Breakfasts impress at Napa B&Bs


POSTED: Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bed-and-breakfasts are the way to go in Napa Valley. Many are historic homes that have been converted into hostelries with the services and amenities of first-class resorts.





        » Location: 50 miles northeast of San Francisco

» Average summer temperatures: 80 degrees during the day; 52 degrees at night


» Areas: Napa Valley has 14 sub-appellations (distinct viticultural regions with different soils and microclimates) and seven communities; from north to south they are Calistoga, St. Helena, Oakville/Rutherford, Yountville, the town of Napa, Lake Berryessa and American Canyon.


» Wine production: California produces 90 percent of the wine made in the U.S., which ranks fourth in the world in wine production after Italy, France and Spain. Only 4 percent of America's wine comes from Napa Valley, but it generates more than 25 percent of California's wine revenues.


» Wineries: The valley has 425 wineries in its 150 square miles (roughly the size of Lanai). Vineyards cover 9 percent of the total land area.


» Activities and attractions: Winery tours (about 100 wineries are open to the public), hiking, biking, golf, spas, river cruises, hot air balloon rides, cooking classes, art galleries, museums, performing arts presentations, tasting rooms (18 in downtown Napa alone), Oxbow Public Market (www.oxbowpublicmarket.com), and the annual Mustard Festival (www.mustardfestival.org) in February and March.


» More information: Napa Valley Destination Council, (707) 226-5813, www.legendarynapavalley.com




One exceptional option is the White House Inn & Spa in downtown Napa (707/254-9301; www.napawhitehouseinn.com), a Queen Anne/Colonial Revival mansion built in 1886 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It offers 16 rooms with chic, contemporary furnishings; an adjoining two-story suite; two spa treatment rooms; a pool and an outdoor Jacuzzi.

Rates include a 24-hour coffee/tea bar; breakfast prepared by the in-house executive chef (think an entree of Grand Marnier French Toast or Silky Scrambled Eggs with fresh herbs and cheese plus all-you-can-eat bacon, lox and bagels, croissants, breads, oatmeal, house-made granola and more); and afternoon hors d'oeuvres and wine tasting, often featuring releases from boutique Napa wineries.

The inn also earns kudos for its green initiatives, including edible gardens, cork floors, natural fiber organic linens and earth-friendly cleaning products.

In Yountville, nine miles north of downtown Napa, Lavender (800/522-4140; www.lavendernapa.com) welcomes guests to its cozy, intimate setting. The sweet scent of lavender and roses from its gardens drift through the windows of its eight rooms, all of which are furnished with a king bed and fireplace. All except one have private patios.

Among Lavender's complimentary niceties is a hearty buffet breakfast served in the main house, which dates back to 1850. A hot item, which changes daily (it might be French Bread Custard or Mushroom and Onion Quiche), comes with accompaniments such as fresh fruit, hard-boiled eggs, yogurt, cereals, pastries and muffins.

Lavender also treats guests to a daily morning newspaper, delivered to the door; afternoon wine tasting with hors d'oeuvres; books, games and bicycles loaned at no charge; and freshly baked cookies, bottled water, sodas, coffee and tea throughout the day. Get acquainted with fellow guests during a spirited game of boules (a French game similar to lawn bowling) in the courtyard.

Yountville has been dubbed the “;Culinary Capital of Napa Valley”; for its plethora of gourmet restaurants; 13 (seven are Michelin rated) in its compact 1.6 square miles. The best known of these is The French Laundry, which accepts reservations two months in advance and requires jackets for both lunch and dinner (ties are optional).

For casual dining, don't miss Taylor's Automatic Refresher, a drive-in-style eatery in St. Helena and downtown Napa that's known for burgers, salads and sandwiches. Notable is the ahi burger, served rare with ginger wasabi mayonnaise. It goes well with sweet potato fries and a glass of wine—your choice of 27 vintages, all produced in Napa Valley, of course.