Prevue September/October 2012 - (Page 63)

Napa [ON LOCATION] KAREN KUZSEL You know about Napa Valley’s vaunted wine country. But have you heard about what’s cooking in the City of Napa? Surrounded by rolling verdant hills laden with grapevines, quaint architecture and celebrity chef restaurants, the 75,000 residents living in Napa’s city limits are accustomed to hearing, “I didn’t know there was a City of Napa.” A citywide revitalization program has made Napa a thriving locale for groups who want to relish Napa Valley’s renowned riches without joining the stream of traffic winding past 400 wineries along the Silverado Trail and Hwy 29. The city’s downtown core is an artistic playground inviting participation. Gone is the image of a sleepy town that rolls up the streets by 5 pm. Instead, there are 65 boutique restaurants including several with Michelin stars, 22 tasting rooms serving hundreds of labels and 3,000+ guestrooms. Roughly an hour’s drive from three airports—San Francisco, Oakland or Sacramento—Napa offers a wealth of unique group experiences without having to hail a cab. The first thing I noticed when my group registered into the The Westin Verasa Napa was the rack of empty wine bottles stretched across the back wall and the lobby’s Craftsman-style bungalow design. Natural slate spills across walkways and columns. Lobby desks are covered in cork from local trees. Oak in a widening circle centers a tree trunk coffee table. Viewed from above, the cork resembles the end of a wine barrel. Five Frank Lloyd Wright-ish chandeliers yield a softened glow. “Our hotel very much expresses the natural and organic Napa Valley feel,” says GM Don Shindle. That’s also readily apparent in the airy guestrooms, which feature full kitchens, balconies and original local art. In the lobby, BANK Bar & Café offers seating both indoors or on the patio facing Napa River. It is the casual sister to chef Ken Frank’s La Toque, a Michelin-rated Napa landmark where we dined on a customized menu that included chickpea ricotta ravioli basking in a parmesan cheese broth and seared quail medallions accompanied by a lemon ricotta gnocchi that made my mouth sing. Like the appetizers created for each night’s complimentary wine tastings in the lobby, Frank first selects the wines and then creates the menu around them. Although the Westin has three boardrooms, a ballroom for 230 seated, and a saltwater pool and spa that appeals to environmentally-concerned groups, “We don’t want our guests to stay onsite,” says Heidi Miersemann, CMP, director of sales/ marketing. “We want people to leave healthier than they came. Walk, shop and enjoy Napa.” DAYS OF WINE & RISOTTO It goes without saying that many venues offer wine education and wine blending teambuilding events in places like the bustling Oxbow Market. Our group partnered into pairs for a blending session at District 4, a wine bar and tasting room representing four wineries. Jars of merlot and three styles of cabernet, a beaker, stirrer and notepads sat on each table in the blending room (12 max). We had three tries to finalize our blend before facing a blind tasting by each team’s representative. Afterward, each participant brought home a bottle of the winning blend Oxbow Market “Over 80% of Napa’s visitors come for the wine. Those same people tend to enjoy our amazing cuisine.” | 61

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Prevue September/October 2012

Planner's Pick: Bermuda
Planner's Pick: Disney California
Fresh Meets: Sonesta Hotels
Bureau Buzz: Raleigh
Good Business: South Africa
Congrats: Visionary Awards
Sea Shores: Norwegian Cruise Line
Fifty Shades of Green
Checkn' In: westin Resorts, West USA
The West: Green by Nature
On Location: Santa Fe
On Location: La Costa Resort, CA
On Location: City of Napa
Mexico + The Caribbean
On Location: Hard Rock Hotel Cancun
On Location: St. Regis Punta Mita
Puerto Rico
On Location: Montreal
Check Out: The Orbit Tower, London

Prevue September/October 2012