Napa Valley Wine Tasting
Plan Your Wine Country Tour
The purpose of this guide is to help you plan your own Napa Valley wine tasting tour. There are several different regions to explore.
World famous Napa Valley has so many wineries, that it is quite a challenge to decide which ones you want to visit. The main thing is to get there and experience the beauty of the valley, the smells of the vineyards and the tastes of the wine country foods. Basically, you can enjoy a major treat to all the senses.
Whether you are lucky enough to stay overnight in one of Napa Valley's many wine country lodging options, or on a day trip from San Francisco or elsewhere, this guide will attempt to orientate you to the valley so you can decide whether you want to take the scenic drive all the way up to Calistoga, spend the day exploring the shops of Yountville, or stick to the oft-overlooked Carneros district.
Roughly 30 miles long and one to four miles wide, the Napa Valley wineries can be accessed by driving up Highway 29 (part of which is also known as the St. Helena Highway), or via the Silverado Trail, which runs parallel to Highway 29, along the eastern hills.
The Mayacmas Mountains, which run along the west side of the valley separate Napa Valley from the Sonoma Valley wine region. Various crossroads connect the two main thoroughfares much like the rungs of a ladder, so you can go from one to the other and also visit wineries in the middle section if you choose.
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In general, Highway 29 is the busiest, and if you go Napa Valley wine tasting in the summer or on a weekend, you may prefer to take the
most of the way, crossing over to the towns on the main highway for restaurants, shops, or specific wineries you want to visit.
From the town of Napa at the southern end of the valley to Calistoga at the northern end, it takes about 40 minutes, if you can resist not stopping at all. But then you would be missing out!
Click here to go to the Napa Valley Hotel Directory.
The Napa Valley hotels page has links to TripAdvisor pages of the various towns in Napa Valley and the hotels there. Out Napa Valley bed and breakfast page also covers St. Helena, Yountville and Rutherford. If you prefer, you can search for a Napa bed and breakfast or Calistoga bed and breakfast.
Most of the wineries are open from 10 or 11 until about 4 or 5, so time your Napa Valley wine tasting drive accordingly. In summer, it doesn't get dark until 8 or 9, so it's easy to be surprised when you find the wineries have closed and you feel you haven't gotten a chance to get to the top one on your list. But you still have a few daylight hours to enjoy walks through one of the delightful towns, or along a country road surrounded by vineyards.
The weather in Napa Valley can be quite hot in summer, but usually delightful in spring and fall. Marine breezes often come in at night, cooling things down, which is ideal for the grapes. In early spring, the vineyards can be covered with bright yellow mustard flowers, while in late fall, the vineyards are all shades of reds, golds and oranges.
Compared to other wine country regions in California and Oregon, Napa Valley wine tasting has a lot more to offer in the way of tours (of the vineyard, winery, cellar and/or cave), art galleries, grandiose gardens and chateaus, and shops full of wine related accessories. There is riding the tram at Sterling Vineyards, taking a
hot air balloon ride,
lunching on the Napa Wine Train, visiting the movie memorabilia museum at Niebaum-Coppola, or taking in the photography exhibit at Mumm's.
On the down side, this can mean more tour buses and crowds. Also, most wineries in Napa Valley no longer offer complimentary wine tasting, but charge $5 to $10 and more for reserve wine tastings. Still, the Napa Valley wine tasting experience will create a long lasting, exquisitely beautiful memory you can revisit again and again.
When you click on the links to the individual wineries pages, you will find information on tasting room hours and locations, tours available, and other features such as picnic areas or gift shops. Napa Valley wine tasting has lots of options!
Click here for a list of Napa Valley wineries with tasting rooms open to the public.
Click here for info on Napa wine tasting.
Further north is the town of
whose main street is Washington Street, located parallel to and between Highway 29 and the Silverado Trail. This town is pleasant to stroll through with its galleries and shops. There are some excellent restaurants, including the famous French Laundry, where you need a reservation a couple of months in advance of your visit.
Napa Valley Museum
is located at 55 Presidents Circle in Yountville and showcases a diverse range of exhibits.
A bit further north, are the smaller towns of Oakville and then Rutherford. This is just about the halfway point through the valley on your Napa Valley wine tasting tour. Oakville has a gourmet grocery store where you can pick up foods for a picnic, if you like.
This area is known for its great Cabernets, but also for Mumm's, with its sparkling wine and fabulous tasting salon.
St. Helena is the quintessential wine country town. Your Napa Valley wine tasting experience must include at least a drive through. It is upscale, yet old fashioned. The residential neighborhoods are a mix of architectural styles and lovely gardens. The main street, which is right on St. Helena Highway (Hwy. 29), is often jammed with cars, so parking on a side street and taking a leisurely stroll through is advised in order to properly enjoy it.
No Napa Valley wine tasting experience is complete without indulging in some of the local epicurean delights. Two of the best wine country restaurants are in St. Helena. Tra Vigne, a rustic Italian gem comes complete with fountain-in-a-courtyard dining. It is a heavenly place, both indoors and out. A restaurant located right in town is Market, an elegant yet casual favorite of the locals.
Also in St. Helena is the historic Bale Grist Mill with it's 36 foot waterwheel. They offer demonstrations on weekends. Another place of local historical interest is the Charles Krug Winery, which was founded 1861, the valley's first winery.
St Helena wineries
Click here to find out about Calistoga wineries and Calistoga.
Enjoying Your Napa Valley Wine Tasting Tour
To fully enjoy touring wine country, don't try to see more than three to five wineries in a day, and break it up with snacks and a meal or two. Professional wine tasters taste and spit, but if you prefer to swallow, it's advisable to have a designated driver, hire a van or take one of the
Napa Valley limo wine tours,
so you can relax and fully enjoy your wine country experience.
Other Napa Valley wine tour options
Part of the Napa Valley wine tasting experience is complementing it by indulging your palate in gastronomic delights the region has to offer at its many fine
Napa Valley restaurants.
Napa Valley Real Estate
Napa Valley Weddings
Stag Leaps District
Wine Tasting In California
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