Our guide to planning a wedding weekend in Napa Valley that will wow your guests
Hi, all! Jillian here. Recently I traveled to Napa Valley with a fun group of wedding professionals from all over the US. As you can imagine when traveling with a group who knows how to throw a party, we ate some of the best cuisine, sipped the most fabulous wine, and stayed at the most luxurious locations. This trip was produced and hosted by Josh of Elan Artists. His attention to detail, knowledge, and exquisite taste took us on a ride of a lifetime. I’ve never felt so high *literally* on what Napa and Sonoma have to offer.
I know many of you are either looking to host a wedding, event, or just want to visit the Napa Valley area, so here’s a quick recap and guide to help you plan an event in the area.
Where to stay:
When considering places to stay in Napa Valley, you really don’t need to look much further than the Auberge Resort Collection. They have three unique properties in Napa. Calistoga Ranch is their resort that’s off the beaten path. If you’re craving a winery retreat but want to be tucked away in the hills of Napa Valley, Calistoga is the perfect spot.
Not only could Calistoga Ranch be the perfect retreat or honeymoon destination, but with their wine cave (have you heard of it?!), it’s also a very unique wedding experience. During our stay we got to experience firsthand what it would be like to dine within the cave. Elan Artist brought the cave to life by bringing in their strings to elevate the dining experience. The acoustics were incredible. And what’s a dinner without a ballerina?
Pro Tip: When thinking about the entertainment for your event, consider wowing your guests with something unexpected to get the conversation started!
The sister property to Calistoga is Solage Calistoga. I spoke with the wedding sales manager, Melissa, and this is what she had to say: Solage offers a a fresh and vibrant Napa Valley escape. Solage was created to reflect its hometown spirit of small town charm with modern/urban sophication. The overall vibe of Solage is to Detox with our award winning spa and amenities, Retox over an amazing custom made cocktail or menu, and Repeat. Classic Elegance and Simple Pleasures can be found in every outlet.
While I only spent a brief time at Solage, I was able to pack in most of what they had to offer. The spa was an absolute dream, especially after a rough day of wine tasting, ha! In the evening Josh and Solage team planned to most delightful dinner. See below…
Pro Tip: Begin cocktail hour by having your bartender give a quick mixology lesson. The bartenders at Solage kept us all salivating with their avocado infused margaritas!
Pro Tip: Solage has a back room off of this dinning room, so you might consider surprising guests after dinner with a secret dance club.
Elan Artists ended the night in high fashion by getting us out on our feet. Hensley Event Resources draped this whole room and you truly forgot where you were. It was magical!
How to pick the perfect wedding venue:
Napa Valley is such a dream location for a wedding and with wine lastings, hikes, and hot air balloon rides, it’s also such a fun weekend destination for guests. For this trip we got to preview a few of the wedding and event destinations that Distinct Locations represents in the area. We had the pleasure of dining at their Sonoma Vineyard Estate, which was beautifully designed by Found Rentals, Shelter Co., This Humble Abode, and an unforgettable cuisine by Paula LeDuc.
I spoke with Jennifer Pike who helps manages the property and this what she had to say about Sonoma Vineyard Estates… Tucked away atop a quiet hillside is Sonoma Vineyard Estate. Settled among forty pristine acres in Sonoma wine country’s valley of the moon. The romantic, yet contemporary estate is surrounded by vineyards and features breathtaking views, unique event options and complete privacy for intimate occasions. Every photographer’s dream will be fulfilled at Sonoma Vineyard Estate while you and your guests immerse yourselves in the illustrious surroundings.
Pro Tip: When considering entertainment for your event, really think about the setting and how the music will enhance your guest experience. You want them to walk into your event and feel like they have been transported in some way. Josh tastefully curated one of his bands to play as guests arrived for the evening and it set the tone perfectly for the night ahead.
We love this new dining set by Found Rentals. 100LC approved!
The second venue we visited by Distict Locations was The Mountain Retreat. We arrived via vintage car and had lunch by The Charter Oak overlooking the Valley with a bluegrass band by Elan Artists off in the distance. It was just breathtaking! We all did not want to leave.
Jennifer says, Satisfy all of your senses at The Mountain Retreat. Gaze over the Napa landscape, listen to the show stopping pool fountains, breathe in the mountain air, feel the California sun and taste the vintages of estate made wines. With an incredible location overlooking the town of St. Helena, this French countryside property has views for miles… perfect for your intimate celebration and space for overnight guests.
Picturesque, like a painting.
The Mountain Retreat is perfect for smaller weddings or rehearsal dinner.
What to do in Napa Valley:
During our three days in Napa, we really packed it in. And, why not? If you’re thinking of hosting a destination wedding here, there are a few must-do’s for your guests’ itineraries…
First up, Napa Valley Balloons. I have to admit, I was a little timid about this and not truly wanting to get up at 5am but let me tell you, it was SO worth it! We flew high over Napa as the sun rose and we could see jack rabbits running through the vines and the most spectacular vies of the Valley. It’s a once and a lifetime experience and should be top on your list.
Second, The Gotts Roadside. This is not your typical roadside dinner. Their menu is not all about burgers and fries. We tried grilled tuna sandwiches, Ahi poke crispy tacos with sushi grade Ahi tuna, and hand-spun organic shakes that were fabulous. They also have a very curated beer and wine list.
Best wineries in Napa Valley:
Third, let’s talk wineries. While Napa and Sonoma are full of some really amazing wineries, it’s impossible to see them all during a wedding weekend, so here are two that top our list:
1. Promontory Winery is truly a world apart from the Napa Valley that most people experience. Less than ten percent of the land is under vine, weaving an intricate patchwork among the wild expanse of forest and woodlands. This natural landscape, along with the warmth of the rock-studded western exposure, invites morning fog and slightly cooler air to fill its narrow canyon on an almost daily basis.
It has a rich history and a rugged landscape that makes for some of the most complicated and rich tasting red wines.
2. Quintessa Winery. The day we visited Quintessa, we rode up in style in the vintage cars below. I mean, it really doesn’t get any better. That’s how you show up to a wine tasting, right? We were then escorted into the amazing Quintessa property and shown their dreamy wine cellar. They then took us on a quick hike to their tasting room overlooking the valley. All the wines were marvelous, especially their Sauv Blanc, which I could have sipped on the whole time. This is a very unique property and selection of wines. A must for your itinerary!
In three days, we embraced the Napa culture by flying high over the valley, sipping exquisite wines, dining with the best chefs, and being completely transported by the event designers, entertainment, and venues that spoiled us with their mastery. We hope this gives you a glimpse into the type of wedding weekend you should throw to give your guests a truly once in a lifetime experience!
A big thank you to all these fabulous wedding artists, below, for their hospitality and expertise!
Photography: Scott Clark Photo / Hotel Venue: Auberge Resort, Calistoga Ranch & Solage Resort / Wedding Locations: Distinct Locations; Sonoma Vineyard Estate & The Mountain Retreat / Winery Locations: Promontory Winery & Quintessa Winery / Food & Catering: The Charter Oak, Paula LeDuc Fine Catering & Events, Gott’s Roadside / Event Design: Rion Designs / Event Rentals: Found Rentals, Shelter Co., Encore Event Rentals, Theoni Collection / Floral Design: This Humble Abode & Loop Flowers & Event Arts / LED Design & Entertainment: Elan Artists / Draping & Flooring: Hensley Event Resources / Luxury Transport: Napa Valley Tours & Transportation & CC Wine Tours