Daytripping Napa doesn’t have to be wine tasting 24/7. If you’re up to your eyeballs in grape juice and need a break, go tour some of the fantastic art collections and installations throughout the valley. The cost to view is minimal and often free, so it’s a great budget-friendly day of fun.
This weekend we checked out two world-class collections near the town of Napa, down valley, which made for a relaxed afternoon followed by dinner at nearby Oxbow Market. It was an easy and enjoyable itinerary.
First up …
… Di Rosa Preserve. With over 200 acres of open space wildlife preserve, a 35-acre lake, and several buildings including a Gatehouse, Main Gallery and historic residence, Di Rosa Preserve showcases an extraordinary collection of contemporary and modern art both indoor and out. The industrial sculptures throughout the grounds are wonderful. Only the Main Gallery is open for drop-ins ($5 suggested donation), so the real deal takes place on a guided tour ($10-$15 for 1-2.5 hour tour), which takes you throughout the property and remaining buildings. Definitely go on a tour!
We had Lily in the car (we were taking her out in between art collections) and these sheep were on the hill bordering the parking lot. Lily kept growling at the sheep, it was too funny.
Next we headed for the nearby Hess Collection, which has an incredible gallery that is open to the public and free to view. They also make good wine, have a nice tasting room and complimentary tour of the winery, but really it’s the art that captivates.
These photos are of the grounds since you’re not allowed to photograph the art. Boo! You’ll have to take our word for it and go, you won’t be disappointed.
Above is one of the wineries oldest grape vines, originally planted in 1937 by a Christian Brothers monk. (The Christian Brothers monastery is adjacent to the winery and they still own the winery land; Hess maintains a long-term cooperative lease.)
Hess Collection was great—a 45 minute tour of the winery followed by another 45 minutes wandering two floors of amazing art in a beautiful, historic building.
There’s tons of art to view in the valley, but these two venues are in close proximity to each other and therefore, a perfect pairing down valley near the town of Napa. If you’re looking for a good place to go for dinner afterwards my recommendation would be to head towards downtown Napa just 10 to 15 minutes away.
We ended up at Oxbow Market where we could do a little progressive dinner at various merchants. We started with gourmet tacos from Casa, then moved on to an oyster po’ boy sandwich from Hog Island Oyster Co. . We then got pastries from Ca’ Momi Enoteca for a dessert to-go. And I was seriously tempted to fall on a nutella/banana crepe at La Crepe. It’s fun and there’s a little something for everyone, but be warned the prices are a wee gucci, catering to foodies and tourists.
Here are my other favorites for downtown Napa:
- Celadon (fine dining)
- Azzurro E Enoteca (amazing pizza and Italian, local’s favorite)
- Zuzu’s (tapas), and I talk with Chef Angela here >>
- The Pearl Restaurant (California cuisine, local’s favorite)
P.S. On our way up to Hess Collection we stopped at nearby Alston Dog Park, to walk the pooch. It’s a great dog park with 157 acres of trails, a good portion of which is off-leash. Within the park there’s a smaller contained area, but by and large you can just wander the park trails for miles (surrounded by vineyards) with the pooch running free. We’ve been there many times and Lily loves it!