News from the Vines: Winter 2020

November 30th, 2020

What’s Happening in Napa Valley

While it’s no secret that Napa Valley has faced some challenges this year, the region is open to visitors and the spirit is stronger than ever. The Glass Fire that broke out in September is now 100 percent contained and most of Napa County’s 45,000 acres of vine were not impacted. For those wondering how to help, the best way to support the community and its members is to visit. And the timing couldn’t be better. As harvest closes out this month, travelers will be welcomed with the start of Cabernet Season – the best time to visit for those in the know. From November through April, summer heat is replaced with perfectly mild temperatures – think warm days, cool nights, and blue skies. The pace slows down and foliage is at eye level as the vines become dormant along Silverado Trail. (Leaf peeping is not just on the east coast!) Brilliant yellow wild mustard flowers are scattered through the vineyards and along country lanes. During this time of year, visitors can more easily nab reservations at Michelin-starred restaurants. Greater access to wineries is another bonus with more opportunities to meet winemakers and receive impromptu glimpses behind the scenes.

What’s New in Wine (and Spirit) Tastings
These tastings are shaking up the scene in Napa Valley, with freshly designed spaces and new experiences with an emphasis on privacy. Napa Valley Distillery, the first distillery to open its doors in the city of Napa since prohibition, opened a new speakeasy tasting salon dubbed the ”Hollywood Room” with cocktails crafted from spirits made just a few feet away. The art deco-designed space is punctuated with tiki bar-like decor.  Animal lovers will gravitate towards Oasis by Hoopes, where wines are accompanied by an animal sanctuary and regenerative farm. The outdoor space, which opened in October 2020, is dotted with airstreams, lounge areas made with recycled materials, a farm stand (with produce for purchase), as well as rescued chickens, pigs, and goats. Faust’s new tasting room, housed in a Victorian home originally built in 1878, opened in September 2020 following a four-year renovation. Known for their Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from organically farmed estates, the new space still features the original cellar from pre-prohibition era. And for travelers prioritizing privacy, Charles Krug, the oldest wine estate in Napa, opened five new private WIFI-enabled outdoor tasting cabanas on the winery’s picnic grounds and Trefethen is now offering a nightly after-hours experience permitting only one booking per evening – meaning guests have the whole estate to themselves. Space to watch: Yountville’s Baldacci Family Vineyards will open a new hospitality center in March 2021, featuring new private tasting rooms, a wine bar, and an outdoor patio overlooking wine country vistas.

Neighborhoods to Watch
Calistoga, the northern most town in Napa Valley – famed as a wine-meets-spa destination thanks to its geothermal waters – is in the limelight thanks to a crop of new hotels and multi-million-dollar resort renovations. Four Seasons Resort & Residences will open this winter with 85-rooms and an on-site vineyard and tasting room – a rarity in Napa Valley.  As a nod to Calistoga’s wellness roots, the property will offer an eight-room spa with steam pods in which hammocks will be suspended above geo-thermal pools for guests to absorb the heated vapor.  Coming soon, Dr. Wilkinson’s Backyard Resort & Mineral Springs, originally built in 1952, will unveil a large-scale renovation. Considered one of the first resorts in Calistoga and known for its mud bath treatments, the property’s new look will include a Southwestern-inspired restaurant, House of Better. This December, Solage, part of the Auberge Resorts Collection, will unveil a $30 million-dollar renovation overseen by architect Howard Backen – considered the creator of “Napa Valley Style” – and Los Angeles-based interior design agency Studio Collective. In addition to 11 new accommodations, Solbar - their signature restaurant – will double the size of the patio for outdoor dining and the new PicoBar, with light bites and cocktails, will sit next to an enlarged pool deck with contemporary loungers and cabanas.

Downtown Napa
Spanning three buzzy blocks in the heart of Downtown Napa, First Street Napa is an ever-growing hub for shopping, dining, and tasting. Known for its locally owned boutiques and independent restaurants and wineries, the district has recently welcomed a surge of new shops like C’est La Paire for chic boots and handbags; The Bennington Napa Valley for vintage finds; and Copperfield’s Books, a mainstay store returning to First Street. The first standalone tasting room dedicated solely to luxury California brandies, California Brandy House, will open on First Street on November 6, 2020 for outdoor tastings. The new concept will debut with two leading brandy portfolios, Germain-Robin and Argonaut. Visitors will be guided through tasting flights, including single-barrel samples that are only available at the tasting space. For those looking for something on the fizzier side, the first and only dedicated Champagne & sparkling wine lounge in Napa Valley, Be Bubbly, has just opened its doors. Over in Napa’s Oxbow Public Market (a 40,000-square-foot marketplace with an expansive outdoor deck along the Napa River), Bar Lucia opened this summer from owner behind Kara’s Cupcakes. Highlights of the bar include rosé and sparkling wines paired with seasonal bites. Founder Kara Haspel Lind named the bar after her great grandmother and her daughter, honoring the traditions passed down through five generations of women in her family. For those visitors who are overwhelmed with options across the region, a brand-new Napa Valley Welcome Center will open on November 12 as a resource for itinerary-planning. New technology will provide visitors insider tips in a no-touch manner, and a 16-foot video wall will offer a taste of Napa Valley travel inspiration to pedestrians along First Street through floor-to-ceiling glass windows.

Looking Ahead to 2021
Black History Month – February 2021
In honor of Black History Month in February, travelers to Napa Valley can explore the roots of BIPOC pioneers in the winemaking business and support local initiatives throughout the region. Leaders in the industry include Brown Estate Vineyards, which was the first Black-owned estate winery in Napa and is now best known as one of Napa Valley’s most well-regarded zinfandel producers. Neighboring Okapi Wines is a micro-boutique winery that produces just a few barrels of wine each year. Founder Dan Johnson limits its production to 300 cases per year to maintain sustainable farming practices. Carneros Resort and Spa is offering a Diversity in Wine Flight featuring four wines by vintners and winemakers of color. The tasting flight is available at two of their onsite restaurants with 10% of proceeds being donated to UNCF. To support diversity in the wine industry, Napa Valley Vintners, a nonprofit association representing more than 500 wineries in the region, has partnered with UNCF to create a new scholarship program for people of color to pursue college degrees in subjects including grape growing and winemaking, with $1 million already invested into the program.

Women Winemakers are changing the way we drink wine (and beer!)
The month of March is all about celebrating women with International Women’s Day on March 8, 2021. As one of the top viticultural regions, Napa Valley is known for its sprawling vineyards, historic wineries and towns that dot the countryside. It is also home to many women who have made names for themselves throughout the area. To name a few, Elaine St. Clair is the only woman in the U.S. to hold the commercial title of both winemaker and brewer. Kathryn Walt Hall is the force behind HALL Wines and WALT Wines in St. Helena and has been in the Napa wine industry for almost five decades, having also worked as an attorney, community activist, and as the United States Ambassador to Austria. During her 40-year tenure in Napa Valley winemaking, Heidi Barrett, who known as “The First Lady of Wine” is behind California’s most notable cult wines, including Screaming Eagle, which has a starting price of $700 a bottle. Today she’s co-founder of her own label, Barrett & Barrett, where she continues to produce some of the top Cabernet Sauvignons.



happy birthday to you

December 15th, 2011

Red Fort Delhi

Red Fort in New Delhi (

Happy, Happy birthday to the city of New Delhi today! The foundation of the city was laid on December 15, 1911 by King George V and Queen Mary. Since that date, it has become one of the fastest growing cities in the world with a population of 19 million!

Stop by to give your best wishes and see how well it’s aged with Banyan Tours & Travels. The bespoke tour company can arrange an itinerary to see the city’s sights and many cultural offerings! Here’s to another prosperous 100!

celebration in bhutan

October 13th, 2011

Big news from Bhutan – it’s another royal wedding! Today, the nation’s ultra-popular “Dragon King” married Jetsun Pema, a 21-year-old student and the daughter of an airline pilot. The marriage, first announced in May, was televised live across the country, resulting in widespread celebration. The colorful ceremony took place in a sacred monastery surrounded by the elated people of Bhutan. Find out more here!

where should the royal lovebirds honeymoon?

November 17th, 2010

These two got engaged on a Kenyan safari, so we’re sure the honeymoon will be equally as cool and unique. Here are our picks for the Royal Honeymoon.


 Parrot Cay

Parrot Cay, Turks & Caicos

The private isle is the ultimate place to hide away from the cameras and unwind after all of the pomp and circumstance of a royal wedding.

Royal Treatment: Rent out the COMO Shambhala Cottage for a night of Champagne, spa treatments, and candlelit dining.


Rosewood Mayakobá, Mexico 

Let loose after escaping to the beautiful Mexican Riviera hotel and test tequilas recommended by the resident tequila sommelier.

Royal Treatment: With Mayasutra, newlyweds can get intimate with a Moonlight Tantric Yoga class and a couples massage instruction session followed by 30 minutes of “alone time”.


Geejam, Jamaica 

No stranger to celebrities, the luxury property was originally a residential recording studio where the likes of No Doubt and Amy Winehouse laid down some tracks.

Royal Treatment: Stay at the amazing Sanwood villa designed by British architect Anthony Wade in the 60s and relax in the private pool or bask in the Jamaican sun and take in the views on the sun deck.

 Fleming Villa 

GoldenEye, Jamaica 

Next to the man in line for the throne, James Bond might be the most enviable Brit we know, so vacationing at this Jamaican hideaway where Fleming penned all the Bond books would be quite fitting.

Royal Treatment: Stay in the Fleming Villa for a private beach and the spirit of James Bond lingering in the air and compelling the swilling of shaken-not-stirred martinis.


The Caves, Jamaica 

Dodge the paparazzi at the romantic Caribbean resort where couple feeling like a dip can leap off a cliff for a private swim.

Royal Treatment: It doesn’t get much more private than a candlelit dinner for two in a hidden cave looking out on the water.


Strawberry Hill, Jamaica 

Following in his parents’ footsteps, William would love to vacation at this mountain resort where, besides Charles and Diana, the guests list boasts Mick Jagger and Bob Marley.

Royal Treatment: Get away from the photographers 3,100 feet above sea level and take in the sweeping views from the Blue Mountains.




Jakes, Jamaica

Kick off those shoes and lose the fancy cap; this charming seaside resort is the perfect antidote to structured courtly life.

Royal Treatment: Enjoy a private yoga session by starlight and listen to the waves.



White Elephant, Nantucket

What’s more fitting for English newlyweds than a trip to New England? This harborside Nantucket hotel is a classic (and classy) spot for postnuptial bonding.

Royal Treatment: Only on Nantucket (at Brant Point Grill) does a Bloody Mary come equipped with lobster.



Anantara Golden Triangle Resort & Spa, Chiang Rai, Thailand

The luxurious Thai resort is tucked away in the beautiful Golden Triangle, away from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok.

Royal Treatment: Take a romantic ride atop an elephant – sure beats a limo!


Anantara Phuket Villas, Phuket, Thailand

After the long awaited ‘I do,’ couples can celebrate the occasion with a wide selection of live entertainment – including a seven-piece band at this Thai property.

Royal Treatment: Hidden in the mangroves, the lavish villas have a 355 ft. sq. private pool, outdoor showers, and a terrazzo tub built to accommodate two (and only two).



 Anantara Veli

Anantara Dhigu Resort & Spa and Anantara Veli Resort & Spa, Maldives

These romantic spots embody what a honeymoon should be – nothing but sun, water, sand, and a newlywed couple pampered and sunkissed.

Royal Treatment: Answer to only your whims on a private a romantic island getaway with Anantara Dhigu, Veli, Naladhu, and the soon-to-be, Anantara Kihavah Villas opening in early 2011. The best part about Anantara in the Maldives is that at whatever resort couples choose to stay, free transfer is available between islands to enjoy the benefits of all.


Cocoa Island, Maldives

The private island resort in the South Male Atoll is just over 1000 feet long and is surrounded by pristine, turquoise water.

Royal Treatment: Honeymooners get a complimentary sunset cruise with vino and an antipasti plate.



Uma Paro,

No tabloid photographers here; the remote mountain lodge is a great spot from which to explore Bhutan’s monasteries and temples and get spiritually in tune before returning to palace life.

Royal Treatment: After trekking through the country by bike or raft, couples can be pampered in the COMO Shambhala Retreat.



Uma Ubud, Bali
The luxurious retreat set in the tangled jungle is perfect for the couple that likes an exotic locale without giving up modern comforts.

Royal Treatment: The COMO Suite allows guests to have spa treatments in private in its private treatment area.


High Seas

Crystal Cruises

Couples can sail away on a luxurious cruise to spots around the globe – no need to pick just one. Romantic “must-sees” include Rome, Mykonos, and Casablanca, to name a few.

Royal Treatment: Enjoy a Couples Massage in the Feng-Shui inspired Crystal Spa or cozy up in the back row of the Hollywood Movie Theater and watch a first-run movie while sipping champagne.

where will you go in india, mr. president?

November 5th, 2010

Recent reports detail President Obama’s busy schedule preparing for his upcoming trip to India. Outside of delegation meetings and state dinners (will there be any crashers this go-round?), we have compiled a few things the President shouldn’t miss!

Need a quick pick-me-up between appearances?


President Obama will be in Mumbai November 6 and 7.  May we recommend, Mr. President, visiting the ESPA Spa at The Leela Kempinski Mumbai as a spot for an instant pick-me-up after a day of demanding meetings.  For the United States’ top executive, the Executive Stress Tonic treatment is suggested.  An hour and a half of back, neck, shoulder, hand, arm, and scalp massage will relieve tension caused by hours hunched over a desk and long periods of time spend on a plane. 

Looking to unwind after a jam-packed schedule (diplomatic, or otherwise)?

Park Hyatt Goa

Park Hyatt Goa will instantly relieve stress and offers the perfect place to get a Presidential tan. A true escape, the resort was designed to replicate ancient Indian villages and is set amid 45 acres of lush beachfront gardens. The property is divided into five courtyards, each distinctive in theme, architecture, and landscape, creating a series of individual guestroom clusters within the resort, set apart from one another by lagoons, tropical gardens, bridges, and interconnected with cobbled village streets.  The Sereno Spa offers daily yoga and meditation classes designed to reconnect the body and mind – something every leader and fellow traveler can appreciate. Sessions are designed to improve energy and creativity, steadiness of mind, improve breathing and lung capacity, and relieve fatigue in the eyes.  As a final addendum, Park Hyatt Goa is also home to India’s largest swimming pool with water slides!

Escape the election fever…

Shakti 360 Leti

After recent mid-term elections, the President might be feeling the urge to truly disconnect for a few days. Shakti’s Kumaon village experience in Uttarakhand provides the chance to take in the stunning mountain scenery and rich culture of the remote, unspoiled, and undiscovered North Indian state. Take in staggering views that include the snow-tipped twin peaks of Nanda Devi, India’s second highest mountain.  Guests take daily walks through the forests of grey pine, cedar, and rhododendron, and overnight in village homes that have been gently retouched to include Western creature comforts. The nearby four-room retreat, 360˚Leti, is a true escape perched at an impressive 8,000 feet.  It lives up to its name, with 360° panoramic views and floor-to-ceiling glass windows. There is no Internet, no cell coverage, and only solar power — a real opportunity to unplug.  A 90-minute trek along a narrow trail to the hotel takes guests past waterfalls, brooks, and terraced hills lined with rice paddies and rows of wheat.

Appeal to the activists…

Shakti Sikkim

To increase those ever-important approval ratings, it’s crucial to reach out to a cross-section of interests. A trip to Sikkim with Shakti offers a sure-fire boost. This tiny, Northeastern India state finds itself sandwiched between friendly neighbors Bhutan, Nepal, and Tibet, and is the least populous and second smallest in all of India. Sikkim is culturally and topographically not unlike its neighbors and the only state in India to share an open border with China (very global). Sikkim also offers a dose of natural beauty sure to perk up environmentalist curiosity. With over 4,000 plant species and 450 exotic orchids, virgin rhododendron forests, indigenous birds, 650 kinds of butterflies and endangered species like red pandas, snow leopards, and blue yaks, it’s as far from Pennsylvania Avenue as you can get. Catch views of Mt. Kanchenjunga, the world’s third highest mountain, while passing fluttering Buddhist prayer flags on the trail to Rinchenpong Monastery.  Explore this remote but enchanted land, learning about the region’s religious history and present day Buddhist and Hindu cultures as you go.

To experience a Presidential quick-trip…

Crystal Symphony

As a traveling world leader, schedules rarely allow time for extended stays anywhere outside the Oval Office.  Crystal Cruises’ 2011 World Cruise line up features two itineraries next March that visit India, with two overland excursions full of adventure and sightseeing.  The Ajanta & Ellora Caves excursion explores the wonders of ancient India, following part of the Silk Road with stops at the famous Buddhist caves at Ajanta and the magnificent carved rock temples of Ellora, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. For the classicist, the Journey to the Fabled Taj Mahal excursion offers an overview tour of Delhi’s highlights, sunrise and sunset visits to the Taj Mahal, and a visit to Agra Fort.  The two excursions can help split the 23-day Asia cruise, and provide your own version of Obama’s upcoming Asia tour!

tribute to indira ghandi

November 1st, 2010


Yesterday thousands poured into the streets across India as the country remembered Indira Ghandi, the first female prime minister of India. This year marks the 26th anniversary of her assassination.

Ms. Ghandi was killed by her bodyguards in the midst of her third consecutive term. She served India for fifteen years, and remains India’s only female prime minister and the world’s all time longest serving female prime minister to date.

happy birthday, barack!

August 4th, 2010

Political Glamour

Celebrity sightings are all the rage these days, but let’s not forget about government’s royalty. In honor of Obama’s birthday, we’ve rounded up a few locales where you’re likely to run into an off-duty lawmaker or two. Who knows? Maybe you’ll get the chance to bend their ears about your political views over cocktails…


Bern, Switzerland

Bellevue Palace, in the capital city of Bern and right next to the Swiss Parliament, has long been a meeting place for politicians, royals, and dignitaries the world over. As the only 5-star hotel in Bern, the hotel’s luxury is renowned, as is its statesmanlike discretion, making it a natural host for world leaders. During WWII, Bellevue Palace was the picture of political neutrality, as was its famed restaurant, La Terasse, serving guests from Axis nations meeting in one half of the restaurant, and those from the Allied Powers in the other. (more…)