One of the things that makes travel so amazing is the opportunity to have new experiences. Even if you’re enjoying a simple lunch outside, usually the flavors are different, the clothes of passersby a little eye-catching, and possibly a foreign language that leaves you reading body language and in the best way possible feeling a little in your own little world! Whenever we travel, we like to find the fun but unique experiences. Nothing crazy, mind you, but bike tours in southern France, walking tours around London, and self-directed bike tours of Victoria are all right up our alley. They each provide a fun way to see a new place outside of the confines of a tour bus! When Chel of Laces & Limos reached out to me on Instagram about our trip to the Napa Valley, I knew this was going to be another fun experience to add to the list. Wine tasting in Napa in a chic, electric tuk-tuk? Yep, I pretty much couldn’t sign up fast enough for I assumed was going to be the best Napa wine tour possible!
So, here’s the deal. It’s an eco-friendly tour that seats an intimate 6 at a time, so this is certainly a more individualized experience. They offer a handful of ‘experiences,’ ranging in number of tastings and how far out of downtown Napa you go! What I LOVED about the tour – well, two things. First, owners Chel and Dieter have hand-selected the vineyards and wineries you can visit based largely on the delectability (that’s a word!) of wines. They also love to partner with newer and/or smaller wineries, so you’re in for a curated experience you probably wouldn’t otherwise have! The other thing I love about the Laces & Limos tour is that they combine tasting rooms in downtown Napa with wineries a little off the beaten path. They LOVE Coombsville – an area just outside of historic Napa and on the verge of being Napa’s next great wine growing area! It’s basically that one area that’s amazing, but it seems to be somewhat of a local’s secret!
What I didn’t love about the tour? That I didn’t get to take the tuktuk with driver home and now I’m stuck driving myself through LA traffic in a car. Lame! Totally kidding. This really was the best Napa wine tour I could imagine!
The Best Napa Wine Tour
We decided to let Chel and Dieter create our tour since I’m all for letting locals tell me their favorite spots! They picked us up our hotel – the River Terrace Inn (more below) – and off we went to Italics vineyard. If swanky and down to earth can logically coexist, I’m pretty sure Italics has nailed it. Owned by a farmer from East Texas who’s incredibly involved in the operations, Italics also oozes style in their tasting room and caves. There’s no traditional bar to saddle up to for your tasting. Instead, you’re encouraged to walk among the vines and absorb that stupendous view! I mean, it was rough, but somebody has to do the hard work, and I’m more than happy to be that somebody!
I was ready to move in, but it was time to wander to our next stop. We hopped back in our eco-friendly tuk tuk and headed back into Napa. I absolutely loved the tuktuk experience, but if you’re worried about your hair blowing in the wind, I’d recommend a scarf or hat. My hair naturally looks a little windblown, so I love the breezes, but I know some like to be warned.
Chic Tasting Room in Downtown Napa
Back in downtown, our second stop was at the Acumen Wines Tasting Room + Art Gallery. Now, if we’re being honest, I’m pretty sure I had to wipe the drool off my face when we walked in. I mean, just look at the interior design going on here! The outside building is rather unassuming, but this gem is beyond worth checking out!
By this point in the tour, we were basically old friends – it’s my favorite when that happens! Anyway, we interspersed getting to know each other a little better with a barrage of questions on our part about the wine making process. I’ve never been a fan of oak-y wines, preferring them aged in stainless steel, but I learned that some wineries use ‘neutral oak,’ which refers to an oak barrel that’s at least 2 years old, so the oakiness isn’t as strong! Well, color me educated! I then kept asking about neutral oak at every succeeding wine tasting – no lie!
Anyway, of all the wines we tasted, the Mountainside Sauvignon Blanc was my favorite. It just made me feel like an al fresco dinner with the perfect summer breeze! I’m always a fan of sauvignon blancs (since discovering a delicious one for our wedding a few years ago), but Acumen has two varietals that are so different, I was in shock. We first tried this Mountainside varietal. Then we switched to their PEAK line. Where the first eased me gently into summer, the second was much more attention-grabbing. I described it as making me feel as though I needed to have strong opinions (I mean even stronger than normal)…
Ok. side note. I like to describe wines by how they make me feel. I’m still learning about buttery, sweet, fruity, and dry characteristics, but what makes sense to me is what a wine makes me feel. Am I ready to have a high-energy evening with friends or is it an impromptu charcuterie dinner on the porch with my husband (I like to refer to this as “breezy”)? Maybe it takes me back to Provence or a great dinner with my family. Who knows! I don’t know if these descriptions help anyone else, but it’s what works for me!
With just 3 hours for our tour, we only did the 2 stops, but that was plenty for us. We said goodbye to Chel and Dieter and wandered a few blocks to dinner. One of the great parts about the tour was that it ended in historic Napa within short walking distance of our dinner reservations and our hotel! Talk about seeing Napa like a local!
Dinner in Historic Napa
There are a number of great restaurants in Napa and, sadly, we didn’t get to try many of them, so you know I’ll be heading back at some point! We had dinner at TORC – a hotspot that’s casual and delectable all at the same time. If a restaurant offers a tasting menu, I’m always inclined to give it a go. Again – let the chef decide what she/he is in the mood to make and it’ll probably be amazing! And it was. We started with avocado deviled eggs and sweet potato puffs with a truffle yogurt sauce. Then we moved to the burrata and white asparagus salad (still drooling over this one) and the Hamachi crudo (pictured above) which was light but had a definite kick! Then on to the mushroom and gnocchi dish (so heavenly) and the short rib. Finishing off our dessert, we decided it was time to head back to the hotel and get ready for another day in wine country.
Where to Stay Near Downtown Napa
We stayed at the River Terrace Inn, which was a wonderful property (right along the river) and perfectly located. About a 10 minute walk from historic Napa, the inn was a great location for us to walk to and from dinner – a welcome treat after days of being in the car and sitting quite a bit! Another fun treat? Besides breakfast and dinner in their chic restaurant, they also offer boxed lunches. We ordered ours to enjoy on our drive back to LA, but they’d be perfect to take to a winery for lunch. We tried the charcuterie and the roasted veggie & feta wrap – both quite delicious. Just leave your order on your guest room door handle in the evening and it’ll be ready for pickup the next morning!