Picturesque landscapes, expansive wineries, elegant estates, and a foodie’s dream: this is Napa Valley. California’s wine country is rich in art, culture, adventure and leisure. Championship golf courses, hot springs and mud baths in Calistoga, world class dining and unique tours and festivals have made this a year-round destination.
First a little history…
Patricia Gallagher, a United States citizen and business partner to Steven Spurrier, British wine expert and French wine merchant, came up with an idea to host a wine tasting to honor the 200-year anniversary of the American Revolution. Her knowledge of unsuspecting, quality wines coming out of California set the stage to pay homage to the cooperation between the French and the Patriots of the Revolution.
The French wineries had spent centuries perfecting their process, passing knowledge down for generations, which led to their global dominance.
California wines, however, came from wineries opened by individuals chasing their dreams in their second or third careers between the 1960’s-early 1970’s. These were wines attempting to mimic the great French wines which, up until this point, were the gold standard. Farmers and vintners developed partnerships with UC Davis to develop the technology and technique rapidly, much of which is still in use today.
Judges were carefully selected and when the results were in everyone was taken by surprise. Three out of four top scoring white wines were from California, with Chateau Montelena’s Chardonnay taking first place 10 points ahead of their French competition. While the battle amongst the reds was a close one, Stags Leap Cabernet beat some of the greatest wines from Bordeaux to win first place.
Prior to the Judgment of Paris in 1976, wine aficionados living outside continental Europe wouldn’t dare to touch a domestic wine, particularly in America, where the common product was cheap wine, compounded with loads of sugar, sold in jugs. These victories not only solidified California as a real presence in the winemaking industry, they created the global market and changed the way these New World wineries perceived themselves. It opened up lines of communication and education around the world and became an indication of how wines would taste and be made for years to come.
Ninety-five percent of Napa Valley’s 400+ wineries are family owned and operated. You can choose from large vineyards such as Robert Mondavi or spend the day in Crusher Wine District, a collection of boutique wineries that you can walk between for a unique and intimate wine tasting experience. Become a winemaker for a day at Raymond Vineyards and create your own blend to bottle, cork, foil, and label. Take a cave and barrel tour at Rutherford Hill, finishing with a tasting right from the barrel. Ride a gondola at Sterling Vineyards. Transport to Tuscany and attend a tasting and tour at the Castello di Amorosa, a 107-room castle complete with drawbridge, moat and torture chambers. And my personal favorite; hop aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train, a restored 10 car, 140 seat antique Pullman train, complete with its very own tasting car featuring boutique wines, as well as three course and small plate menus to enjoy as you make stops throughout the valley at Charles Krug, Robert Mondavi, Merryvale and V. Sattui.
Tastings don’t stop there. From active wine adventures to olive oil, craft beers and foodie tours, there is much to choose from on your Napa Valley getaway. Discriminating golfers and wine connoisseurs opt for the ultimate pairing – highly memorable Golf & Wine experiences, all spiced with culinary delights.
The Silverado Resort and Spa in Napa is home to two championship courses designed by Johnny Miller, member of the PGA Hall of Fame. Both courses meander through historic oak trees with dozens of water crossings and elevations, creating challenging rounds. The North course plays host to the Safeway Open, which kicks off the PGA Tour's schedule each year, making this the hallmark of the Napa Valley Golf Experience.
You can also spend the day winding through 150 acres of Chardonnay, Merlot and Pinot Noir vineyards at Chardonnay Golf Club. With a four-star rating by Golf Digest and perfectly managed by Roger Billings, this is one of the premier golf destinations in Northern California. The course is made for anyone, providing five sets of tees to choose from, whether you are a professional or senior. Enjoy the outdoors in this beautiful landscape, which also serves as a wildlife preserve.
A Napa Golf Experience is not complete without a round at Eagle Vines’ golf course, one of the area´s most scenic courses. It is also one of the most challenging layouts, its numerous risk-reward opportunities force golfers to use every club in their bags.
Have a picnic with treats from Oxbow Public Market, Oakville Market, or Dean and Deluca after your round. Or visit one of the many award-winning restaurants throughout Napa Valley, which has more Michelin stars per capita than any other wine region in the world. For some, Chef Thomas Keller's Michelin three star The French Laundry is the utmost treat but there are numerous other world-class dining options I can highly recommend: Ad Hoc, Mustard's Grill and Oenotri - to mention just a few.
California’s Napa Valley is waiting for you. It’s time to cross this one off your bucket list. Book your unique golf & lifestyle adventure to Napa with Elite Golf Experiences today, priceless memories can be guaranteed.
VP of Business Development, Elite Golf Experiences