Hidden Napa: A Guide Through Wine Country’s Best-Kept Secrets

Northern California is known worldwide for its chardonnay and cabernet, but it’s the hidden gems in Napa Valley’s southern region that make a stay here truly memorable.

Napa Valley is quintessentially Americana. For decades, this destination has attracted travelers with its stunning landscapes, rich history, and – of course – award-winning wines. But if you’re looking for a truly unique getaway to West Coast Wine Country, then we recommend exploring the more under-the-radar options. Our friends at the newly opened Stanly Ranch welcome you to the southern edge of Napa for a fresh take on the vineyard experience. And as always, your SmartFlyer travel advisor can seamlessly coordinate each of our recommendations.

A Brief History of California Wine Country

The answer to the broad question “what is Wine Country” could take many turns, but we’ll begin with an overview of the area that makes up this historic region. Wine Country is located in the northern Bay Area of California. It was first established as a prime location for vineyards in the 19th century. From several Native American tribes to the eventual European settlers, people always saw this region as an agricultural goldmine. Later in the late 20th century, the region attracted a range of travelers, offering activities ranging from historical sites to hot air balloon rides.

People always saw this region as an agricultural goldmine.

A common misconception is that Wine Country only includes Napa Valley. While Napa County makes up a large portion of the region’s wineries, Northern California Wine Country is also filled with regions boasting their own climates and offerings. This includes the counties of Sonoma, Mendocino, Lodi, Gold Country, and Livermore & Tri-Valley. Napa is synonymous with Wine Country for a reason though. Napa County produces more than a thousand different brands of wine each year, including the region’s signature cabernet and chardonnay. Many of the wineries here are also family-owned, meaning each case is meticulously crafted using techniques passed down from generation to generation.

Where to stay in Napa

Surrounded by 712 acres of rolling vineyards, Stanly Ranch offers exclusive access to some of the hidden gems in Napa Valley. As the newest member of Auberge Resorts Collection and the third of its properties to open in Napa Valley, it was conceptualized to be distinct from its sister hotels, Auberge du Soleil and Solage. Honoring 150 years of history, this hotel blends 21st-century sustainability and wellness with a classic Americana spirit. Stanly Ranch reimagined 135 standalone cottages and suites as modern farmhouses. Each offer Californian indoor-outdoor living fit with fire pits, outdoor showers, and plush lounge areas.

The hotel’s remote location also makes for an ideal Napa Valley massage and wellness retreat. Stanly Ranch’s three venues – Halehouse, Springhouse, and Fieldhouse – feature an expansive pool and fitness areas framed by the panoramic views of the local vineyards. Each house guides guests through a different step in the wellness process. Begin with a treatment at Halehouse; follow it up with a cold plunge at Springhouse; and finally, continue your wellness journey with their customizable Fieldhouse personal training program.

How to spend a weekend in Napa

Napa Valley is well-suited for all kinds of travelers, whether you’re looking for a romantic retreat or a quick weekend getaway with friends. A weekend in Napa has a year-round allure; spring is an ideal time to view the popular mustard flower blooms whereas fall invites you to enjoy crisp mornings and evenings in between long days spent outdoors. And no matter the time of year, a visit to this region engages all the senses. Stanly Ranch offers a particularly vibrant activities menu, ranging anywhere from farm-fresh dining to private helicopter rides and all bookable through your SmartFlyer travel advisor.

Smartie recommendations for how to explore
Napa Valley’s hidden gems

Check out the dining on property

Stanly Ranch’s Bear restaurant invites guests to dine on a colorful spread inspired by its namesake’s penchant for foraging. For maximum freshness and reduced waste, Farm Director Nick Runkle enforces regenerative cultivation and regular soil analysis. This philosophy helps Executive Chef Garrison Price create menus filled with fresh seasonal ingredients grown on property and by local farmers.

Thanks to the region’s diverse ecosystem, Stanly Ranch is able to serve guests a wide range of delicacies. Menu highlights include a crispy rice dish featuring pickled shiitake in a nước chấm sauce, all sourced from local farmers in the region. The property also sources seafood from the nearby coastline, such as prawns and fish. Stanly Ranch’s live-fire cooking experiences are a particularly delightful dining option. The restaurants blend these finely charred dishes with an extensive fermentation program, featuring in-house harissa with twenty-seven ingredients.

Ride through the valley on a vintage motorcycle

No Wine Country stay feels complete without a wine tasting. But it’s the unique way in which Stanly Ranch arranges transportation to and from Napa Valley’s hidden gems that sets it apart from a conventional trip from vineyard to vineyard. For this private wine tour, navigate through the vineyard backroads in a vintage, tandem sidecar with a personal driver. These expert guides take you through exclusive tastings of the Carneros region of the Napa and Sonoma valleys. Stanly Ranch’s partnership with The Hudson Ranch also ensures guests opportunities to taste their exclusive Hudson products, made from world-class wine grapes.

Visit Donum Estate via helicopter

If you’re craving a cultural escape, we recommend visiting one the of region’s most prestigious estates via the Sonoman skies. After arriving at Napa airport via private ground transfer, take a helicopter ride to Donum Estate. The helicopter lands directly in the vineyards. There, your personal guide will walk you through a wine tasting paired with the chefs’ selection of small dishes. Afterwards, depart on a private art walk to observe the property’s extensive contemporary art collection.

Founded in 2011, The Donum Collection features a collection of open-air sculptures. These hidden gems in Napa Valley make up one of the world’s largest accessible private sculpture collections. This evolving selection of art includes works from eighteen different countries across six continents. A third of these pieces are also site-specific, meaning you’re guaranteed an experience exclusive to the estate.

Go off-road for the finest wines at Quintessa

Kickstart the day with a private transfer from Stanly Ranch aboard a vintage Land Rover Defender. Afterwards, set out for an ultra-exclusive tour of one of Napa Valley’s hidden gems, Quintessa. This stunning winery and estate is located in St. Helena on the edge of the Vaca Mountain range. What sets Quintessa apart is its iconic 2018 Quintessa wine, a fine vintage cultivated from their vineyard’s organic farming practices. Additionally, the property grants Stanly Ranch’s personal drivers access through the vineyards to sites inaccessible to other visitors. Upon arrival, you can enjoy a hilltop teaser tasting before trekking down to a stunning hillside tasting and charcuterie experience.

Ready to experience a new side of Napa? Contact your SmartFlyer travel advisor to get planning.

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