First-Time Visitor’s Guide to Napa
Napa Valley is California’s and perhaps even the United States’ most recognizable wine country. If you are a first time visitor to Napa can be quite overwhelming. Over 500 vineyards stretch the 30 miles long. Five miles wide American Viticulture Area (AVA) blessed with a unique climate and topography for the cultivation of world-class grapes. If you’re a first-time visitor to the valley, you may come with many expectations from the wine scene here. You won’t be disappointed. Napa Valley is also home to a slew of other attractions that you should try to fit in your itinerary. This depending on the length of your trip.
Napa Valley Wine Train
Napa Valley Wine Train takes you through some the area’s most historic wineries. These wineries have put the AVA on the world map. On the three-hour ride, you will enjoy gazing at scenic town centers and wineries in Napa, Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford and St. Helena. Enjoy the scenery through large convex windows. Gourmet lunches are prepared onboard the kitchen cars. The most popular options being the Silverado open-air car and the Tasting Car. These offer the opportunity to sample over three dozen boutique wines.
Napa is home to over 50 restaurants, has an active nightlife scene, more than 20 wine tasting rooms, and live shows at the Opera House and Uptown Theatre. Make some time for the diRosa art gallery, which houses over 2000 pieces of contemporary art, is located in a rural setting with sculptural displays and peacocks on the property.
Yountville / St.Helena
Enjoy an exciting start to the day with a balloon ride at Napa Valley Aloft that offers panoramic views of the valley in the most intimate way possible. The bonus is a champagne breakfast afterwards. You will already feel a bit of a buzz as you head out to taste some fine wine at Opus One, the brainchild of visionary Cali winemaker Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild. Baron is the iconic owner of Château Mouton Rothschild near Bordeaux. The result is an irresistible synergy of California and French winemaking, apparent in the fantastic Bordeaux cellared for years at the state-of-the-art facility.
If you’re up for some olive oil tasting, Round Pond Olive Mill should be your next stop. Offered thrice a day, the tour takes you through the ins and outs of the olive oil making process. And of course, you can take delight in tasting Italian and Spanish olive oils, blood orange oil and Meyer Lemon olive oils. There’s enough bread, cheese, salad, fruit and tomatoes to savor multiple times, so expect to come out satiated.
Washington Street and St. Helena’a Main Street are lined with art galleries, antique shops and cafes. Enjoy a leisurely stroll here and when you feel like you’re ready for lunch, the restaurants in the area won’t disappoint you. Napa Valley has the highest concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants per capita compared to any other wine region globally. Unforgettable dining experiences are assured at The Restaurant at Meadowood and The French Laundry.
Best times to visit
Napa Valley is an all year round destination. September and October can be considered high season thanks to the excitement of harvest season. Harvest season marked by celebrations and stomps; winter is also a good time if you seek cheaper hotel rates and tranquility. In spring, little yellow mustard flowers bloom in abundance and paint the scenery with a lovely golden glow.