red, red wine… and a lot of cheese: napa valley

{Author: Sam Gerard}

This past December, we spent a few days in Napa before heading to San Fransisco for New Years Eve. It was just as beautiful as I remember it when I was 13-years-old – just with more wine. Way more wine 🙂 I wish we were able to spend more time there, but we made it a point to fit all we could into each day.

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Where we stayed: We stayed at a beautiful resort that’s part of the Timbers resort collection, called The Orchard at Carneros Inn. We stayed in little cottages that were so comfortable, clean, and beautiful. We had an back patio complete with couches and blankets, a wood fire, and a hot tub (which we used multiple times).

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What we did: We went to a few wineries, went on a hot air balloon ride (which was epic), ate amazing food, and explored Napa Valley and Sonoma.



This one was by far our favorite. It was modern but cozy and simply stunning. While waiting for our tour to start, we sat by the fire and took in the view. The tour itself was also great – it was very interesting to hear about the master winemaker and how they go about deciding when wine is ready to be bottled. After the tour, we went to the tasting room to try 4 wines – all of which we loved. Highly recommend this place.


Sterling Vineyards:

The journey to the top of Sterling was beautiful, but the experience that followed didn’t measure up. The tasting room is set atop a small mountain, so you have to take an ariel tram to the top – which is really cool. The tasting wasn’t bad, we just didn’t love the wine and the service was sub-par. I’d recommend it solely for the ride to the top, but wouldn’t say it’s a must-do.

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Francis Ford Coppola:

I remember this one vividly from when I was younger, so I was really excited to go back. Since we knew we were already fans of the wine, we booked a private tasting and loved every second of it. We had a great guide talk us through 4 different wines, took a tour of the facility, and learned how they make and bottle their wine and even about Francis Ford Coppola himself. The entire experience was really neat and the venue was really special – even if you don’t book a private tasting, it’s worth the visit.

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Hot Air Balloon Ride:

On Christmas morning, our parents told us they booked us to do a hot air balloon ride through Napa Valley. Best gift ever. This was on our bucket list and we were so excited (and a little nervous) to check it off the list.

Balloon rides have to happen in the morning when there’s less wind, so we had to wake up super early (but it was worth it because we also got to watch the sunrise).  The hot air balloon company picked us up and brought us to a field, where the hot air balloons were already starting to inflate. We didn’t have much time before they were telling us to “jump in!” – and before we knew it, we were off. It was so surreal, peaceful, and beautiful. It’s hard to put into words what it feels like to float 30,000 feet in the air, but I was surprised that I wasn’t anxious or nervous at all (until the way end when we had some problems landing – but that’s a story for another day). We soared for about an hour and a half – almost 6 miles – over Napa Valley. It was hands down one of the coolest experiences of my life.

Pictures don’t do it justice, but here are a few:

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