Vacationing in Napa Valley
Napa has over time become one of the world’s best producers of wine, and fetches prices previously only seen in areas of Europe. Today, Napa has become a giant tourist destination in the heart of Northern California. The most popular way to see Napa Valley is by visiting San Francisco in the same trip, which is a little over an hour’s drive southwest of Napa.
Nearby, you’ll also find Sonoma Valley. Sonoma has some outstanding, small wineries, as well as some bigger ones that you might recognize. The busiest sections of Napa Valley lie in the towns of Rutherford, Napa, Oakville, Calistoga and St. Helena. Along the main route and the Silverado Trail, you can find hundreds of wineries to explore alongside the mountains, on the backroads, and even sometimes up into the mountainsides.
A section of the Silverado Trail that has some of the valley’s best wine is the Stag’s Leap District. This appellation of wineries contains Regusci, Stag’s Leap, Vine Cliff, Clos Du Val, Silverado, and Chimney Rock, as well as other rich wines from the area. Red wines like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are some of the area’s best, but you can find some lesser known reds that are just as impressive.
Lensmaster Webcodes has written a great overview lens on Napa Valley, “Travel to Napa Valley, Wine Capital of the World.” Having been there myself, I can tell you that the Old Faithful Geyser is a beautiful display worth seeing just minutes north of most downtown destinations of Napa. Unlike the Old Faithful Geyser of Yellowstone, this geyser doesn’t have the long lines you would expect, but is still a very active geothermal area.
Another area Webcodes is the Petrified Forest, which I didn’t have to time to check out, but sounds impressive. Ancient Redwoods here have become covered with volcanic material, transforming into the petrified masses that you can see here.
Here are some of my personal tips for Napa sightseeing and wine tours:
1. Start early. Yes, early. The wineries are only open 10-5 for the most part, while some open later or earlier, the window of opportunity is only 4-5 hours. Expect to visit each winery for 30 minutes on the average.
2. DO have crackers in between tastings. Over the day, your palette can get mixed with every other wine, and it can be hard to discern one from the other. On the other hand, this is a great way to develop your wine tastes.
3. Don’t pay attention to prices or what others might be telling you about the wine. Listen to your taste buds and see what you truly enjoy.
4. Go off the beaten path. The Silverado Trail is great, but there are many wineries that lie just off the main roads that are some true hidden gems!
5. Try to not carry back wine with you if you can if you are flying. New regulations make it a huge pain to carry wine on planes, and they can easily explode from air pressure or be destroyed from heat/cold. Ship it back if your state allows, or better yet, drive back.