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The Napa Valley’s Meritage Resort and Wine Train


December 5, 2023
Words by John Roark
Photos courtesy of Meritage Collection

Three words instantly conjure idyllic visions of rolling hills crosscut with leafy vines heavy with grapes: California Wine Country. The Napa Valley is comprised of a handful of towns, each with its own unique charm and perfect for a destination wedding in wine country. Located toward the southern end of the Valley, Napa is home to wineries and tasting rooms, world-famous restaurants, shopping and a welcoming small-town vibe that makes you feel at home even on your first visit. While the weather is mild year-round, peak tourist season is summer, June through September. But honestly, any time is the perfect time to immerse yourself in this quaint and coveted destination.


Set among vineyards and the region’s iconic landscape, Meritage offers luxury paired with thoughtful amenities shared by two adjacent resorts, both of which serve as an easily accessible gateway to everything Napa has an abundance of.

With its own private 9-acre vineyard, the Tuscan-inspired The Meritage Resort & Spa offers 322 guestrooms and suites, two-starred onsite restaurants and the fab Crush Lounge, with its own six-lane bowling alley. We made sure we were properly pampered at the serene Spa Terra, located in an underground estate cave (I can personally recommend the Cave Man Facial, a 50-minute life-and-face-transforming experience). And while it might be a challenge to choose the resort’s loveliest wedding sites, our pulses raced when we visited the Vineyard Deck, a columned gazebo with a vineyard backdrop. Other celebration spots include the barrel-vaulted Estate Cave where up to 200 guests can dine in true wine-country style. 

Just steps away, the pet-friendly Grand Reserve at the Meritage brings a luxury resort experience perfect for families. From single rooms to suites with full kitchens, your concierge-curated stay will anticipate your needs, ensuring a seamless stay from the moment you arrive. So much to rave about here. The centerpiece of the property is the 16,750-square-foot Event Lawn, which can accommodate up to 1,000 guests for seated dinners and under-the-stars dancing. (Ask about the not-to-be-believed annual Lobster Feed and come armed with your appetite and bib.) The space is flanked by tasting rooms showcasing Napa Valley’s best boutique wineries and the upscale, farmers market-inspired Fivetown Grocery, where you can grab a morning coffee and breakfast to go, a midday snack, or procure provisions for a perfect picnic. There are also gourmet chef-led cooking classes at the Food & Wine Center.


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No matter what season brings you to the region, the Napa Valley Wine Train is a great way to traverse the terrain, combining a tempting trifecta of luxury travel, fine cuisine and raised glasses brimming with the best local wines and spirits. Originally built in 1864 and meticulously restored, maintained and preserved, the 36-mile journey will carry you in stylish comfort from Napa to Calistoga through charming towns and verdant vineyards. Paired lunch and dinner packages range from three to six hours; special options include winery tours and tastings. You can also make this historic transport the site of your celebration, wedding, rehearsal dinner, bachelorette party, or romantic journey a deux.


The bird’s-eye view of wine country is even more spectacular floating 2,000 feet above vineyards and vistas as the sun rises. Napa Valley Balloons takes you up and away with a variety of hour-long flight packages for two to 20 passengers and can include bubbles and breakfast bites, wine tastings and bicycle treks once you’re back on the ground. They make it easy—you’ll be shuttled to and from the launch site in style, and the company’s team has an obvious passion for ballooning, making the experience interactive, friendly and fun. True confession: We were hesitant at first, but the airborne experience is peaceful, tranquil and nothing short of amazing. Not to be missed. 


More than 450 wineries of all sizes call Napa Valley home. One of the friendliest and most authentic experiences can be found at the family-owned-and-operated Hill Family Estate, which has been farming grapes for some of Napa’s top wineries for more than four decades. (They also grow organic vegetables for local restaurants, including the world-renowned The French Laundry in nearby Yountville.) The family produces their own exquisite wines and loves to share their history, stories and expansive knowledge. Tastings by appointment. 

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