Several months ago, I received a note from one of my favorite publicists in the industry. While I receive my fair share of blog-related emails each day, whenever her name pops up in my inbox, I pay attention. And with good reason! Case in point – her email was an invite for an unforgettable four day “Design + Wine” experience with Visit Napa Valley and Serena & Lily. Count me in!
The only catch? The trip was taking place mid-week. Just like the Set Sail Summer event, I struggle to commit to anything on weekdays as it means I need to take time off from work. Those who know me know I hoard my vacation days. I REALLY don’t like to take them. Sure, the agency gives us a generous amount of time off. Plus, after five years of working there, you get an extra week of vacay (I’ve been there for nearly 10). Regardless, I still struggle at the thought of being out of office.
However, seeing as I’m obsessed with all things Serena & Lily, and I’ve always adored Napa Valley, I had to say “yes.” Plus, Bob was invited. And honestly – that sealed the deal. Spending time with him is my number one priority in life. So I RSVP’ed “yes,” and we were off to the races (or should I say vineyards)!
Morning of the Trip
After a 5 AM alarm, we stumbled out of bed to pack the rest of our things, grab the luggage, and order an Uber to the airport. After a quick visit to the United Club for a hot cup of coffee, we boarded our flight bound for San Francisco. Normally, we never have issues with WiFi on flight. But this time it wasn’t an option. Sigh. Granted, it was nothing a cup of coffee and some Friends episodes couldn’t fix!
After landing, Bob and I decided to grab a quick lunch before our first stop of the trip. We found an adorable little restaurant down the street from our first meeting spot, and grabbed a sandwich and salad.
Serena & Lily Design Shop San Francisco
After lunch, we ventured to our first location – the Serena & Lily San Francisco Design Shop. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by Tiffany Farries and the rest of the S&L store team. They were so lovely! They even had the sweetest spread of wine and cheese for our group. It was also the first time I was able to try Alpha & Omega’s wines. More on that later, but let’s just say that really sold me on that winery and brand!
One step into the Design Shop, and I was immediately transported into décor heaven. The Serena & Lily website is chock-full of inspiration and ideas for your living room, kitchen, bedroom, outdoor, and beyond. However, if you have the chance to stop by one of their Design Shops, I highly recommend it!
The Serena & Lily collection is just phenomenal! I fell in love with so many pieces from the line throughout the trip, from this statement chandelier to their outdoor collection, accent pillows, and more. I can easily see is incorporating so many of their pieces into our home.
After a few minutes, we were greeted by the rest of the group on the trip, including Ana and Esteban, Alyssa and Felicia, and Weylie and Wah. Let me just say, the Serena & Lily team couldn’t have picked a nicer group of people to travel with! I’ve known Ana, Esteban, and Alyssa for years, and I truly can’t say enough wonderful things about them.
Yet, as with any group, I always have nerves when it comes to new people (especially ones you’ll be traveling with for several days). Thankfully, Felicia, Weylie, and Wah were DELIGHTFUL. Truly.
Felicia and I immediately hit it off. It felt like we’ve been friends for years. She’s SO personable, funny, talkative, and kind. In fact, I found myself constantly seeking her out during the trip to chat since she always had the best spirit and personality. You know those people who are just always positive and seeing the best in a situation? That’s Felicia. She’s a gem, and I’m positive I’ll work with her in the years to come.
And then there’s Weylie and Wah. WOW. Just wow. These two are wise beyond their years. It’s no surprise they’ve been so successful to date. At first, they were a bit reserved, but I think it was mostly because a few of the girls knew each other already. However, after a couple hours, they had both me and Bob howling with laughter – my face hurt from smiling so much! They are wonderful, and I can’t wait to work with them for my full-time job. They were SO professional, prompt, and just lovely.
On the Road Again
From there, we hopped on the bus on our way to Napa! We made our way over the Golden Gate bridge, through the winding California roads, and found ourselves at Hotel Villagio. As an avid traveler, I research hotels within an inch of my life. After seeing their TripAdvisor ranking, I was a bit concerned.
However, one step onto the property and into our gorgeous room, and I realized the rankings and ratings had it all wrong. This place is SPECIAL. I came to learn the property has undergone a multi-million dollar renovation earlier in the year. It shows!
Honestly, DO NOT let TripAdvisor lead you astray. This property is FABULOUS. In fact, Bob and I plan to stay there again when we head back to Napa. Every detail was lovely – from the beautiful bathrooms to the fireplace, cozy patios, and spacious ceilings. Best of all, the bed was crazy comfortable! Everyone in the group made comments every morning about how great they slept!
Moreover, they served complimentary breakfast every morning, including a wide array of juices, coffee (essential), teas, fruits, eggs, fresh pastries, and beyond. I loved our entire stay here!
Dinner at Estate Yountville
To kick off our first night, we had dinner in the vineyards adjacent to the hotel on The Estate Yountville. It was heavenly! As we sat around the table, the scent of lavender filled the air. Serena & Lily had set-up the most beautiful table display featuring their gorgeous Outdoor Riviera side chairs, rattan lanterns, classic candlesticks, woven placemats, chambray napkins, and more!
From the salads and entrées to the desserts and wine, everything was positively perfect. It was the best way to kickoff the trip!
After a relaxed breakfast at the hotel the next morning, our first stop was Chimney Rock, which was launched in 1989. The 120-acre winery used to be a golf course, if you can believe it! It wasn’t until Terlato Wines, a Chicago-based brand, came in to support to be a partner, that they transformed the golf course into 100% vineyards.
The brand is mostly known for their Cabernet Sauvignon varietal, and all of the architecture of the spaces feature a very South African Cap Dutch style of architecture. They produce 25,000 cases per year and view themselves as a very exclusive, high-end winery. We had the chance to try several varietals, and they were SO good!
We also had the pleasure of meeting Elizabeth, the Winemaker and General Manager, who has been in the wine industry for 20 years. She is a classically trained pianist too. #goals In general, one of my favorite red wines of the entire trip was their Tomahawk Cabernet Sauvignon. It was SO good. Felicia and I loved it so much, that Bob and I decided to nickname her Tomahawk for the rest of the trip. She gracefully obliged!
Alpha Omega Winery
Chimney Rock was a great start to the trip, and Alpha Omega Winery was legitimately the best next step! After trying their wine at the Serena & Lily Design Shop in San Francisco, I was already sold. Their team went above and beyond throughout our entire stay. It was one of many highlights of the trip!
We kicked things off by touring the Alpha Omega winery, where we learned they opened in 2006. Their 12 acres are designed for two things – six acres for vineyards, six for tasting. Recently, Alpha Omega Collective (AOC) opened in downtown Napa. They produce about 12,000-15,000 cases per year.
They also produce wines in stainless steel tanks, which are impermeable and not giving anything or taking away anything from the wines. They lock in the fruitiness without being too sugary.
The Alpha Omega winery itself was also beautiful! It’s easy to see why a co-owner Michelle was an interior designer for five star hotels. Everything felt so sleek, modern, sophisticated, but not too aloof.
My fave was the 2015 Chardonnay, which took 18 months of aging. Delish!
Cooking Class + Wine Dinner at Vista Collina Resort
For dinner, we took a van to Vista Collina Resort, where they recently opened a Food & Wine Center about a month ago. Let me tell you, this experience was a BLAST. It’s no secret I’m a horrible cook, which was further proven during our experience here.
Chef Jose Mejia was so fun and had the best personality, but he sniffed me out as a horrible chef immediately. Literally, I was “cutting” peaches for the salad, and I saw him out of the corner of my eye to another chef giving me the side eye like… “this girl is in trouble.” HA!
Well, thankfully my cooking responsibilities ended quickly, and I was able to enjoy a glass of wine while watching the chefs fixing my mistakes. They were so sweet about it! The entire experience was a great way for all of us to hang out and try something new! In fact, I didn’t think I’d enjoy it since my kitchen skills are sub-par, but I think it’s the perfect experience for a big group.
Additionally, I learned that Vista Collina has nine tasting rooms, including one focused on beer. It’s literally a one-stop shop experience in Napa. I hope to get to visit again soon!
Day Two: Riviera Bike Ride Around Yountville
We kicked off day two with a wonderful bike ride around Yountville with Serena & Lily’s Riviera Bike Baskets. They came in handy for my handbag and Bob’s camera equipment, which were easy to place in the basket as we zoomed around the neighborhood. One of many unique aspects about Napa is the Mediterranean climate. The evenings and mornings are cool and middays are sunny and warm. Perfect for vineyards, gardens, and breakfast-time bikerides, lol!
You know the saying, “It’s like riding a bike” (aka – riding a bike is easy and you can remember how to do it in a heartbeat)? That’s not how I feel about it, lol! I’m not the best bike rider. In fact, this is the second blogger trip itinerary where “bike riding” has been on the itinerary, and my heart has stopped. If there was an award for a bad bike rider – it would be me. Granted, if the bike is stationary, in a dark room with music, and lead by an aggressive instructor, I’m so there – ha!
Thankfully, we had a blast (and I had no major wipe outs)! It was nice to get out, ride around town, get to know Yountville a bit more, and just enjoy the gorgeous weather.
One Hope Winery
OneHope Winery was the cherry on top of the trip. It’s rare for me to come across a brand that not only surprises me, but marks me, for what they’re doing in the community and beyond. OneHope is democratizing wine not just in Napa but the world!
To date, they’ve donated $4 million to date to causes ranging from animals to hunger, the environment and more. Each varietal has a unique charity tie!
Their winery is currently a private estate, so they aren’t open to the public. Thankfully, they’re working on expanding their property to include a tasting room and beyond in 2020.
Dinner at Brix
Our last dinner might have been my favorite meal of the trip at Brix. The co-owner, Valerie, was beyond fabulous! We had so many common connections with her, and immediately liked her! Moreover, their longstanding Napa restaurant recently completed major renovations, and the new space is absolutely incredible.
We had grilled edamame (BEYOND delish), fried green beans with dijon mustard sauce (divine), crab fondue (delish), main dishes and dessert. I also fell in love with their Kelleher Wines! I highly recommend a visit to their restaurant and winery.
Last Day in Visit Napa Valley with Serena & Lily
After waking up, Bob and I met the rest of the group in the lobby to experience an extra special breakfast at the Villa at Hotel Villagio. Basically, it felt like the Presidential Suite of the property. There was a huge private pool, modern kitchen, and gorgeous bedrooms. I never wanted to leave!
I want to send a huge thank you to the Serena & Lily, Visit Napa Valley, Hotel Villagio, Chimney Rock, Alpha Omega, Vista Collina, OneHope, and Brix. I am beyond thankful for the best experience. It’s one I won’t soon forget.
We’ve been to Napa twice before this trip, and every experience has been better than the last. It’s such a special place!
Special thanks to Serena & Lily and Visit Napa Valley for inviting me on this trip! It’s partnerships like these that make Style Charade possible. In full transparency, the brand and tourism board covered my travel expenses and accommodations. All opinions are my own.