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 destinations in California. More than three 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 four 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.
The Napa Valley enjoys a Mediterranean climate. Summer is marked by warm to hot, sunny days, cool nights, and little to no rain. Winter is mild, and is characterized by occasional rain interspersed with bright, sunny days, and occasional frosts. Snow is very uncommon, however.
The nearest airport to the Napa Valley is the Sonoma County Airport with passenger services from Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, Orange County, San Diego, Las Vegas, and Phoenix on various airlines. The nearest international airports are in San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose, and Sacramento. San Francisco is the largest airport of the group presented. Here, a traveler arriving at San Francisco Airport can easily rent a car or reserve a limo to take them to Napa Valley.The trip is about an hour and a half long over the Golden Gate Bridge to scenic Route 37.
From San Francisco:
Use Highway 29 or Silverado Trail to see the valley. They run north-south along the valley.
There are also opportunities to cycle in the vineyards.Guided Bike Tours
Wine Tours and tastings are the main reason why many people go to Napa Valley. For some, it is just a fun way to relax, but for others, a passion for wine and an interest in seeing how their favorite wine is made from stem to bottle is often the driving force behind a visit. Hardcore wine collectors may go to Napa to taste wines before they invest in them.
There are many other leisure activities in Napa Valley to complement fine dining and wine tours. If you are an early riser, you can take a hot air balloon ride. There is also horseback riding, boating, fishing, gliding, golfing, bicycling and spa treatments.
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.
If you want to picnic or even tailgate you can stop at the Oakville Grocer. Its located at 7856 Saint Helena Highway, Oakville California (707)-944-8802. There are necessary pantry items such as cheese, crackers and specialty pates. It is open daily but hours vary. Call ahead for specialty sandwiches, picnic baskets or box lunches.
If it is an excellent lunch that you are looking for, you might want to conbine your tour at Domaine Chandon with a lunch at Etoile at Domaine Chandon. Its open for lunch on Thursday through Monday and it has recieved the best of awards for excellence in 2010.
Bouchon feels like an authentic, upscale French bistro. Some of its specialties are pan-roasted trout, classic French onion soup and duck foie gras. Reservations are neccessary. It is open daily for lunch and dinner. Entrees are 16 to 40 dollars and there is always a great list of specials.
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.