We’re nibbling our chef-curated picnic on a large resort lawn in Napa, when a brother-and-sister duo stroll up, eager to play with our son, Ben. The lawn, which is the hub and gathering place at the new Vista Collina resort minutes off Highway 29, features corn hole, ladder toss and ample space to play a good game of fetch with our puppy, Cotton. In other words, it’s perfect.
Wine country getaways aren’t the easiest for families with young kids, but when you can find the right place to stay with the proper amenities — for us, that’s a dog-friendly hotel with games, new friends for Ben and an on-site gourmet grocery store — you’ll be asking yourself how soon you can return. And why you don’t have a lawn butler back home.
There’s also a wine-related perk to Vista Collina, which is tucked into a corporate park about 10 minutes from downtown: The Village, a collection of eight Napa Valley winery tasting rooms and a brewery, Napa Smith, surround the lawn. It’s been open for four months — and you don’t need to be a hotel guest to sip. Some, like Trinitas Cellars, Mi Sueño Winery, Luna Vineyards and Jayson by Pahlmeyer, we recognize. Others — Foley Food & Wine Society, Gen 7 Wines, The Wine Foundry and Cornerstone Cellars — are less familiar.
On our first day, after enjoying warm, housemade breakfast sandwiches from Fivetown Grocery, we went wine tasting a few feet from our room. Most of the tasting rooms open at 11 a.m. and close at 7 p.m. — i.e., later than their estate properties — and accept walk-ins, so you can linger up until dinnertime with no crowds (remember, this is a new spot), traffic or time constraints.
At our first stop, Luna Vineyards, we settle at a counter-high table illuminated by modern lanterns for a tasting ($30) of five signature wines, including a luscious estate pinot grigio ($32). Luna Vineyards specializes in non-mainstream Napa Valley varietals, mostly Old World Italian. It was the first winery to plant pinot grigio along the Silverado Trail 25 years ago. Our favorite: the 2015 Sangiovese Classico ($42), a food-friendly, medium-bodied wine made for marinara.
After running Cotton around the property, we return to the The Village to taste at Jayson by Pahlmeyer. The tasting room is the first for the super premium label, which was created 25 years ago by Pahlmeyer proprietor Jayson Pahlmeyer with help from storied winemakers Helen Turley, Bob Levy and Randy Dunn.
The interior is elegant, with a marble-like bar, Mission-style chandelier and rustic community table for tastings. The Jayson Flight ($35) offers a personalized lineup featuring a selection of current release Napa Valley and Sonoma Coast wines, including the soft, supple Jayson Pinot Noir and prized Jayson Cabernet Sauvignon.
Prefer tastings of the hoppy variety? Pop into Napa Smith, with its laid-back vibe and flat screen. The brewery’s new taproom — the original is in Vallejo — features 10 beers on tap, including the flagship Golden Gate IPA and crisp California Lager. You’ll find beer-friendly snacks, from local cheeses and kettle-cooked chips to Clif Family savory nut mixes, at Five Town Grocery.
When Ben’s new friends bid him adieu, we freshened up, crated Cotton and headed downtown for a bite at Gran Electrica, the Michelin-approved upscale taqueria that opened last spring. And there are other, equally tasty options in and around First Street Napa, including the year-old Compline Wine Bar.
Or you can keep the weekend low maintenance and simply cross the street to Vista Collina’s sister property, the Meritage Resort & Spa, home to Siena Restaurant, which specializes in locally-sourced California cuisine with rustic Italian influences. Even easier: Get some macaroni and cheese from the Fivetown freezer and eat in. We won’t judge.