On this Tesla-powered luxury California road trip, sample gastronomic treats in Napa and Sonoma, explore Big Sur’s lush coastal forests, and immerse yourself in Southern California’s architecture and exciting art scene. After busy days exploring, find respite at secluded getaways and intimate luxury hotels perched high above a cliff or surrounded by vineyards and fragrant gardens. Sample the abundant produce, rare vintages and fresh catch of the day at farm stands and chef-driven establishments throughout the state. This is a refined California road trip that never drifts far from the earthy, natural pulse of this state.
Sonoma and Napa Valleys
Day 1, 2 and 3
California wine country’s two most vaunted valleys, Sonoma and Napa, share over 800 wineries spread across a couple dozen Viticultural Areas. Each AVA is recognized for its distinct microclimate and terrain that imprint recognizable characteristics on the grapes grown there.
Traveling north from San Francisco in your Tesla, the lazy Silverado Trail will guide you from Napa through charming St. Helena and to the culinary hotspot of Yountville. Upon arrival at Auberge du Soleil, a Provencal dream overlooking the vineyards; settle in, catch a few rays by the pool, or indulge in a little pampering at the spa, before enjoying a relaxed dinner on the terrace.
You’ll explore the backroads with a private guide and 3rd generation wine country insider, who will introduce you to select, limited production operations and boutique wineries typically closed to the public. You’ll meet the winemakers, taste their vintages and share a private lunch amidst the vines. End the day enjoying a Michelin-starred tasting experience at the French Laundry or SingleThread Farm.
After criss-crossing the valley’s farms and vineyards the previous day, today you’ll step into the test kitchen at the Culinary Institute of America, one of the world’s top schools for food and wine whose alumni include many leading chefs, sommeliers and restaurateurs. Under the watchful eye of an instructor, you’ll turn local, farm fresh ingredients into a multi-course meal that you’ll savor with a local bottle. End your luxury Napa journey with a visit to the exceptional Donum Estate, where you’ll taste award-winning wines and explore their staggering sculpture collection. Your private guide will lead you by ATV through the vineyard, dotted with over forty large-scale works by the likes of Ai Weiwei and Yayoi Kusama.
Day 4 and 5
Take the backroads as you leave wine country’s golden hills for the ‘City by the Bay.’ This pocket of California, rich in natural beauty and healthy soils, has a long history of attracting artists, writers and free thinkers. Seeking a slower life – artist, publisher and antiquarian bookseller Ben Kinmont left Manhattan for the tiny hamlet of Sebastopol; a private appointment will give you a peek at his collection of rare books on gastronomy, health, perfume, and the history of taste.
From here travel along the coast and stop for some fresh oysters at Tomales Bay before crossing the famed Golden Gate bridge into San Francisco. This evening, take in the views from a room high above the city and savor the delicacies at one of San Francisco’s many great restaurants such as Benu, Atelier Crenn or the more casual Cortona or State Bird Provisions.
Take a morning to explore this city’s cultural heavyweight: SFMOMA, The Presidio or the De Young Museum. In the waning afternoon light, you’ll meet your captain at the marina and take to the waters aboard a private yacht. Sailing the San Francisco Bay during the golden hour is truly one of the most unique and memorable ways to see this striking city. Chart a course under the Golden Gate Bridge, along San Francisco’s waterfront and past Alcatraz Island, before crossing the Raccoon Strait, with exclusive Belvedere on one side and Angel Island on the other.
Carmel and Big Sur
Day 6 & 7
Continue your luxury California road trip south to Carmel-by-the-Sea and the majesty of Big Sur. En route, take time to explore one of our favorite state parks, Point Lobos, by bike. End at the sublime Post Ranch Inn, perched high on a cliff above the Pacific Ocean.
With its rightly world famous drive, many fail to experience Big Sur on foot. Taking a winding single track trail through the redwoods to fern-covered Partington Creek before climbing through oaks to reach a coastal overlook is not to be missed. Armed with a gourmet picnic, you’ll descend to a quiet sandy beach, watching the waves roll onshore and gently breaking against the time-weathered rocks.
After a busy day, retreat to Post Ranch and, once darkness settles in, scan the skies for planets, stars and nebulas through the resort’s powerful telescope.
Day 8, 9 & 10
Today your couples road trip in California will take you south along the Pacific Coast Highway, one of the world’s great drives. The Santa Lucia Mountains rise precipitously from the Pacific Ocean as the road twists its way around verdant headlands and pretty bays. Each corner reveals another breathtaking view and, with a little help, you’ll know the hidden spots to stop and soak it all up.
Leave the coast for country lanes, small farming towns and vineyards of Foxen Canyon.
The road climbs through the Santa Ynez Valley and over the San Marcos Pass. Emerging from the hills, the glistening ocean reappears in the distance and the whitewashed walls and terracotta roofs of Santa Barbara can be seen far below. For the next couple of nights, a secluded, jasmine-covered cottage at San Ysidro Ranch will provide a fragrant refuge amongst the lavender fields and citrus groves.
Spend the next day visiting select boutique wineries in the Santa Ynez Valley. Venture deep into the vineyards on horseback with a private ‘vaquero’, gaining a different perspective and vistas as you crest the ridgeline; the perfect spot for a picnic lunch!
Back in Santa Barbara, wander Lotusland Foundation with one of the garden’s caretakers, roaming acres of this botanical wonderland on the former estate of eccentric socialite and opera singer Madame Ganna Walska. Dates allowing, end your time in Santa Barbara with a private cabana at the Santa Barbara Polo & Racquet Club. While it just misses out on being the oldest polo club in the country, it’s a strong contender for the prettiest.
Day 11 & 12
Leaving the pretty Mediterranean city for the cosmopolitan and trendy ‘City of Angels.’ Traveling along the coast you’ll first reach the exclusive surfer town and celebrity hideaway Malibu. Stop for lunch and a bit of sea breeze at one of the culinary hotspots, before making your way towards the LA City limits. To reach the hidden Hotel Bel Air, you’ll turn onto Sunset and follow the famed Boulevard all the way to the turn off into the lush, elusive Bel Air enclave, home to some of Los Angeles’s most exquisite estates.
To experience the beat of the city and for a ‘beyond-the-canvas’ experience, you’ll travel with a private art insider to a LA neighborhood not found on most ‘bucket-lists’. Art + Practice is not only a cutting edge art space based in historic Leimert Park, it’s a foundation conceived by artist Mark Bradford, philanthropist and collector Eileen Harris Norton and social activist Allan DiCastro. A+P is committed to providing the community with free access to museum-curated contemporary art, while also supporting the needs of its local foster youth. (The A+P nonprofit offers opportunities for local foster youth to receive individualized educational, employment and personal support.) The art will be well worth your time and your visit will help foster a worthy cause.
And so ends the ultimate romantic California road trip…