Travel Advice: Napa Valley’s St. Helena Appellation

Cabernet Sauvignon St. Helena AppellationAppellation Name: St. Helena Appellation

Where: Napa County in California

Officially Established:  September 11, 1995

Location: In northern Napa Valley, centered around the city of St. Helena, between the Mayacamas Mountans (to the west) and the Vaca Range (to the east). The boundaries are approximately defined by Bale Lane to the north, Zinfandel Lane to the South, along parts of Crystal Springs Road and Conn Valley Road to the east, and the 400 ft. elevation line marking the west. For an exact, 18-step description of the official boundaries, please go here.  To see a map of the area, please go here.

Pellet Estate, winery in St. Helena Appellatiion

Pellet Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Background: St. Helena is considered to be the birthplace of the Napa Valley wine industry. In 1861, Charles Krug established a winery just north of the town of St. Helena and two years later Henry Pellet purchased land and started his own winery just south of town.  By the 1870’s, Napa Valley wine industry challenges included (a) the large presence of French wines in the marketplace due to low tariffs, (b) customer perception that Mission grapes used in winemaking resulted in an inferior product, (c) financial issues related to shipping and storage costs, and (d) the arrival of Phylloxera.

In 1875, Mr. Krug and Mr. Pellet along with Seneca Ewer (former California State Senator now living in Napa Valley) helped form the St. Helena Viticultural Club.  Within two months of its formation, the organization began to take on significant projects such as the need to incorporate, changes in Revenue law, understanding and addressing Phylloxera, the creation of a large local wine cellar, and the value of planting foreign grape varietals instead of Mission grapes.

Charles Krug Winery in St. Helena Appellation

Charles Krug Winery during Napa Valley Film Festival

In 1880, the Club decided to incorporate and change its name to the St. Helena Viticultural Association, and structure the association into districts with names corresponding to the nearest townships: Calistoga, St. Helena, Rutherford, Oakville, Yountville and Napa.  The Club remained active until around 1912.  Over eighty years later, in 2004, a group of wineries and growers resurrected the group and renamed it Appellation St. Helena.

Wines/Varietals known for: The St. Helena appellation is most famous for its Cabernet Sauvignon wines.  Other varietals commonly grown here include Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Zinfandel.

Recommended Wineries and Wines in St. Helena Appellation

Tudal Winery in St. Helena appellation

Tudal Winery

Within the St. Helena Appellation boundaries, Two Guys From Napa recommend Beringer Vineyards, Brasswood Estate, Charles Krug Winery, Clif Family Winery, Crocker & Starr, El Molino, Freemark Abbey, Joseph Phelps Vineyards, Prager Winery & Port Works, Salvestrin Winery, and Tudal Winery for in-person wine tasting experiences.

For details on the wineries, contact information, and our favorite wines, please use the navigation bar above to click on Favorites By Wine Region and follow the drop-down menu through Favorites in Napa County to the Spring Mountain and St. Helena link. Or, you can just click here.

Brasswood Estate Tasting Room in St. Helena

Brasswood Estate Tasting Room

Are Reservations Needed at the Wineries We are Recommending? At many of the St. Helena Appellation wineries we suggest visiting, reservations are either required or recommended.  Reservations are usually necessary for more involved tastings and/or tours. If you come to this area without reservations, and your group is less than 6 people, your best options may be Beringer Vineyards, Brasswood Estate, Charles Krug Winery, Clif Family Winery, and Freemark Abbey.

Favorite wines tasted recently made from grapes grown in the St. Helena Appellation:

Joseph Phelps Vineyards

Joseph Phelps Vineyards

Recommended Restaurants in St. Helena Appellation

Acacia House

Acacia House

The St. Helena appellation has many dining options, ranging from Burger and Fries on Gott’s Roadside’s outdoor picnic tables to the serene three-Michelin-Star The Restaurant at Meadowood. You’ll also find three restaurants cited as “Bib Gourmand” (good quality, good value) by Michelin in the area:  Cook, Farmstead and Two Birds/One Stone as well as the one-Michelin-Star Terra.  Last year, newcomer Acacia House was rated 3 ½ stars (out of 4) by the San Francisco Chronicle’s Michael Bauer (and we were personally hooked after our first sip of their Las Alcobas Margarita).

Overall, Two Guys From Napa recommend Acacia House, Brasswood Bar + Bakery, Brasswood Bar + Kitchen, The Charter Oak, Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen, Clif Family Bruschetteria Food Truck, Cook St. Helena, Cook Tavern & Pizzeria, Farmstead, Gott’s Roadside, The Grill at Meadowood, Harvest Table, Model Bakery, Napa Valley Coffee Roasting Company, Pizzeria Tra Vigne, The Restaurant at Meadowood, Terra and Villa Corona.

Wagyu Corn Dogs

Wagyu Corn Dogs at PRESS

The Happy Hour competition has been ramping up lately in the St. Helena appellation area.  You can take advantage of Happy Hour specials every day of the week but your choices vary by the day: Acacia House (Sun – Thur), Archetype (daily), Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen (daily), Farmstead (Mon – Thur), Harvest Table (Tues – Sun), Market (Mon – Thur), Pizzeria Tra Vigne (daily) and PRESS (Sun, Mon, Wed and Thur).  Our favorite items have include the Guacamole & Chips at Cindy’s, Mini Ham Sandwiches at Farmstead, Wagyu Corn Dogs at PRESS and the Wine Country Sangria at Harvest Table.

For details on the restaurants, contact information, and our favorite dishes, please use the navigation bar above to click on Favorites By Wine Region and follow the drop-down menu through Favorites in Napa County to the Spring Mountain and St. Helena link. Or, you can just click here.

Woodhouse Chocolates

Woodhouse Chocolates

If you travel to St. Helena, there are two local food purveyors we recommend as well.  The Napa Valley branch of the Dean & DeLuca gourmet food and wine store offers local wines, artisan cheeses, and gourmet food items to go.  They also have a great coffee bar and pastry selection.  In downtown St. Helena, Woodhouse Chocolate uses only the highest quality nuts, cream, butter and spices in their beautiful handmade creations.  Woodhouse represents the efforts of three generations of the Anderson/Wood family, and their window displays are as beautiful as their confections taste.  Once again, you can find additional details on the Spring Mountain and St. Helena page.


Lodging Suggestions for Visiting the St. Helena Appellation


Black Rock Inn in St. Helena Appellation

Black Rock Inn in St. Helena Appellation

Black Rock Inn – Named after the Black Obsidian rock found on the grounds, the Black Rock Inn sits on a 2-acre property on the Silverado Trail near the northeastern corner of the St. Helena Appellation.  Each morning starts with a cooked breakfast and each afternoon comes with a complimentary glass of wine.  This intimate inn only has four suites, or you can rent the 2-bedroom, 2-bathroom private house here that comes with its own outdoor covered dining deck.  3100 North Silverado Trail, St. Helena  (707) 968-7893

El Bonita Motel – If you’re looking for a combination of comfort, luxury and affordability, consider the charming accommodations at this Art Deco motel.  Each room has a fridge, coffee pot, and microwave oven, and the property’s other amenities include a pool, jacuzzi, sauna and free Wi-Fi.  They also allow pets (for an additional charge).  195 Main Street, St. Helena  (707) 963-3216

Wine Country Sangria at Harvest Inn

Wine Country Sangria at Harvest Inn

Harvest Inn – From Charlie Palmer, the Harvest Inn offers an enchanting atmosphere featuring well-appointed brick and wood cottages, guestrooms and suites spread over eight acres of gorgeously landscaped gardens and amongst hundreds of redwood trees.  In-room amenities include a small refrigerator with assorted beverages upon arrival, aromatherapy personal care items, 37” flat screen television and plush bathrobes, and the two heated swimming pools onsite are open 24 hours.  1 Main Street, St. Helena  (707) 963-9463

Las Alcobas – A hit ever since it opened in March 2017, this Luxury Collection Hotel offers 68 rooms and suites to pamper yourself in, most of which also have a beautiful outdoor terrace and vineyard views to help you soak in the Spring Mountain sunset.  You can also take advantage of the Atrio Spa here with curated treatments, an aromatherapy program and private steam rooms. 1915 Main Street, St. Helena  (707) 320-8922

Meadowood Napa Valley – On a private estate, Meadowood is summarized by Bon Appetit Magazine as “a 250-acre resort of unspeakable loveliness.”  The property features 85 cottages, suites and lodges integrated with championship croquet lawns, 7 tennis courts, a 9-hole walking golf course, hiking trails, and a Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star spa.  The Restaurant at Meadowood, headed by Chef Christopher Kostow, is one of the best in the region (and the country).  900 Meadowood Lane, St. Helena  (877) 423-6345

Wine Country Inn & Cottages – This charming, country-style Bed & Breakfast is set on a 1-acre vineyard and the accommodations here are very pet-friendly.  Designated guest rooms can welcome up to 2 pets (up to 50 lbs each) for an additional charge.  Additionally, your stay here would include free Wi-Fi, a complimentary country breakfast, a picturesque pool and hot tub overlooking the vineyards, and a private refrigerator stocked with non-alcoholic beverages.  1152 Lodi Lane, St. Helena  (707) 963-7077

Wydown Hotel

Wydown Hotel in Downtown St. Helena

Wydown Hotel – If you’re looking for intimate lodging with attentive service and an excellent downtown location, consider Mark Hoffmeister’s Wydown Hotel.  At the north end of St. Helena’s picturesque Main Street, this 12-room boutique hotel offers fine furnishings and lavish amenities hosted by friendly and knowledgeable staff.  Start your mornings with their complimentary continental breakfast and then after you explore the Valley return for gourmet cookies in the afternoon.  1424 Main Street, St. Helena  (707) 963-5100 

Other Information About St. Helena Appellation

Appellation Climate: The St. Helena appellation is located on the northern end of Napa Valley. It is one of the warmest regions in the Valley, due to the surrounding mountains trapping warm air and its distance from the potentially cooling influence of marine air from the San Pablo Bay.  The growing season consists of warm days and cool nights.

The City of St. Helena: The city of St. Helena has around 5,800 residents in its 4 square miles and is an important business and banking center for Napa Valley’s wine industry.  The main goal of the city is to maintain a small-town atmosphere while providing quality services to its citizens.  That charming combination, along with the city’s outstanding restaurants and lodging options, attract many of the 3 million visitors to Napa Valley each year.

Culinary Institute of America at Greystone

CIA at Greystone

As the area was settled in 1834, there are many historic places nearby.  In fact, three blocks of St. Helena’s downtown are listed as a National Historic District on the National Register of Historic Places.   Other St. Helena sites on the National Register include the Bale Grist Mill, Charles Krug Winery, Rhine House (Beringer Vineyards), Greystone Cellars (Culinary Institute of America), and the St. Helena Catholic Church.

Distance to get here: The St. Helena appellation is at the north end of Napa Valley, between Calistoga (to the north) and Rutherford (to the south).  The city of Napa is about 20 miles south of St. Helena.  You can drive here in about 45 minutes from Santa Rosa, and San Francisco and Sacramento are each about an hour and a half away.

Other Local Attractions:

A Wrinkle in TimeOne of the favorite local institutions is the cozy and charming Cameo Cinema. Founded in 1913, this 160-seat movie theater is an all-digital cinema with state-of-the-art technology in sound and projection, including Dolby 3D and Dolby Atmos Sound.  Current proprietor Cathy Buck assumed the lease in 2008 and coordinates its program of first-run feature films, independent movies and cinema classics.  Attractions over the next few weeks include Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri and A Wrinkle in Time.

The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) is widely recognized as the world’s premier culinary college. In 1995, the east coast-based CIA introduced a west coast location, the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone (which was also once the location for Christian Brothers Winery).  If you’re interested, this CIA campus offers Associate Degrees in culinary arts or baking and pastry arts, Certificate Programs in culinary arts and in wine and beverage studies, and Classes for food and wine enthusiasts.

Even if you don’t want to register for classes, you can find campus tours offered daily at 11:30 am, with an afternoon tour offered on weekends, and cooking demonstrations on the weekends as well.  In addition, the onsite Spice Islands Marketplace is stocked with cookware, bakeware, kitchen tools and utensils, and more than 1,700 cookbook titles.  Or, you can swing by The Bakery Café by Illy to purchase a specialty salad or sandwich, or maybe enjoy their fresh-basked breads, pastries or cookies.

St. Helena Appellation Food and Wine Events

bASH First Place RibbonAppellation Saint Helena (ASH) is a non-profit organization of approximately 70 wineries and grape growers dedicated to showcasing and promoting the quality of wines produced from the Saint Helena American Viticultural Area.  Their annual food and wine pairing competition event, bASH, is the battlefield where around 30 wineries join forces with local culinary talent (including “Rising Star” students at the nearby Culinary Institute of America) to compete for votes from event attendees.

The next bASH is scheduled for April 7, 2018.  We always have a wonderful time and some of our favorite combinations at past bASH events have been:

Reconstituted Cherries on Whipped Goat Cheese Tart

Reconstituted Cherries on Whipped Goat Cheese Tart

  • Anomaly Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon paired with a Rosemary Bone Marrow Vol au Vent Stuffed with Braised Beef and Rosewater Crème Fraiche
  • Calafia Cellars La Reina Estate (Cabernet Sauvignon blend) paired with Whipped Goat Cheese Tart with Reconstituted Cherries, Walnuts and Port-Spiked Whipped Cream
  • Clif Family Winery Sauvignon Blanc paired with a Crostini of Burrata Cheese, Roasted Cauliflower and Garum
  • Corley Family Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon paired with Braised Shortrib Tortellini, Black Pepper Cream Sauce and Pumpkin Seed Pesto
  • Del Dotto Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon paired with Black Truffle and Bacon Wagyu Sliders
  • Pellet Estate Cabernet Sauvignon paired with Short Ribs on Polenta Cakes with a Mushroom Reduction and Citrus Lime Sauce.
  • Salvestrin Winery Sauvignon Blanc paired with a Crab Tater Tot with Lemon Thyme Beurre Blanc
  • St. Helena Winery Cabernet Sauvignon paired with Black Trumpet Mushroom, Sweet Pea, Garlic and Mint Dolmas with Orange Labnah and Caviar
  • Stanton Vineyards Petite Sirah paired with Duck Mole Nachos

Situated in the center of Napa Valley wine country, the St. Helena Appellation offers sophisticated experiences including refined shopping, premium wine tasting, dining at highly-acclaimed restaurants and relaxation in luxury hotels and spas.  Should you visit, please know there is also a Welcome Center open 7 days a week, at 657 Main Street, offering maps, concierge services, tasting room coupons, and other visitor resources.



Travel Advice: Napa Valley’s St. Helena Appellation — 1 Comment

  1. Thank you for including @pizzeriatravigne in your article! Stay tuned for many updates to one of your favorites over the next few months, including menu changes, fire pits and more!

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