So it is with great pleasure and honor to get to share this guide, some of our tried and true spots, and new gems we discovered while exploring. I hope you’ll be inspired to discover all there is to love about St. Helena, California. My husband and I are surely big fans.
| This blog post is sponsored by the St. Helena Chamber of Commerce. Everything shared in this blog post is my own opinion and I only recommend places that I truly love. |
The Weekend Guide to St. Helena, Napa Valley
What to Know Before Visiting St. Helena
Time of Year to Visit: St. Helena is always a year-round destination as each season offers a unique experience. You can stop in for mild days in the spring filled with flowers or stay summer-early fall for days by the pool. Another popular time of the year is harvest season where many of the wineries offer experiences around harvest. For me, winter is always fair game because of the access to spas, cozy interiors, and nothing like a glass of wine to warm up.
Reservations: My number one travel tip for St. Helena is to book in advance. Napa Valley draws in a lot of tourism, thus making weekends busy and requiring appointments. This last year, even the few wineries that did offer walk-up are now by appointment. My recommendation is to book 2-3 weeks in advance for weekends at a minimum for peak season (spring to fall).
Location: Getting to St. Helena is around an hour and a half drive from either Sacramento or San Francisco.
Amount of Time: I think 2-3 nights is perfect for getting a taste of St. Helena.
Where to Stay in St. Helena
The ALiLa Napa Valley recently opened with an overhaul renovation in the rooms and grounds, being Hyatt’s 1,000th hotel. It’s located just outside of downtown, within walking distance to reach Main Street. This intimate and modern retreat is the ideal place to call home while visiting Napa Valley. Well-appointed rooms with calm and earth tones are the ultimate escape for those looking for a quieter hotel to stay at.
Set with a spa and on-site restaurant by Chef Chris Cosentino, you really could never leave the property for the day. Other highlights include a pool with incredible vineyard views and direct access to Beringer Vineyards. If you do plan to visit Beringer, ask the concierge about their special tours available to ALiLa guests only.
Where to Eat in St. Helena
Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch
A tried and true for me, Farmstead at LMR is one of our go-to’s in the valley. What I love about eating here is that you’re set right in their gardens (be sure to stroll around!) where they harvest ingredients on the menu. Some highlights of the menu are their popular bbq dishes made in-house (smoked right there), the seasonal Dungeness crab roll, and don’t forget those beignets.
For an upscale dining experience in St. Helena, you’ll want to book a table at PRESS. Its menu is focused on representing Napa Valley at its finest through thoughtful and innovative dishes. I’d recommend booking a table for their covered outdoor patio that sits under towering maple trees. A few dishes to note, their gnudi (flavors change with season), griddle cornbread, sweet & sour pig ears (this was our favorite dish), and their truffle-glazed chicken.
Located on property at ALiLa Napa Valley, this farm-to-table restaurant was an amazing lunch to kick off our trip. It’s set in a stunning Georgian farmhouse that has a wonderful wrap-around veranda as well. All of the food we had tasted fresh and packed with flavor, like their Caesar fried chicken sandwich (wow!) and the crudités with hummus dip. One thing you don’t want to miss is their margarita or their take on it — it’s one of the most unique cocktails in Napa Valley.
Brasswood Bar + Kitchen
One of our all-day stops in the area is Brasswood. You can pop in for their fresh pastries and coffee in the morning or come in for Italian-inspired lunch and dinner. One special tip: ask for their off-menu house-made mozzarella, it is heavenly. The grounds here are equally stunning and you can even visit their winery and do a wine tasting.
Goose & Gander
One of the most lovely spots to have dinner right in the heart of St. Helena. They have both a wonderful patio and you can’t miss their speakeasy-style basement bar. While there, you’ll want to order a cocktail or two (their menu is extensive!). Their food is rustic and delicious, and we loved the popular burger!
Where to Wine Taste in St. Helena
You have a lot of choices when it comes to wineries in Napa Valley. For me, these five were highlights of the trip because they’re each unique and offer something different. Please note, reservations required at all.
This was one winery that took me by complete surprise. Tucked up a road, the winery building jets out with views over the valley. It is an intimate wine tasting and one offered with gourmet bites made in-house by their chef. The wine is exceptional and focused on estate-grown varietals — we were smitten with the 2014 V29 29 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.
AXR Napa Valley
An absolute gem to go wine tasting at, AXR is one of those “off-the-beaten-path” wineries for me. You go down a driveway and arrive at towering redwoods and these moss rocks that feel like a fairy garden forest. The setting is idyllic and their wine, amazing. There is also a lot of history at this vineyard, being it was around pre-prohibition. Their historic estate and tastings offer a chance to try their range of whites and reds.
As you follow the winding road up Spring Mountain, you’ll take a turn for Barnett Vineyards. Greeted with exceptional views over Napa Valley at 2,000 ft elevation, there may not be a more scenic spot to sip wine. The tasting experience here is boutique and a true tale of family-operated winemaking. You’ll want to reserve well advance and be sure to ask about their award-winning Rattlesnake Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.
The historic property and vineyard that you can’t miss in St. Helena is Beringer. As you pull up the driveway you’ll see the Rhine House which might make you feel like you’re in Europe. Designed by Frederick Beringer who came from Germany in 1884, it’s meant to replicate his previous place in Germany.
There are many ways to experience Beringer Vineyards — whether you choose to do a tasting on the veranda (my favorite) or do a “sip and stroll” (one of the only family-friendly wine tours in the valley), you can’t go wrong. This last trip, we had the chance to do the “Taste of History” which brought us through some of their incredible wines. It wrapped up with a house-made gourmet picnic that we could enjoy. My recommendation is to call their concierge team and chat over the best options for your visit.
One of the reasons I love Schramsberg is getting an opportunity to taste their sparkling wine. It’s one of our favorites from Napa Valley and the chance to tour the property and process is amazing. Their historic vineyard may be best known for the extensive 34,000 square foot cave that houses their aging sparkling wine, a must-see on a tasting. Afterward, sip their sparkling wine under the trees, perfect for a hot day.
Other Things to Do in St. Helena
Stroll & Shop the Historic Downtown
Known as Napa Valley’s Main Street, St. Helena offers a bustling downtown. It’s perfect for an afternoon stroll to pop into the different shops and boutiques. There are a few shops that I love to go into. One you can’t miss is Carter & Co. which showcases curated global goods and their own ceramics — it’s seriously swoon-worthy. I love going to Olivier for their olive oil and if you’re looking for baked goods and coffee, pop into The Model Bakery. While you stroll, keep an eye out for the historic sights, like the iconic electroliers (street lights) that date back to 1913.
Have a Spa Day
When in wine country, nothing beats a morning or afternoon spa experience. If you’re at ALiLa, browses the massage options at their newly opened spa. There are also other spa facilities in town, like the Health Spa Napa Valley which offers spa packages.