A balcony at Rutherford's Auberge du Soleil resort frames a Napa Valley view.
The Up Valley town of Rutherford may not measure up to neighboring Yountville for Michelin-starred restaurants and high-end shops, but this renowned Cabernet belt, cradled on either side by the Mayacamas and Howell Mountains, more than compensates with a cache of acclaimed wineries, artisan olive oil makers, and easy access to natural attractions, including Lake Hennessey, a hilltop fishing lake surrounded by vineyards and forest. (707) 226-5813, ext. 106, legendarynapavalley.com. Area code is 707 except as noted.
Tucked along a bend just off the Silverado Trail on the Rutherford Crossroad, the Napa Valley Grapevine Wreath Company weaves sturdy cabernet vine prunings from the Wood family’s 80-acre ranch into wreaths, sombreros, wine bottle holders, lampshades, and other items practical and artistic. The country store, which turned 25 in 2010, has gone from roadside stand to year-round operation that ships products around the world. 8901 Conn Creek Rd., 963-8893, grapevinewreath.com. Among the handful of buildings that constitutes “downtown” Rutherford, St. Helena Olive Oil Co. could pass for a general store. Housed in a warehouse that doubles as production factory, retail outlet, social hall, and tasting bar, it invites you to sample and browse everything from locally produced extra-virgin olive oils to organic lavender bath products. In back, there’s winetasting and a lounge where you can watch movies on a fabric screen. 8576 St. Helena Hwy., (800) 939-9880, sholiveoil.com. Down the street in a tiny 1872 brick cottage that used to house the post office, wife-husband team Elizabeth Pressler and Spencer Graham turn out delectable fruit-driven Elizabeth Spencer cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc, and syrah. A refreshingly unpretentious spot in the midst of haute wine country. 1165 Rutherford Rd., 963-6067, elizabethspencerwines.com.
Nothing’s more mouthwatering than dozens of succulent chickens slowly turning on the wood-fired rotisserie at Rutherford Grill, but the Angus beef burgers (with shoestring fries) and slow-roasted ribs give them a run for their money. On warm days, the outdoor patio is packed with families, wine lovers (no corkage fee), and tourists. 1180 Rutherford Rd., 963-1792, hillstone.com. For more than four decades, La Luna Market & Taqueria has been the locals’ go-to place for picante burritos, tortas, tacos, and quesadillas. Take a break from cheese and crackers with housemade salsa roja or smoky salsa de molcajete and a bag of tortilla chips. 1153 Rutherford Rd., 963-3211, lalunamarket.com.
With its walled fountain courtyard, Spanish tile roof, stucco walls, and century-old oak beams, the hacienda-style Rancho Caymus harks back to Napa Valley’s Mexican past. Twenty-six split-level suites feature hand-carved walnut beds, flat-screen TVs, and private outdoor sitting areas; many offer wood-burning fireplaces and whirlpool tubs. From $159 for AAA members. 1140 Rutherford Rd., (800) 845-1777, ranchocaymus.com. The granddaddy of wine country luxury hotels, Auberge du Soleil sits on a hillside olive grove overlooking Napa Valley. Its 50 opulent one- and two-bedroom maisons—420 to 1,470 square feet, all with private terraces—are being redesigned in a more modern style but still feature fireplaces and enough pillows to furnish a small harem. The spa and Michelin-starred restaurant fit right in amid all this extravagance. From $750. 180 Rutherford Hill Rd., 800-348-5406, aubergedusoleil.com.
Photography courtesy Auberge du Soleil
This article was first published in April 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.
Check out the rest of our Napa Valley package:
Calistoga: Old West meets Old Faithful
Napa: budget restaurants and a bustling new riverside
Oakville: take a deep dive into wine culture
St. Helena: upscale yet folksy Main Street
Yountville: the Valley's fine-dining capital