Earth : North America : United States of America : California : Bay Area (California) : Napa Valley
Napa Valley , in the Bay Area in California, is the main wine growing region of the United States of America and one of the major wine regions of the world. It is also known for its gourmet restaurants, cafes, and spa-treatment centers.
Cities and Towns
From north to south the main locales are:
Napa Valley, a world famous wine area, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in California. More than five million visitors come each year, often overcrowding the roadways on summer weekends. Peak times are the summer months and the harvest "crush" during September and October. Napa Valley is home to more than two hundred wineries. With wine as a focus, great dining naturally emerged to complement it. The Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena supplies a steady stream of well-trained chefs, supplementing the already prestigious chefs drawn by Napa Valley's reputation and locale.
From San Francisco:
Use Highway 29 or Silverado Trail to see the valley. They run north-south along the valley.
The thing about wine, of course, is that it has a synergy with food. They enhance each other. Accordingly, food is elevated here. There are many excellent chefs in this area, and many great dining facilities. One most famous place that must be mentioned is French Laundry, in Yountville. It is very famous, very expensive, and very hard to get a reservation. Reservations open two months in advance, and you must be right on top of it. Try if you must, but there are many other delicious options.
The Valley and its wines beg to be brought on a picnic. It might just be the best way to have lunch. Some wineries cater to picnickers, notably V. Sattui which has a nice picnic area and even a deli, but others don't want picnickers tying up their limited parking. Some encourage picnics, but only by reservation. One establishment built on Napa Valley picnicking is Oakville Grocery in Oakville, famous for its deli and picnic supplies.
Most wineries offer tastings and/or tours of their products. The form this takes varies greatly. The largest, most well known wineries such as Mondavi and Beringer are open daily with large hosting facilities, guided tours of the operation and reserve rooms for tasting select, more expensive wines. The many smaller wineries may offer tastings only by appointment, but your tour or tasting may be conducted by the owner. Most vineyards charge a small fee for the tastings, especially at the more popular vineyards, perhaps $5-$10. Winery tours are generally very interesting and informative. Reserve room tastings provide an opportunity to sample expensive wines without having to spend a larger amount for a bottle. Sometimes the tasting fee can be applied to the cost of a bottle purchased.
Popular Large Wineries
Napa Valley enjoys very low crime rates and is generally considered to be a relatively safe part of California. Emergency response (police, fire, and paramedics) can be reached by dialing 911.
Note that California's drunk driving laws are extremely strict.