Ever been to the Napa Valley? This small section of the state of California is home to only 4% of the states entire wine production. Despite its diminutive size, only about 30 miles long and several miles wide, the Napa Valley is home to more then 1,000 wineries and producers. By numbers, most of the producers in the valley are small – under 2,000 cases. So while sometimes the Napa Valley gets a reputation for being corporate owned, in reality, this is not the case.
The most popular red variety in the Napa Valley is Cabernet Sauvignon and the most popular white variety is Chardonnay. Again, despite the small size of the valley there are numerous microclimates – ranging from the cool weather to the south (colder temperatures, fog and wind) next to the San Pablo Bay to about 35 miles north to Calistoga where the temperatures are much warmer in the summer during the daytime.
Yet, at night even in the summer, the temperature can often fall 40 to 50 degrees Fahrenheit – so one visiting Napa should bring a light pull over for some summer evenings.
By far the largest city in the valley is Napa itself – full of restaurants, tasting rooms and nice hotels, vistors often find themselves using Napa as their hub. The downtown area is very pedestrian friendly.
Moving up valley are several very small towns including Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena and culminating in Calistoga in the far northern reaches of the valley. Each town has its own charm. Yountville is very high end with restaurants, luxurious lodging, tasting rooms and premium shops. St. Helena is known for its boutique shops and Calistoga nurtures its rustic laid back feeling with several B&B’s in the vicinity, natural hot springs and mud baths. Despite several very high end resorts in or near the city limits, the core of Calistoga has not lost its old western charm.
Our favorite times of the year to visit are between April to mid May (everything is green and fresh and the numbers of tourists have not yet arrived in the valley) and a much busier time, during harvest – generally the months of September and October.
Have you been to the Napa Valley before?