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Spring in Napa

Author: Marci Eisen
Date of Trip: March 2006

Wine country California. It can be intimidating to be a wine novice in Napa, but what better way to really learn about wine and wine country than to stay at a B&B. Using several different web sites I was looking for a top rated B&B inn, without it being the most expensive. On several sites, including, 1801 First was rated either first or second. By chance I was directed to and we got a terrific rate for 3 nights. How happy we were to find 1801 First, just at the end of downtown Napa.

Coming from the mid-west, my husband and I spent 3 days first with friends in San Francisco. We rented a car from the friendly staff at Enterprise and off we went in heavy traffic north to Napa. As we had never traveled beyond San Francisco, it was fun to pass signs for famous towns along the way including Berkeley.

We pulled into down town Napa and were warmly welcomed by Darcy and several of her staff members to 1801 First, the perfect looking inn. While we have stayed in at least 6 B&B’s in the U.S. and Canada, this one met all of our expectations, combining quaintness with contemporary updates. I immediately knew we had made a good choice and the experience just kept getting better and better. Our room was charming with an extremely comfortable bed and beautiful linens and towels.

Other amenities such as yummy snacks and delicious smelling hand creams were the best I’ve experienced. It really felt even better than a home away from home being both luxurious and comfortable. As my favorite part of vacations besides sight seeing is reading, I appreciated the large selection of magazines, newspapers and books with several comfortable chairs on which to sit in the parlor. Although there were many highlights to 1801 First, the most memorable were the gourmet breakfasts (see photos). We still reminisce about the granola. Fruit and beverages were available all day.

Darcy or one of her staff took a lot of time with us explaining the options in Napa and how to get started in learning more about wine. We received information about restaurants (from casual to fine dining), tasting rooms, small out of the way wineries along with several of the most famous in the area. The first day we got a fast start before the anticipated rain and walked around downtown Napa. We thoroughly enjoyed a fantastic lunch at Celadon, a short walk from the inn. After lunch we stopped into a few stores and learned about the many different ways to bring home lavender products and other Napa specialties. We visited a few art galleries and stopped into a tasting room where we had our first wine lesson with a tasting from small wineries. We also enjoyed sampling fresh Stella Cadente lemon and lime oils that we purchased to take home and have since ordered several times.

Back at 1801 First, wine and hot and cold hors devours were served each evening in the parlor. This gave us an opportunity to not only continue our wine education, but to also meet the other guests. Luck had it that we connected with a couple from L.A. and they invited us to share their limo the next day to explore 8-10 wineries. As the weather turned quite rainy, the opportunity to explore both the Napa countryside and a diverse selection of wineries in a limo with a tour guide was truly a memorable experience. By the end of the day my husband and I finally knew the difference between many wines, how to taste, and that cabernet was our favorite!

The next day we decided to spend the morning at Copia — The American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts. I especially enjoyed the art exhibit that featured recycled materials along with more education about wine tasting and the wine business. We then spent the afternoon driving through the beautiful back roads of Napa with just a few more visits to wineries. We stopped at several of the towns along the way and splurged on relaxing massages at a day spa. Of course, we had to bring home lavender scented soaps and shampoos as well.

I had never imagined the number or diverse selection of wineries when I first booked the trip. We purchased 6 bottles of wine and the inn staff prepared the wine for shipping back home. If I had known how easy it would be to ship we might have considered bring home more! Wanting to savor the experience, we recently opened the 6th and last bottle of wine from Napa, 18 months later.

Many of the people we encountered at the wineries and at the stores throughout Napa Valley were some of the friendliest we’ve ever met. As we only travel about once a year, we don’t usually think about returning to vacation spots within a few years. However, we hope to return to Napa Valley in the next few years and book a return visit to 1801 First. Although this time we hopefully can have a few more days to explore Sonoma and other towns in the region.

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