YOUNTVILLE, Calif. Napa Valley’s Culinary Crushpad

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Hotel Yountville, Napa Valley, Local Food And Wine

READY FOR ITS CLOSE UP: The oh-so-swank Hotel Yountville debuts (Spring/2011) with 80 chic guestrooms and suites tucked among heritage oaks, vintage olive groves, hidden fire pits and sexy 4,000 sq. ft., Acqua Spa. Think poolside pedis, complimentary iPads and 24-hour cappuccino service backed with “Duck ‘N Donuts” – that’s confit baby – and Kurobuta pork belly Benedict at the guest-only Hopper Creek Kitchen.

Thomas Keller, Local Food And WineLOCAL JUICE– The French Laundry launches an iPad wine list showcasing nearly 20,000 bottles in a quick and breezy format.  Bell Wine Cellars offers Napa Valley’s only Cabernet Sauvignon Clonal Tasting showcasing four distinct clones paired with small bites ($75/per).  True cork dorks can belly up for their Blending Seminar ($150/per) and depart with a custom magnum in tow.  Sense Yountville pops the cork May 7, 2011 with a hyper-focused Yountville AVA event paired with the town’s top toques.  Limited to 350 epicureans, this is sure to be another sell out ($150/per).  707.531.7053.

R&D KITCHEN rolls into town this winter following Hillstone Restaurant Group’s total redux of the former Napa Valley Grille space. The new restaurant will offer seating for 130 in a classic wine country interior/exterior layout fresh with water features, fire pits, two bars, sculpture garden and rolling wine-barrel roof.www.rd-kitchen.com.

SLITHER INTO SUMMER: Fire up the ovens atCantinetta Piero’s new “Pizza Secrets Classes,” rolling out June-December.  The 21stAnnual Father’s Day Invitational Auto Show (6/19) roars into V MarketplaceHurley’s Restaurant Friday’s Patio BBQ (June/10-Sept.), delivers a communal/corkage-free time;Yountville 4th of July Celebration & Fireworks (7/4); Bastille Day celebrations atDomaine Chandon and Bouchon (7/10 & &/14) and Festival del Sole featuring the Russian National Orchestra (7/15-24) round out the options.

NEW ART TREK FOR THE JADED PALATE – Yountville sports more than top toques and cult pours!  The new Public Art Walk adds another layer of culture for visitors linking a 30-piece outdoor sculpture collection. From a 35-ft long “Spirit Boat” to “Rex” a life-size horse sculpted from scrap metal, the options for spending a day without spending a dime are endless.  Add a visit to the Gallery at Cliff Lede Vineyards or DomaineChandon’s Mushroom Garden or ponder the over-the-top art at Ma(i)sonry, better suited for deep pockets.  New Map:www.yountville.com.

PACKAGED PLEASURES – Aside from the classic Riedel glassware tasting ($20), Hill Family Estates ups the ante with an authentic Secret Garden Tour led by Ryan Hill. The day kicks off at Hill Family Farms and Jacobsen Orchards, the organic toolbox contracted exclusively to the French Laundry, with 120 different fruit trees, culinary flowers and earthly pleasures.

After a garden nosh, enjoy a wine tasting with cured meats and cheeses at the Hill homestead. ($45/person); www.hillfamilyestate.com.  Ma(i)sonry sets the table at its historic 1904 wine and art salon with a new Artist’s Palette Dining Experience, pairing small courses with its limited-production artisanal wines, including Blackbird Vineyards, Lail Vineyards and Tor Kenward ($300/person). www.maisonry.com.

ON THE GREEN SCENE Bardessono (one of three LEED platinum properties in the world) teams up with the Land Trust of Napa Valley with its new “Hike the Day Away” packages including accommodations and annual membership to the Land Trust which delivers a network of pristine hiking terrain otherwise inaccessible to the public ($429/dbl.). Yountville’s strip of the 44-mile Napa Valley Vine Trail opened paralleling Highway 29.  The $1.3 million path will eventually run the length of the valley to the Vallejo ferry for Bay Area bikers. www.vinetrail.org.

WHITE HOUSE POPS THE CORK – QUIZ: What wine is served at all White House state dinners and receptions? Domaine Chandon Blanc de Noirs ($22).  Made from Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes, the salmon colored sparkling has been poured on Pennsylvania Avenue since the largest landowner of vineyards in the esteemed Carneros appellation debuted in 1973.

5 REASONS TO BASE IT IN YOUNTVILLE: 1) The highest concentration of top restaurants in the Valley; with more Michelin stars per capita (6) than anywhere on the planet, Yountville is nirvana for foodies on the fast track; 2) Strong/growing cluster of luxury hotels including the new Hotel Yountville, Bardessono, Villagio Inn & Spa, Hotel Luca and Michelin Four Star/AAA Four Diamond Napa Valley Lodge, 3) Green Dream – park and walk with all hotels, restaurants, tasting salons and boutiques easily linked along Washington Street, 4) United spa front, from the world-class 13,000 sq. ft.,Villagio Spa to the sexy Spa Acqua, Bardessono Spa and Luca Spa, this is the place for pampering.  www.yountville.com.

IN THE QUIRKY FILE — Ever wonder where those heavenly haricots vert or sinful fingerling potato diners dig into at Thomas Keller’s French Laundry hail from? Pop over to the gorgeous 2-acre culinary complex for a look-see. This is a plot to ponder and visitors are welcome to park and peruse the seasonal stash of vegetables, herbs and unusual assortment of heirloom tomatoes and lettuces. The concept of fresh from the farm to the table doesn’t get more clarified than here, where chefs from Bouchon, Ad Hoc and the Laundry craft dishes from the daily haul. 6640 Washington Street. www.frenchlaundry.com.

GraveSpotting – Tap into an early history tour of Napa Valley via Pioneer Cemetery, an arid and somewhat decrepit collection of tombs situated just north of town.  Here, curious travelers can visit the ancient Indian burial grounds of the Wappo tribe.  The original wood marker still exists, as does an updated tombstone bearing information on the region’s first recorded inhabitants.  George C. Yount also rests here along with a collection of colorful characters tied to the town’s past.  Nearby, the Veterans Home Cemetery – set amidst 500 acres of native oak – sways hill and dale with a sea of stoic alabaster headstones backed with a view of lush vineyards. Opened in 1884, this is the resting place of 5,000+ veterans and possibly the largest collection of civil war veterans West of the Mississippi.

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