Maybe I’m a California girl after all.  A recent celebratory weekend for my friend (and designer to the stars) Hillary Thomas made me want to throw over the Big Apple for the simple life in Napa.  Who could resist daily morning yoga outside as the sun rose, followed by morning coffee by the outdoor fire?  Or lazy sunny days by the pool and cool evening bike rides through the vineyards?  Or boozy lunches and midnight stars in the jacuzzi?

St. Helena and the Napa Valley are beauty defined.  I’ve learned to pay attention to how my body feels when I’m in different locations around the globe and I’m not sure I’ve ever felt such a freedom and calm as I feel there.  In the end it’s about the people though, isn’t it?  Shacking up Big Chill style with a dozen of your favorite friends and sharing the experience really IS the experience.  How lucky am I to have forged such beautiful friendships with such warm and wild hearts.

We had absolutely zero reason to leave our communal home save for the occasional tennis game, but below are a few tips to make the most out of your own wine country retreat.

STAY

Meadowood.  Of course.

EAT

Press.  Insanely good food.  Great ambience.  Outdoor dining by the fire.

Other local eateries to check out:  Cook, French Laundry (duh), Ad Hoc, French Blue for lunch, and Redd.

Oakville Grocery.  I could live here between the gelato and cheese sections.  Everything perfect to nosh, make your own at home, and a lemonade stand only a little different than the one you had as a kid.  Oh yeah, don’t forget the love dip!

DO

It is wine country after all.  We had the ridiculous gift of seeing the DANA Vineyard.  The Aman of vineyards.  Perfection in every detail, and I thought I had good taste . . . They produce less than 100 cases for the market.  Yep, the rest gets tossed in the pursuit of the perfect wine.  Clearly DANA is managed by some overachieving Virgos and the world’s best bottle of wine is the result.