UNITED STATES  |  Napa Valley, California Travel Guide
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Napa Valley, California

Vineyards in Napa Valley, California
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Napa Valley Travel Guide

Introduction

The Napa Valley is practically synonymous with wine, particularly California wine. It is one of the premier wine-growing regions of the world, rivaling the likes of Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhine and Moselle valleys, if not in size, certainly in notoriety. There are more than 300 wineries here, from boutique wineries to grand old estates, most with tasting rooms packed with weekend visitors and wine buffs, and many with the added allure of an art collection or two or a slate of culinary events or live music concerts during the summer months. There are scores of microclimates here, seemingly around every bend of the Napa River and on every other undulation in the valley – from the cool climes of Los Carneros in the south where Rieslings and Pinots happily come of age, to the warmer terroir near Calistoga in the north where Cabernets and Zinfandels reign supreme – and, too, in the flanking Mayacamas Mountains and Vaca Hills where the hardy strains produce wines of character. There are bed and breakfast inns here that can pamper and spoil, and fine restaurants where wine pairings with California cuisine are the order of the day. There's even a wine train that journeys up the valley, making stops at all the wine towns along the way, and hot-air balloon companies that offer an entirely different perspective on the wine experience.

Location

The Napa Valley lies just to the north of San Pablo Bay (to the southwest of which lies San Francisco. To its west and northwest are the Mayacamas Mountains and along its east the Vaca Hills. The valley itself is approximately 30 miles long and a little over 4 miles wide at its widest point, running southeast-northwest between the towns of Napa and Calistoga which form its south and north termini respectively, with the climate progressing from cool to warm along with the lattitudes..

How to Get There

For visitors arriving from outside Northern California, the best way to reach the Napa Valley is to fly into San Francisco, then either take a bus tour from the city to the valley, or rent a car and drive up to the Napa Valley on I-80 east and Highway 16 northeast.

Sightseeing

Apart from the wineries and their offerings of wine and art, the principal attraction here is the Di Rosa Preserve just outside Napa, which has a monumental collection of contemporary art, displayed in myriad buildings, and outdoor sculptures randomly scattered throughout the estate. In St Helena, you can visit the Silverado Museum, devoted entirely to the works and memorabilia of 19th-century Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, as well as the largest wine library on the West Coast, with 3,000-plus volumes on wine. In Calistoga, there's the Old Faithful geyser, and the Old Calistoga Depot shopping arcade which is housed partly in restored, old railcars. Yountville's Vintage 1870 shopping arcade is also worth traipsing through. And then there's the Wine Train, journeying up the Napa Valley, and the area's hot-air-balloon companies offering one-of-a-kind experiences, with champagne brunches.

Main Towns

  • Napa - Southernmost and largest town in the Napa Valley, with upscale shops, boutiques, galleries, a museum or two, a few good restaurants, and bed and breakfast inns in restored Victorians. There are also a few wineries on the periphery of town. Just to the southwest of Napa is the cool, undulating, Chardonnay- and Pinot Noir-producing Los Carneros area.

  • Yountville - Small, historic town, a little way to the north of Napa. Its centerpiece is the 19th-century, red-brick complex, Vintage 1870, with some 50 unique shops and a few gourmet restaurants. Another, Washington Square, also offers good shopping and dining, as well as accommodations in luxurious railcars. The French sparkling-wine producer, Domaine Chandon, is located here.

  • Oakville - Tiny town, just north of Yountille. Oakville's principal draw is the Robert Mondavi Winery which has wine tasting as well as culinary and cultural events and live music concerts in the summer, and an art collection worth seeing. Other wineries: Cakebread, Silver Oak and Robert Pepi. Famous Cabernet Sauvignon-producing Martha's Vineyard is located here.

  • Rutherford - Wine town adjacent to Oakville, home to the historic Inglenook estate, now the Rubicon Estate/Niebaum-Coppola Estate. Other prominent wineries here include Beaulieu Vineyard, Grgich Hill Cellars, Rutherford Vintners and Franciscan Vineyards.

  • St. Helena - Charming little town in the heart of the Napa Valley, with lovely, old stone buildings and antique street lamps. Wine shops, tasting rooms, epicurean restaurants, and 40-plus wineries in and around town. Wine library housing more than 3,000 volumes on wine, and the Silverado Museum with memorabilia and works of Robert Louis Stevenson, author of Napa Valley classic, Silverado Squatters. Main wineries in the area: Beringer Vineyards, Charles Krug Winery, Freemark Abbey and Heitz Cellars.

  • Calistoga - Northernmost town in the Napa Valley, with spas and mud baths and an atmospheric main street with shops and cafés. Points of interest include the Sharpsteen Museum and Old Calistoga Depot which has unique shops housed in restored olld Southern Pacific railcars. The Old Faithful geyser is located here. Main Calistoga wineries: Sterling Vineyards, Clos Pegase, Cuvaison, Schramsberg, Robert Pecota and Chateau Montelena. Warmer climate of area offers up Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel vineyards.

How to Get Around

Where to Taste Wine

Where to Eat

Where to Stay

Know Before You Go

  • Best Time to Visit: April-October
  • Cost Per Day: $-$ (€-€)
  • Currency: Dollar USD (€1 ~ US$1.30)
  • Electricity: 120V - 60Hz | T-slot socket with 2 flat parallel prongs and a round pin
  • Phone Code: +1 707
  • Population: 138,000

Nearby Destinations

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Last updated December 15, 2013
Posted in   United States  |  Napa Valley
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