by Pamela Rothbard, Editor
The Napa Valley in California is famous for its lush vineyards — and the wines that come from those gorgeous grapes. If that weren’t enough, the area has also become a mecca for foodies, looking to pair those vintages with fresh, inventive fare. It’s a place where, as the planners at Cole Drake Events say, “table culture rules” with meandering meals in which to connect with friends and family.
When it comes to planning celebrations in the area, the founders of Cole Drake Events, Stephanie Cole and Sarah Drake, urge hosts to consider the wide-ranging options (it’s not only about the vineyards) that highlight the area’s natural beauty and excellent service. Drake says, “The region resonates with people who have had special experiences in the area, as well as those who appreciate the hospitality-driven culture.” The team has helped us assemble a list of Napa wedding venues that will guarantee stunning views and memorable nuptials.
“We love the open footprint and manicured grounds of this estate,” says Drake. Located in a world-renowned culinary mecca, The Estate Yountville offers several spaces for all types of events. Since bringing on board renowned Chef Victor Scargle, the property has intensified its focus on its culinary program. There are seasonal and local offerings for guests to enjoy, ensuring an incredible dining experience.
In addition to their picturesque outdoor spaces, which are used for ceremonies and receptions, there is a vineyard for Napa-perfect photo shoots. Cole says, “We love that after a beautiful outdoor ceremony and fun reception, we can keep the party going late into the night in an indoor space.” One of their favorite after-party spots is The Barrel Room, which is a rustic space in true wine-country style, featuring aged brick walls and statement-making wrought-iron chandeliers. We love how the Cole Drake Events team utilized a transparent tent with elegant draping for this stunning outdoor ceremony then transformed the space for a lush dinner reception before the indoor dance-party. Throughout the massive property, one can also find many interesting water features scattered.
photographer: Sylvie Gil Photography
Barrel Room Capacity: 130 (seated) – 400 (standing)
East Pavilion Capacity: 220 (standing) – 400 (standing)
West Pavilion Capacity: 400 (standing) – 700 (standing)
“The Calistoga Ranch is a quintessential wine country spot with beautiful mountain backdrops,” says Cole. The team suggests the vineyards for your wedding ceremony followed by dinner over the lake, and a party in the unique, romantic Wine Cave, like at this idyllic ranch wedding. The cave also offers a perfect alternative reception space during summer months when it’s too hot for outdoor festivities.
Located in the Wine Cave is the The Founder’s Room, which is lovely for hosting the bar or dessert buffets. “It’s just beautiful to walk into the cave through its heavy, wooden, ivy-covered door,” says Cole. Another space, mentioned above, is the Ranch’s Lommel Lawn overlooking a scenic lake and offering mountain views and an outdoor kitchen — all surrounded by aromatic lavender. “We like to host a wedding ceremony here then usher guests to the Wine Cave for cocktails while we change over the outdoor space for dinner. It’s like a magic trick — look over here while we re-make the space you were just in!” says Drake.
The team also loves the vineyard for a scenic arrival, as a backdrop for ceremonies, and for gorgeous photos — like the fun images of these chic grooms in a cool vintage car after their vineyard ceremony. A member of the prestigious Auberge Resorts Collection, Calistoga Ranch offers spectacular options and flexibility for events, as well as 50 freestanding lodges for wedding guest stays. Another sweet perk for couples is the opportunity to choose a grapevine before their ceremony to be marked with a commemorative wooden tag symbolizing their love; each time the couple returns to visit the resort they will have a romantic picnic waiting at their dedicated vine.
photographer: Larissa Cleveland Photography
Vineyard Venue Capacity: up to 150
Lommel Lawn Capacity: up to 150
Wine Cave & Founder’s Room Capacity: 80 (seated) – 150 (standing)
“The Auberge du Soleil has defined elegance in Napa Valley for 38 years,” says Drake. Nestled into the hillside, the resort offers dramatic views of the valley floor and a French country feel that has become iconic. If that weren’t enough, their culinary team has earned a coveted Michelin star for their Mediterranean-inspired cuisine. The Cole Drake Events team appreciates the beauty and flexibility of the terraced resort, which is nestled into the slopes of a hill. For intimate events, they like the option to set a ceremony within the olive grove in the resort’s beautiful open-air sculpture garden.
“For larger events, we love to escort wedding guests through the beautiful lobby then descend into foyer areas and out onto a deck offering expansive views of the valley,” says Drake. “Most of our couples get married on the lower deck with that picturesque backdrop.” The team’s Napa wedding with Indian flair made beautiful use of the deck.
The resort’s unique indoor space flows in and out of doors with two rooms connected by French doors. These Vista Rooms boast charm galore with cedar beams, a lovely terrace, and space for a dance floor. At Cole Drake’s stunning Napa Valley “affair to remember” celebration, the team curated floral-filled outdoor lounge areas and luxe indoor dining.
The wedding party and other overnight guests will appreciate that each of the spot’s 50 guest rooms and suites offer luxe amenities like fireplaces and private outdoor terraces.
photographer (images from left to right): Alexander Rubin Photography | Sylvie Gil Photography
La Pagode & Maison d’ Arbre Capacity: up to 30
Private Dining Level (Vista Rooms) Capacity: up to 120
Beaulieu Garden started as a family estate more than 100 years ago. The private still-family-owned property is one of the oldest wine-producing vineyards in Napa. Drake says, “When guests drive through the gate, they’re greeted by a long gravel drive lined by Sycamore trees. The scene instantly transports them — it’s breathtaking.” The Cole Drake Events team suggests capturing photos flanked by the iconic Sycamores. Guests are treated to a magical dining experience under espaliered Sycamores strung with twinkle lights.
The private estate is home to several gardens, perfect for meandering or celebrating: a sunken garden with a beautiful fountain, a traditional Italian garden, a rose garden, and a culinary garden. Other picturesque spots include an arbor, swimming pool, and lawn. “The culinary offerings, the craft cocktails and wines are elevated and the property is meticulously manicured within its’ natural stunning setting.” says Cole.
photographer: Jihan Cerda Photography
Beaulieu Garden Capacity: up to 375
Meadowood Napa Valley’s The Restaurant — it’s simple, straightforward name — is renowned for preparing fare that honors the bounty of the area. Their efforts have earned five stars from Forbes and three Michelin stars (one of only 15 restaurants in the United States with that designation). “It’s a place where celebrities and world leaders go,” affirms Drake. “The clean, modern, high-end resort also plays host to an impressive executive golf course.”
In addition to golf, the resort offers a variety of experiences for your guests to enjoy — an incredible spa, guided hikes, a master croquet pro, tennis courts, multiple swimming pools and private wine tastings. Meadowood provides various beautiful indoor and outdoor spots for vows and receptions. Cole adds, “We’ve had couples say their vows in front of the picturesque Weeping Willow with its water backdrop or in the Vintner’s Glen, which offers more of a woodsy feel.” Couples will work with the wedding team and Estate chef Alejandro Ayala to plan their event and memorable cuisine. The property often hosts large-scale events like the yearly Napa Valley Wine Auction, which brings a veritable “who’s who” streaming through their gates in the first week of June.
photographer: Benfield Photography
Another Auberge-managed property (a brand well-known for luxury), Drake describes Solage as “a cool, modern, minimalistic up-valley resort.” The team notes that Solage does a great job repurposing natural items on the property and have worked it into their design. In terms of vibe, there are wood, glass, and concrete elements that combine for a light, clean, and airy modern space. “We also love touches, for example, when guests check in they can make their own floral arrangements into up-cycled glass bottles at the hotel’s lobby, then take their personal bouquets to their room,” says Cole.
In terms of hosting memorable events on the property, the Cole Drake Events team loves how spacious the property is, yet the event spaces are easily and quickly accessed from the beautiful Solstice Ballroom to the sprawling lawn and the fire pit for gathering. We love how the bright pink florals at this intimate outdoor wedding pop against the lush greenery of the property. Cole says, “The ballroom itself features vaulted ceilings with white beams and white walls that are ideal for lighting transformations.” The Sol Bar, is a perfect spot for a cozy night cap and some of their famous Sol Fries!
Another benefit of the sprawling property is that it is all on one level (meaning no stairs for elderly family and friends) overlooking a striking mountain range that makes for beautifully-backlit sunsets right off the famed Silverado Trail.
photographer: Honey Honey Photography
Solstice Ballroom Capacity: 210 (seated) – 230 (standing)
Solstice Event Lawn Capacity: up to 260
The Triple S Ranch is a unique property located in Calistoga that began as a family resort in 1958 and features 10 well-appointed bungalows with porches, in addition to the Grand Victorian for guest accommodations. “This distinctive spot sells out every weekend. It’s eclectic, with a rich history — including the story of the owner and two loyal employees who battled the Tubbs fire through the night to save it,” says Cole. “The owner is a collector of interesting items that include antiques and artifacts which give the place a personal feel.”
The restaurant/barn can be used for celebrations of all types. The barn sits on a creek and has been updated to include curated items from around the world. A 30-foot bar which, paired with an outstanding commercial kitchen, makes for a beautiful combination of rustic historic charm and modern conveniences. “There’s also a 175 year old black walnut tree, perfect for performing wedding ceremonies underneath its’ shade,” says Drake.
photographer (images from left to right): Julie Kay Kelly | TJ Salsman
Restaurant/Barn Capacity: 150 (seated) – 200 (standing)
Cole describes the 28-acre Carneros Resort & Spa as featuring “modern country style with rolling hill views.” The resort, which is set overlooking vineyards, offers outdoor venues as well as “indoor spaces which feature white washed vaulted ceilings that maintain wine country charm. There is also an additional ballroom space, which is perfect if you want to have the band separate from the dining area,” says Cole. These ballrooms, aptly named Napa and Sonoma, are connected by an outdoor venue.
The resort’s various outdoor spots include The Arbor, which is an elevated area that offers a stunning view, a trellis, and a lovely water feature, and the Carneros Courtyard is a lush, well-maintained grassy area featuring a towering stone fireplace. The courtyard is perfect for cocktail parties or ceremonies with an easy transition to the reception, as it lies between the two ballrooms and is accessible by French doors to both.
photographer: The Edges Wed
Napa and Sonoma Ballrooms Capacity: up to 175
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