My family decided to meet in Napa Valley to bond over spectacular wine, gorgeous scenery and a relaxing vibe. Reconnecting in the California sunshine brought us closer than ever — here’s how we did it.
I’m not sure my parents ever expected my little brother and me to venture far and wide around the world. We grew up in a small town in upstate New York, but I now live in London, and my brother transplanted to San Francisco for graduate school several years ago. To keep our far-flung family in touch, we began setting aside a few weeks a year for a mini family reunion.
My brother’s relocation to California gave us the perfect excuse to make the west coast — specifically Napa Valley — the site of one of these gatherings. Here’s how we turned wine-tasting into a family affair.
Pleasing Every Palate
My family loves all types of wine, and spending time together in Napa Valley made for an ideal bonding experience. Still, it was challenging to choose among more than 430 wineries in the area to find places that appealed to all of us. My parents enjoy sweet wines like White Zinfandel and Moscato; my brother and I prefer big, bold reds and dry, oaky whites.
We decided to begin our visit in the town of Napa, which is filled with gift shops, tasting rooms and a visitor center that helped us solidify our wine-tasting itinerary. Napa itself is picturesque — the Napa River runs through it, and mountains rise in the distance — so we decided to enjoy the views and get a bite at Downtown Joe’s, a long-standing establishment overlooking the river, before setting off.
The Family Tour
After breakfast, we made our way to the charming Robert Mondavi Winery. Because it was around 11 a.m., we were the only visitors. We eagerly took our tastings out onto the patio and spent some time catching up on each other’s lives.
Our next stop was Sutter Home, which we chose for my mom because of their sweeter style of wines. My brother and I were happy to find some fuller-bodied options, and even happier to see our mother enjoying herself, her cheeks taking on a rosy glow. My dad was just glad to see us all together, laughing in one place.
Next, we visited Beringer, the oldest continuously operating winery in Napa Valley. We opted to spend extra time here and take a tour of the vineyard. Later, my mom savored the vast selection of sweet wines, and at this point we were all feeling happy and relaxed.
The Grand Finale
We inadvertently saved the best for last: Castello di Amorosa. It ended up being the a perfect spot for all of us (and our varying tastebuds). The vineyard property even housed a castle inspired by 13th-century Tuscany, and we enjoyed exploring it together. By the time we made it to the tasting room, my brother and I felt like kids again, and the entire family was laughing a lot.
Visitors flock to Castello di Amorosa for their cabernets. But the winery also has an entire list dedicated to sweet wines, which pleasantly surprised my parents. Our server worked to find varietals that appealed to each of us — a reserve Sangiovese from 2013 for my brother and me, and a Moscato that was meant for our parents, but everyone enjoyed. He poured the wine with flair and kept us all engaged throughout the entire experience.
Unfortunately, before long, it was time to make our way back to Davis for dinner — we had a busy day of moving my brother into his grad-school apartment the next day. But we still talk about that trip and the memories we made as a family.
Discover the wineries of Napa Valley during a guided group tour, available through the Marriott Vacation Club Destinations® Exchange Program.