Editor's note: We asked two Napa Valley writers, Catherine Seda and Paul Franson, to share views on exploring the romantic side of Napa Valley - especially if you're on a budget.
If you have big bucks, it's easy to do romantic things in Napa Valley: Dine at the French Laundry or get a spa treatment at Auberge du Soleil; have a portrait painted or buy a boutique vineyard and winery.
If you're not so flush, you can still have a romantic time here. Here are some great things to do together that don't cost much.
Here's one that doesn't cost anything: A walk together. You can enjoy a hike in Skyline Park in southeast Napa(there is an admission charge to this park) or stroll along the River Trail in Napa. This trail starts at Trancas Avenue between Solano Avenue and Silverado Trail and goes south along the river through Napa. Westwood Hills in east Napa is another nice location, and you get a great view of Napa Valley from the top.
A sparkling wine tasting is always great. If the weather is good, head for the deck at Domaine Carneros, Mumm Napa or Domaine Chandon for a seated tasting in great surroundings. If it's raining or cold, a tour at Schramsberg in Calistoga is tops. The caves stay the same cool temperature year round, and the tour ends with a tasting and perhaps a bite or two.
Then there's chocolate. Napa Valley has many top chocolatiers. You can find something for almost any wallet at Woodhouse Chocolates in St. Helena, Kollar Chocolates in Yountville's V Marketplace, and Anette's in the Oxbow Public Market and down First Street. There's also La Foret in Brown's Valley and Vintage Sweet Shop at the Napa Mill. Recent research indicates that chocolate is literally good for your heart, too.
Oysters are a reputed aphrodisiac like chocolate, although supposedly more for men. There's certainly something romantic about sharing a tray of the bivalves, preferably with sparkling wine. Many Napa restaurants serve oysters on the half shell, but Hog Island Oyster Co. in the Oxbow Public Market is an obvious place to imbibe.
Anything French is romantic, and crepes are quintessentially French. You can find both sweet and savory versions at La Crepe in the Oxbow Public Market, and the Coffee Caboose in Yountville is now making them, too.
If you can't spring for a whole meal there, you can also stop by one of our French restaurants - Bouchon or Bistro Jeanty in Yountville, or Angele in Napa - for a French dessert and glass of wine. A Kir Royal or Bellini is ideal.
A picnic is always fun. Most wineries can't host picnics, but enough do can to make that the first choice. For a list of wineries where picnicking is allowed visit the Napa Valley Vintners website, napavintners.com/wineries/picnic_areas.asp. Parks and even quiet country roads are other good choices.
Many of the concerts at the Napa Valley Opera House, Silo's Jazz Club and the Uptown Theatre in Napa are very reasonable. And at the Opera House you can share a split of bubbly during the intermission for only $8.
Auberge du Soleil's restaurant would certainly be a target if we weren't saving pennies, but the deck of its bar offers some of the best views of Napa Valley, and a few drinks aren't that expensive.
It's also great fun to prepare dinner together, whether it's elaborate or as simple. Just save some of the wine for dinner!
You don't start from ground zero when celebrating Valentine's Day in Napa Valley. You are surrounded by beauty, stirring views, and the passionate vibe of those who are determined to grow the best grapes and make the best wines in the world.
This provides an advantage when you pull out your wallet and think "there has to be a simpler and less expensive way to spend Valentine's Day." It can happen; you just need to take a step back and think simple.
Take a drive on Silverado Trail and then head west over to Highway 29 on the Yountville Crossroad. The mountain peaks and scenery on the Crossroad are moving. Add romantic music, and you have one very special drive. Cost: gas.
Movie Night: Make it feel like you are dating all over again. And if you are dating, carry on then! Comparatively, the cost of movie tickets is less than a dinner out for two. Head to St. Helena's Cameo Theater where the cozy spot and beautiful town provide a happy, "I love this valley" type of feeling, which you spread on over to each other. Cost $ 18 for two (unless you get popcorn)
For a daytime adventure, meet for lunch at V. Sattui Winery in St. Helena. A little vino, a bite of cheese, and the lush gardens that just cry out for weddings - this is one romantic place. Cost is dependent on lunch items but grab an $18 bottle of Sattui Family white wine to set the mood.
For another daytime adventure, book a special wine tasting appointment on Spring Mountain. As you drive up the curvy, forest-thick roads, you will feel like you and your loved one are far away from it all. You will need an appointment; go to springmountaindistrict.org for winery choices. Cost: some tastings are free; gas.