On a recent summer day driving through the gorgeous landscape of Napa Valley with its rolling hills, rows of lush green grapevines, and charming farmhouses, the only visible reminder of last October’s devastating wildfires was a sign on a vintage truck parked at the side of Highway 29 with a simple message that read, “Thank you, Firefighters.”
While the majority of Napa Valley’s wineries and vineyards were spared from the fires, tourists stayed away in the aftermath. To support the comeback of this hallowed section of Northern California, many Bay Area businesses have created unique experiences to attract visitors to this world-famous region that is renewed, thriving, and very much open for business.
The swank Nobu Hotel Epiphany Palo Alto in the heart of Silicon Valley has created a new culinary experience for its guests called “Napa the Nobu Way.” The hotel, owned by Oracle founder Larry Ellison, teamed up with two impressive wineries: Domaine Carneros, founded by the family behind Champagne Taittinger and best known as a small grower-producer of sparkling wines, and elegant Adler Deutsch, a member- and invite-only vineyard that produces fine estate-grown Cabernet Sauvignon. The high-end trio is pulling out all the stops in a luxe culinary experience that is worth the splurge.
Guests can first check in to the top-floor suite at the modern Nobu Hotel, boasting expansive views of downtown Palo Alto, Stanford University, and the Santa Cruz Mountains. The hotel, with its contemporary suites in mixed woods and calming blues with shots of chartreuse green, serves as home-base for the two-night experience. Saturday begins with breakfast downstairs in the hotel at Nobu Restaurant (I devoured the delicious non-traditional Blueberry Yuzu pancakes with a lemon-lime zip), followed by transportation to the Palo Alto Airport, where a private helicopter awaits to fly guests up to the wine country. The Nobu Hotel takes care of all the details, even providing a Wine Country Kit filled with essential reinforcements including sunscreen, road snacks, and more. After about an hour-long helicopter ride, guests land in Napa to find a car service waiting to escort them to their first stop: Domaine Carneros Winery.
Best known for its stunning hilltop chateau, Domaine Car-neros is absolutely breathtaking. On the grand terrace, pretty people relax under white market umbrellas, sipping sparkling wine and soaking up the summer sun. (It doesn’t get much better than this!) My knowledgeable guide Noelle Montag could not agree more; she first sat sipping on this terrace as a tourist in 2012 and was so smitten with the wine country, that she moved here and eventually landed her dream job at Domaine Carneros.
Nobu guests will be treated to a private, behind-the-scenes tour of both the estate vineyards and the sparkling winemaking process. At the end of the tour, we tasted four of the estate’s delicious top sparkling wines paired with the ultimate “Chips & Dip,” or Tsar Nicoulai Caviar artisanal caviars served with gourmet potato chips, toast, and crème fraiche. A simply delicious and perfect pairing—who knew caviar could be this good?
But don’t get too comfortable, there’s more. Hop back in the black car for a 30-minute drive up the highway to an entirely different, yet equally impressive, experience at the exclusive Adler Deutsch Vineyard. Nobu guests will tour the airy, private home and contemporary art collection of owner-vintners Robert Adler and Alexis Deutsch-Adler. Next comes an introduction to their exceptional wines, crafted by two of Napa Valley’s most esteemed vinicultural professionals, Winemaker Aaron Pott and Vineyard Manager Jim Barbour, and resulting in special, small-production Bordeaux varietals. Following the tour, sit with Adler for a wine tasting accompanied by a cheese and charcuterie spread.
Then head to the private helicopter and be whisked away to Palo Alto to freshen up in your hotel suite before dinner. Well, not exactly just dinner. It is an 8-course culinary extravaganza paired with select wines and premium sake at Nobu Palo Alto Restaurant, which debuted in 2017 and is the only Bay Area outpost of famed mega-chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s Japanese restaurants known for their cool, clubby atmosphere.
On this warm weekend evening, every seat was occupied and Nobu was buzzing with Silicon Valley hipsters. A friend and I settled into a table near the patio. Our first course of the Omakase menu, the bigeye and bluefin toro tartare served on a bed of crushed ice, was tasty and set the stage for more beautiful dishes. The highlights of our three-hour meal included zesty ceviche, spicy yellowtail sashimi jalapeno, traditional fresh Japanese sashimi, Nobu’s iconic miso-marinated black cod, and tender wagyu ishiyaki sizzling on a hot stone.
While I was impressed by this inventive meal, one outcome I never expected was that I would learn to savor and enjoy the light taste of premium sake. It was presented chilled in a tiny glass, inside a masu, or small wooden box. Sake is meant to be sipped slowly right after a toast, “Kanpai,” or “cheers” in Japanese.
“To your health,” said our waiter, with a smile and a nod. I’ll drink to that.
Note: The all-inclusive rate for “Napa the Nobu Way” starts at $11,500 for two guests; weekends (Friday through Sunday) only. At least 14 days advance notice required; contact Jazz Buchla to book: [email protected], 650.666.3301. Also to note, the hotel is undergoing an expansion set to be completed in 2019, but my stay was not interrupted or inconvenienced. www.nobuhotels.com
Armchair aromas + aromatics.