Acclaimed wineries and exceptional natural attractions blend in this Up Valley town.
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. 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
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
This article was first published in April 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.