When it comes to couples activities, one of the more interesting is “Theme Night.” Theme Night is a lot like date night, but with a twist. (For the sake of this blog, the twist will be rather generic. Some couples I am sure could get really twisted if they wanted to — but, we have chosen not to go there, much to either your disappointment, or relief.)
Theme night is basic role playing. It doesn’t have to be sexy; it can be just interesting, or fun. Think of this as a couples’ parlor game – just not in the parlor.
Downtown Napa is a great location for dates with a theatrical twist. Locations should be good for conversation, so think Carpe Diem at the bar or 1313 by the fireplace. Sashay into The Thomas at Fagiani’s Bar for a retro speakeasy location. If you want to go old-school local try Henry’s on Main Street — great for gritty film noir, or maybe blue-collar cops and robbers.
Date Night itinerary suggestions:
Leave your man waiting for you at either
- Vermeil Wines Tasting Room. While waiting for your arrival, your man can get his football hookup here, as founder Dick Vermeil took the Philadelphia Eagles to Super Bowl XV.
- Bounty Hunter Wine Bar. A great place for the adventurous wine hunter, and maybe for those hunting a connection
Share food and make up stories at the bar at:
- Angele Restaurant. A good place to get French. Share a cocktail. Perhaps try the Fallen Apple? A concoction of Slow and low Rye and apple cider.
- Hog Island at Oxbow. Traditional oysters on the half shel. ‘Nuf said.
- Oenotri. Salumi. The ultimate finger food (for public).
There are none.
Dress up or not, as your personal script decrees.
Drop in and out of character, or stay strict to a style or script
Feed each other
Plan a different theme for every other month or so
He played along and invited me to sit down . . .
One of my more memorable Theme Nights was when I was on vacation with a boyfriend in Key West. I wanted to shop a little without him tagging along, so I sent him to wait for me at an outdoor beach bar. I wandered through the little shops and eventually picked up some bath items and body lotion.
When I arrived at the bar, I approached my boyfriend as though I didn’t know him. “Excuse me, sir is this seat taken?” He played along and invited me to sit down, “Are you on vacation?” “Where are you from?” After a moment of polite chatter, he asked after my purchases. I very flirtatiously described them and what they possibly could be used for, all along pretending that we didn’t know each other. As we had our cocktails, the conversation continued. I was coy, he was interested. Much of what we said was made-up for the moment. I think my name was Blanche and his was Dusty. He was a cowboy from Wyoming. I was a belle from the south.
Eventually, I excused myself for a bathroom break. When I left, unbeknownst to me the gay couple just across the bar from us worriedly interrupted my boyfriend. They were concerned that the nice, naïve Wyoming Cowboy was perhaps in over his head with the massage oil toting sun-kissed brunette.
When it comes to romance, nothing is more tender and loving than the simple effort of gentle attention to your mate. One of the most sensual, and appreciated actions, is taking the time to wash someone’s hair for them.
One bath, one shampoo, and one simple way to show deep affection.
Since — according to TripAdvisor — the Napa River Inn is considered Napa’s most romantic hotel, and we have a great set of claw foot bathtubs that would be the perfect location for this sensual delight, we decided to offer a set of instructions – guidelines, really – on how to undertake this gift of affection.
- 2 glasses of Champagne or chilled wine of your choice
- Dim lighting
- A wide tooth comb
- A pitcher
- Oil (scented grape seed oil, is perfect)
- Towels – two large (warmed, if possible), and one small hand towel
- A stool (or if you are kneeling on the floor, a cushion for your knees)
Draw a warm, almost hot bath. Small drops of aromatic essential oils in the water will help create a mood of relaxation.
Allow your partner to immerse themselves in the bath, and relax while you pour the wine. Take your time; don’t discuss the day, the children, work, or other activities. In fact, you should start the light conversation with a compliment. Tell your partner something about them that you really love.
“I have always loved the color of your eyes. Whenever I get to look into them, I am always surprised by the intensity of color.”
Begin with the hair dry. Lightly comb it out. Once it is free from tangles, start by rubbing the oil in. If long hair, work on the dry ends and run your fingers through to lightly coat the hair. Move to the scalp; work your fingers from the hair line pulling gently to the top of the scalp. Rub, massage, and caress. Verbally ask if the pressure is correct. Adjust, if necessary.
Once the hair is well coated, let it soak in the oil while you move the massage first to the shoulders, then the neck, and finally the face. If you have taken at least 30 minutes to massage, you can now move on to the shampoo. If the oil needs to soak in the hair a little longer, use remaining oil to massage your lover’s arms and hands.
Use your pitcher to thoroughly wet the hair with deliciously warm water drawn clean, not from the bath. Your small hand towel can be used to dry water from the eyes, or to hold against the forehead so that water does not run into the face.
If the face gets wet, kiss the lips before drying the water.
Add the shampoo and mimic the same massage technique that you used for the oil: ends, middle, and scalp – continuing the scalp massage. Rinse with warm water using the pitcher.
Once all the soap and oil has been removed, comb through gently with the wide-toothed comb.
Finish the bath, and use one warmed towel on your lover’s hair. Loosen the hair and drape the towel across their shoulders. Use the other towel on their body, starting at their feet and working your way up.
. . . .
Napa River Inn would be happy to provide you with a Couple’s Bath Collection, should the need arise.
(Pitch: Book a romantic stay through March 31, 2014, and we will include a bottle of sparkling wine and chocolate covered strawberries.)
Want to get a literal bird’s-eye-view of the valley? Go on a hot-air balloon ride! Drift high above the valley floor while gazing at perfectly groomed vineyards and the endless horizon. There, in the stillness of the cool morning, you may discover just how incredible this wine region really is.
If you’re afraid of heights you shouldn’t be in the balloon in the first place! Otherwise, look ahead at the endless panoramic in front of you.
Our pick for the best hot-air balloon company is Balloons Above the Valley. While staying at the hotel, just walk a few steps to the Napa General Store and let the adventure begin! Note: This adventure will begin at precisely 5:30AM (time of year depending). The wind conditions are normally the calmest and safest in the early morning. You can literally roll right out of your comfy bed and into the main parking lot.
Once you meet your party, you will be transported by van to a designated departure location. Once there, file into groups and choose a basket. Watching the actual balloon fill up is incredible! They may look tiny in the sky, but those balloons are huge. No matter what time of year, I would suggest wearing layers. The mornings here can be chilly year round. Hats are recommended for anyone that doesn’t like their head getting too warm. The heat from the flame of the balloon can be a little hot. Other than that, enjoy! Most rides last about forty-five minutes to an hour in actual fly time.
Once you land in the picturesque countryside, you will be transported back to the Napa General Store here at the Historic Napa Mill. From there you will be treated for your bravery with a delicious champagne brunch with the staff and pilots. Bon appétit and enjoy the rest of your morning!
Special values are available through the hotel front desk. The typical full price rate is around $199-$230 per person. Although, prices can change with the season. Balloons Above the Valley requires a 48-hour cancelation policy.
One of the most important factors to consider before arriving in Wine Country is tour transportation. This can sometimes make or break the best vacation in the making. But, we’re here to make it easy for you ..which is why you’re probably reading this blog. One of our favorites is Beau Wine Tours!
This is by far one of the best transportation companies in the valley. Beau Wine Tours makes it easy. They will meet you in the hotel lobby on the day of your scheduled tour. They can also create a fun-filled itinerary according to your tastes, a few wine words, or simply by saying, “This is my first time in Napa!” Let your experienced driver do the rest. If you are a wine connoisseur, you can simply drop your pre-planned itinerary into your driver’s hands and they will get you on your way.
You may also be in interested in a group tour. Get to know other visitors while you share a day of wine tasting and friendship. The group tours also leave daily from the hotel and transport you in a limousine. Prices vary, but this option is usually much less costly than renting a private car and most guest’s love hanging out with other like-minded people for the day. They typcially keep the groups small so it’s still a very imtimate experience.
I would suggest wearing layers on your tour as well as closed-toe shoes in case you take a vineyard tour. Remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Your driver will have bottles of water waiting for you in the car (and, ahem, for those of us who like to get started early, a bottle of sparkling wine!) .
Did you remember to drink plenty of water? Wine-tasting fatigue is a common ailment suffered by Napa Valley visitors. It can occasionally (extremely rare) carry over to the next day in headache form. Don’t say we didn’t warn ‘ya! As you inch closer to lunchtime, those riding the daily tour will be presented with a delicious picnic lunch. It’s best to eat a light lunch while tasting and these guys know how to picnic. You can expect fresh fruit, sandwiches, and a sweet treat to awaken those Gewürztraminer taste buds.
Just beware that the price you pay for the tour does not include tasting fees. Your driver can instruct you on what to expect given the wineries you will visit. Some tastings are complimentary, while others can range on the higher end at $25.00 or more per person.
Beau Wine Tours can be reached at 707-938-8001 or on their website at www.beauwinetours.com. The hotel concierge is also always available to make arrangments for you. They offer private and group tours daily.
If casual wine tasting is your style, pack the jean shorts and grab a light sweater as you head off to McKenzie Mueller Vineyards & Winery.
Nestled in beautiful Napa, McKenzie Mueller is a family-owned winery with dogs to boot! You can park once you pass the private house and be sure to head around back towards the tasting room.
Julius Mueller, a third-generation Napan and son of namesake Robert Mueller, offers family tales and wine bits galore! Having grown up around the family winery, Julius could tell you a thing or two about the land, the grapes on the land, and even the history of his family on that land. During our visit, we tried about 12 wines. Be sure to pace yourself-the road is long and delicious! I especially enjoyed the not-too-buttery Chardonnay.
This winery is definitely a must see for anyone that loves the “talking with an old friend” feeling. Or, anyone that wants a new tasting experience without feeling that experience in their pocket book! The tasting fee is $15.00 per person, but they will waive that if you purchase a bottle…or two.
Tastings are available daily and by appointment from 10am to 4pm. Visit www.mckenziemueller.com for more information.
If you’re an adventure seeker, crazed hiker, or looking for exercise outside of the gym, try a trail in wine country. And if you’re not looking for any kind of adventure…well, you probably wouldn’t be coming to Napa!
Skyline Wilderness Park is located about 10 minutes away from the hotel by car. Before you set out, be sure to bring lots of water, as well as sunscreen and snacks. The terrain can change drastically, so dress accordingly. I went on a morning hike in mid February and was greeted by gorgeous sunny rays. As soon as our hike ventured into shaded territory, the temperatures dropped incredibly. You may consider wearing several layers (Mt. Shasta stlye!) for your hike. If you’ve ever attempted to climb Mt. Shasta, or attempted and failed like me, hiking in layers may be second nature to you. After I stop shaking my fist at that mount, I’ll be back with a vengeance! One of the great things about climing at Skyline is that you can take the same trail many times, but end up in many different locations. Part of the fun is discovering where that side trail actually leads. There are plenty of trail maps at the visitor area, so getting lost won’t be an option. There is a small fee for parking, which helps support trail maintenance and park preservation.
If you head north on highway 29, exit at First Street and look for Westwood Hills on the left. I would recommend this hike for families, or those looking for a nice view without too difficult terrain. The trails are much milder and not as demanding as those at Skyline. Always bring water and snacks, and a light jacket if hiking in the late afternoon. There are picnic tables at the bottom of the trailhead and the trail is large enough for groups to walk together. Follow the trail up and up until you reach some mildy-steep rocks. Climb over these and keep pulling yourself up the hill. The view is well worth the struggle! From atop the hill, you can see all of downtown Napa. Try and find the hotel while you’re up there.
If you’re headed up valley from the Silverado Trail, stop at Mount St. Helena on your way. One catch - there is limited roadside parking. The trail starts in a lush and cool environment as it winds its way up the side of the mountain. Once it opens up to the fire road, the temperatures can get pretty warm in the summer months. I was last there in October and the weather was breezy all afternoon. I would again suggest wearing layers, bringing plenty of water, and snacks. The road winds around and around offering magnificant views from each side. You may be lucky enough to see some gliders catching the high winds. There’s even a rock wall that many climbing enthusiasts attempt each time they visit. If you’re interested, be sure to bring your own rope. This hike lasts about two hours each way…unless you’re sprinting. The top is a great place for a victory picnic!
Now for your reward. If you’d like to celebrate your hiking accomplishment in true Napa style, stop for a mid-afternoon cap nearby each trailhead. In St. Helena, visit Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen for an appetizer, a beer, wine, or maybe just some ice water. Near Westwood Hils there’s a grocer called Browns Valley Market that’s sure to refill your empty stomach or quench your thirst. Just a short drive from Skyline Wilderness Park is the Oxbow Public Market. Here you can find food, drinks, gifts, cheese and more to celebrate your return to the living.
Another installment in the series about putting together a perfect day in the Napa Valley.
I had a girlfriend visiting and we thought it would be nice to get away and spend some time – just the two of us. We knew we only had a few hours to hit the wineries and we wanted to hit a few places off the beaten path. It was sprinkling but the weather was actually pleasant and not windy or cold.
With a beautiful new tasting room – this winery is a fantastic place to take a group of friends and walk around. Etude is also home to one of my favorite pinot’s. They have a wonderfully friendly tasting room staff and were happy to answer our dozens of questions. Try their food and wine pairing for an extra treat! I need to go back and do a full tour…
Formerly the Inglenook Winery and Neibaum Coppola, Rubicon is one of the most beautiful historic wineries in the Napa Valley. I know I’ve included this one before but this time we skipped the tour and just did the Coppola Tasting. How did I not know about this before? You’re ushered into a very posh private area and are assigned to your own table (ask for one of the bench seats). A server brings you an array of wines to taste and they are paired with local cheeses and bread. It was a very relaxing and comfortable way to taste Rubicon’s high end wines. Before we knew it we’d been there almost two hours and we had to dash off to the next place. We left with several bottles and it was well worth the $50 tasting fee.
We planned to go to lunch but were full from stuffing ourselves with cheese and bread – and we were pushed for time – so we headed to Pina a bit early. This place is tiny…and by tiny I mean the bar you taste at can only fit about 3 people. It’s a small, locally owned and operated winery that features some of my favorite red wines. The tasting room is in the middle of their actual operations inside the winery. Their family history is truly amazing and they have been here since the mid 1800′s. If you want to see what it’s really like behind closed doors – head here. An unexpected surprise was their delightful Chardonnay that I didn’t even know they offered! Pina is so small that it’s by appointment only, but they are really accomodating if you just call a few minutes ahead and they aren’t too busy.
Our last stop of the day was at Frog’s Leap. Their patio is available year round and it overlooks their garden and vineyards. A spectacular view, it’s a great stop to sit ouside with a good friend and relax. Their staff is friendly but unobtrusive – only interrupting for some friendly chatting or to bring your next taste of wine. They were also very flexible with our requests to switch out certain wines on our tasting list to others they had open. It was a perfect ending to our day. Tasting fees are $20 per person.
A quick day – but still a perfect one in the Napa Valley.