Napa Valley California
I want to be real with you so here is you honest - ccasionally things on this end can be a f'in eadache. I LOVE @withthelocals! And there are many awesome things coming. But like anything done right, those awesome projects take a lot. 'A lot' is my mostly my sanity right no. o yea, a big giant glass of wine sounds👌right now.
Then Emma K. Morris @emmakmorris fell from heaven into my inbox, an angel sent to save my tability. eah yeah, blah blah, we know better than to take a place at face value. e're professionals here and this isn't our first rodeo - even if we are the rodeo clowns. But in some cases, it's key to look at that reputation and see how that impacts local culture - especially n nique places like he Napa Valley. " was born in the midwest and spent much of my childhood galavanting around my grandparents’ farm — it was there that my deep respect for nature and animals was born, not to mention my obsession with organic produce and DIY culture. I’ve been in the creative world since I was 15 years old, eventually directing my own alternative art space, then running the communications department for one of the nation’s largest local arts agencies. I’ve now landed in my favorite spot so far: working as a freelance creative director, stylist, and brand consultant here in the lovely Napa Valley. In addition to having some of the best wineries and restaurants anywhere in the world, the Napa Valley also has incredibly progressive small business owners, artists, chefs, and picturesque hiking and biking trails. My motto is 'strive to find + create beauty in every day life'…and that’s just what you’ll see here over the next week! P.S. I’m a total foodie, so get ready for some food porn in the mix... I have lots of projects in the works, but most immediately I’m about to launch a Pinot Noir brand for an amazing lady winemaker friend (@mojavewine). I’m shooting the photography, working with a designer (my sister! @shipwrightandco) on the brand's wine label and logo, and designing the website."
Gorgeous views and ancient live oaks are aplenty throughout the Napa Valley. This one's for you nature lovers! Lots of local options along our 30-mile stretch with Bothe State Park (where they even have yurts if you're looking for an affordable place to stay!), Skyline Wilderness Park (where you can camp!), and Lake Hennessy (where wild chamomile grows like weeds! I often harvest it to dry and make fancy teas). Consider hitting these picturesque trails!
We’re so lucky to have @napabookmine, our only locally owned and operated bookstore! This cozy spot has a great selection, offers regular board game nights and book signings, and has a knowledgeable awesome staff. Also be sure to check out their “newsstand,” @standardoxbow, which is located inside of @oxbowpublicmarket just down the road!
(at Napa Bookmine)
Okay, okay...the wine! Don't worry, I'll be posting about a few of my favorite wineries throughout the week. There are more than 450 wineries and tasting rooms in the Napa Valley, most of which are known for Cabernet Sauvignon. We’ve just recently wrapped up Harvest season around here (which was crazy early due to the heat spikes and continued drought!). Harvest usually starts at the very end of August (for white varietals like Sauvignon Blanc) and ends in October (with the bigger, bolder reds). It's a magical time to be in the Valley - the air smells like fermenting grapes as you drive down highway 29, and there's a distinct excitement in anticipation of getting juice into barrels. I was involved in lots of these harvests, for clients and friends alike, so here's a shot from my last harvest of the year at Herb Lamb Vineyards’ signature property, located at the base of St. Helena’s Howell Mountain. As if the luscious purple color wasn’t enough, these berries were like flavor bombs…sure to make a gorgeous wine! 🍷
(at Herb Lamb Vineyards)
Being a vegetarian in the Napa Valley is easy with so many restaurants sourcing local + in-season produce…like Sam’s Social Club @sams_social_club! It’s in a cute little town called Calistoga that’s located just up-valley (as the locals say, but what it really means is “North”!) from Napa. Each time I stop by Sam’s, there are new, inventive veggie dishes to enjoy, and holy heck they have the best french fries in town! And also, let’s talk about fried brussels sprouts served with house made garlic aioli. If you’re into classic cocktails, this place is not to be missed — try “The Plunge” which is gin, St. Germain, lemon, verjus, and homemade grapefruit bitters.
(at Sam's Social Club)
Art is alive in the Napa Valley! And it's great news because that means every time I get the itch to see a great exhibit, I don't always need to drive to San Francisco. Locally, my favorite art spot is @dirosaart - sitting pretty amongst the vineyards, this is a progressive art museum. Showing now through January 24, is Sonoma-based photographer and installation artist Robert Kinmont. This is his first solo show in more than 45 years! DiRosa also offers a guided tour of their beautiful property, where you'll see many outdoor art sculptures as well as resident peacocks running wild! Tip: take the tour in the spring when there are baby peacocks everywhere - squee! —
Though I try to eat pretty healthy, it's tough in Napa sometimes...and I most definitely got my pumpkin fix today! This is the best milkshake of my life, made with local ice cream and organic milk, and available at Gott's @gottsroadside for the month of November only. Then I have to wait a whole year for it again! Who needs a pumpkin spice latte when you could have this instead?! —
(at Gott's Roadside)
Napa offers a self-guided Open Studio Tour every September, where you can go check out dozens of local artists in their element. Luckily, many of these incredibly talented artists have their studios open year-round (by appointment only) for guests to visit! One of my favorite studios belongs to my friend and neighbor @mikeykellystudio in downtown Napa. His drawings and paintings are created through a repetitious network of hand drawn lines. Painstakingly beautiful and extremely intriguing to see in-person! —
(at Mikey Kelly Studio)
The Napa Valley's food scene is hopping, and I like a fancy farm to table meal just as much as the next person. That said, I'm kinda cheap because living in Napa is expensive! Therefore...behold: my very favorite local "hole in the wall"! It doesn't get better than Small World @smallworldnapa in downtown Napa and their $7 falafel pita. I like to get it on a plate with the pita on the side, and grab tons of house-made pickles (that are *free*). It's my go-to quick lunch spot and I'm there at least once a week! I consider myself a bit of a falafel connoisseur (you laugh but I'm for real y'all!) and this is hands down the best I've had. Even better than Mamoun's in NYC 😮 —
There are more than 450 wineries in the Napa Valley and @frogsleapwinery has been my absolute favorite since the first time I visited, before even moving here. Their cozy wrap-around porch, gorgeous garden, and friendly staff make it feel like my second home. Much of their organically grown fruit is located on the property, and 100% of their operation is dry-farmed which means it's totally free of irrigation. This is particularly important being in the midst of one of CA's worst droughts in decades. Their beautiful wines are a bit lower in alcohol to embrace the depth of flavor in each distinct varietal - each of which have been dry-farmed for the entirety of their lifespan. As owner John Williams once said "if it ain't broke, don't fix it!" They were ahead of the curve. I can't tell you how much this place means to me - pay them a visit next time you're in town! And be sure to give winery dog, Abbie, a good belly scratch for me. —
(at Frog's Leap Winery)
Rooftop bars are awesome! Happy we have a great one here in Napa. @ninebark_napa is a three-floor dining experience, with three separate menus for: the rooftop, the downstairs bar, and the dining room. Go sit on the rooftop for a piña colada with smoked pineapple, then float on down to the main-floor bar for the market salad coated in black garlic ranch! Cuz it’s INSANE. —
As you’ve been seeing all week, the Napa Valley not only has its share of fantastic wineries and food options, it’s also chock-full of incredibly progressive small businesses and artists. I feel grateful to work as a Creative Director here in Northern California, with most of my clients and projects right here in the Valley! I have the pleasure of styling and shooting much of the work created by my favorite letterpress company, @shipwrightandco, a duo made up of my sister Jen Kruch and dear friend Jessie Alberts. Shipwright is an environmentally conscious mountain-top printshop with a distinct style, sense of humor, and impeccable craftsmanship that sets them apart from the pack. Whenever shooting their work, my righthand styling tool is always locally-sourced and seasonal botanicals from @themonkeyflowergroup. A Bay Area Green Business, TMFG is owned and operated by amazingly talented florist Jaime Giorgi. When visiting, you’ll find both greeting cards from Shipwright and floral arrangements from TMFG for sale within the vendors at @oxbowpublicmarket! —
I’m a huge fan of @hillstonerestaurants. When I lived in Orlando, we had a Hillstone there that I frequented for their Thai-inspired veggie burger on the best house made sesame bun). Then when we moved to the Napa Valley in 2013, I was a bit homesick so especially thrilled to discover that Hillstone had not one but TWO restaurants here: R+D Kitchen in Yountville and @rutherfordgrill in Rutherford. I can still get my beloved veggie burger anytime I want at Rutherford…but @rdkitchenyountville is where I most often end up because of their inventive and ultra fresh veg options & perfect outdoor patio area. My favorite offering is their super delicious vegetable roll — crunchy from crushed peanuts, jicama, carrot, and cucumber, creamy from avocado, and spicy from jalapeño and house made dragon sauce — this is what my dreams are made of! After you finish your meal at R+D, be sure to walk just behind the restaurant to check out another local favorite, @kellys_yountville, where you can stock up on picnic provisions and wine! You can also fill up your tank with gas and grab coffee or some 🍦 —
Happy Sunday, everyone! It’s been a blast showing you around the Napa Valley this week — thanks for tagging along. But before I bid you adieu, one last recommendation! I’m spending today playing tour guide for real for two awesome food blogger/cookbook author pals, and I’ll be taking them here, to @lmrwine's Farmstead restaurant in St. Helena, for lunch. Farm to table at it’s best, this is also one of my favorite spots to hang out and have a cozy cup of morning coffee. Their adorable outdoor cafe sits underneath towering redwoods and is open daily. There’s also a farmers’ market stand offering produce from their garden. Oh, and the wine…there’s a great tasting room on the property, too!
Well, I really hope you enjoyed seeing some of my favorite places and things! Feel free to keep in touch + follow my everyday adventures around Northern Cali over at @emmakmorris❣