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The Ultimate Napa Itinerary

California’s iconic Napa Valley remains the ultimate spot for travelers in search of rustic-luxe hotels, Michelin-starred restaurants, and cult wineries.

Since 2005, Burgundy-born Gilles de Chambure, director of wine education at Napa’s Meadowood resort, has arranged vineyard visits and tastings for guests and nonguests alike. Arrive during the fall harvest or in early spring for fewer crowds, and don’t miss his top picks.

Sweet Start: The brioches at Bouchon Bakery (breakfast for two $20) lure early risers, but de Chambure goes for the chocolatey bouchon.

Outward Bound: Try the three-hour hike along Calistoga’s Oat Hill Mine Trail. “It’s especially beautiful in spring, when the lupine is flowering,” says the sommelier.

Safe Passage: Napa Valley Tours & Transportation (707/251-9463; half-day from $300) has the best cars—sedans, limos, minibuses—and savvy drivers familiar with the back roads.

Sips with a View: Head to Howell Mountain and swirl a glass of ‘V’ Petit Verdot at Viader or a Cabernet Sauvignon at Cade. On the valley floor, Gargiulo Vineyards is “a magical place dotted with oak trees.”

New Pours: On de Chambure’s try-now list? The Albariño from Hendry, a Charbono from Robert Foley Vineyards, and a peachy Truchard Vineyards Roussane.

Insider’s Lunch: How to avoid the crush at pan-Asian Redd (lunch for two $60): “Walk in at noon and sit at the bar for the hamachi tartare.”

Off-Duty Dining: De Chambure is often on hand at the Restaurant at Meadowood, but for a more intimate meal, he opts for Terra (1345 Railroad Ave., St. Helena; 707/963-8931; dinner for two $132). His order? The cod in shiso broth, with Kurikomayama sake.

T+L’s Hotel Tips: Meadowood Napa Valley (doubles from $625) has epitomized Napa’s laid-back luxury for decades. Calistoga Ranch, an Auberge Resort (doubles from $750) feels like adult summer camp, with spa treatments and 157 acres laced with hiking trails. Or try Avia Napa (1450 First St., Napa; 866/644-2842; doubles from $229), in the city’s buzzing downtown.