Plan the Ultimate Romantic Weekend in Napa Valley

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By Courtney Cochran

I know it sounds clichéd: guy meets girl, guy decides he likes girl, guy decides to whisk girl away for an über romantic weekend in - surprise!! - wine country.

Ok, so jetting off to wine country isn't the most original idea to occur to love-struck gents (and lasses) with romance on the brain.

Now that we've got that out there, I'd like to remind everyone of two very important supporting pieces of information: a) wine country, no matter how many times you've been, is simply one of the most romantic places on earth, and b) there are about as many romantic spots and activities in wine country as there are wineries in Napa Valley (a lot!), which means you can make your trip - and your romance - seem new every time you go.

Heating up in wine country
Below I've listed a few of the most romantic spots in Napa Valley, all of which are guaranteed to spark some heat between you and your special someone.

The emphasis is on the "ultimates" - the best high-voltage, larger-than-life winner-take-all romance spots in the area. Because, at the end of the day, your honey is worth it - especially when it comes to your thank you gift.

So let others take care of the winemaking. This trip is all play, no work.

Dining á deux
Napa Valley is a virtual treasure trove of romantic spots. However, there are a few jewels that shine brighter than the rest, including the dining rooms at Domaine Chandon and The French Laundry and the love nests at Auberge du Soleil and Calistoga Ranch.

Let's start with the food.

Cross under the foliage-draped archway outside the doors to Domaine Chandon and you feel immediately transported to an old world country estate, with the notable exception that this one's tricked out with a fabulous full-service restaurant, étoile, helmed by culinary wunderkind Chris Manning, who uses fresh seasonal ingredients in crafting his award-winning cuisine.

The real romance gets underway when you sit down to a three hour feast looking out over the winery's sumptuous grounds. I've heard dining at étoile called the "ultimate romantic lunch experience," and if there's a spot to get some serious Bogart-Bergman style heat going during the midday hours in wine country, it's definitely here.
étoile at Domaine Chandon, One California Drive, Yountville, CA (800) 736-2892

Speaking of ultimates, it doesn't get any hotter than The French Laundry.

I won't bore you with a laundry list (pun intended) of awards this globally recognized dining mecca's netted over the years. Instead, I'll just say that with a reservation policy requiring you to call two months in advance to the calendar date and a mandatory prix fixe that'll put a serious dent in your last paycheck, the place fairly oozes importance.

Not that importance alone adds up to big time romance. Fortunately, the famed resto complements its fabulous cuisine and hard-core reso policy with impeccable service and warm surroundings. Nestled inside a century-old brick and timber building that once housed a high-end "French" steam laundry, the dinner-only spot deftly marries haute cuisine and rustic ambiance - a delectable recipe for romance.
The French Laundry, 6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA (707) 944-2380

After hours
Retiring to your own private bungalow after a long day of tasting and dining your way through Napa Valley makes for the perfect night cap. Settle in at beautifully appointed wine country hideaway Calistoga Ranch, a 157-acre gem of a property tucked into its own secluded canyon just outside the northern Napa Valley town of Calistoga.

All of the resort's accommodations are free-standing cabin-inspired bungalows, which spells serious privacy for guests. Should you decide to venture out of your super luxe love nest, you'll find a private restaurant and full-service spa at this spot that's touted by celebrity guests as the ultimate in posh and private lodging in wine country.
Calistoga Ranch, 580 Lommel Road, Calistoga, CA (707) 254-2800

If you seek sweeping views of the Napa Valley from a chic perch high above, then check in to the Auberge du Soleil, Napa's other "ultimate" romantic lodging option. Designed in the style of a Mediterranean villa - the place even boasts an olive orchard! - Auberge offers both block unit and free-standing accommodations, all of which include private terraces with heart-stopping valley views.

Many of the larger rooms and all of the stand-alone cottages include additional romantic touches like fireplaces, oversized bathtubs and complimentary bath oils and candles. And with an award-winning restaurant and the renowned Spa du Soleil conveniently located in the same spot, you may just find you never need to leave Auberge. Except for another bottle of Champagne. Cheers to that.
Auberge du Soleile, 180 Rutherford Hill Road, Rutherford, CA (707) 963-1211

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Great posts on the delights of the wine country. Thanks for all the great suggestions.

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