My friends Mychelle and Christopher got married in beautiful Napa Valley last month. After their beautiful wedding, my husband and I decided to hang back and enjoy the wine country a bit. Here are some tips we’d like to share for those interested in visited Napa Valley, California someday!
- Plan for cooler temperatures. Spring time in Napa is beautiful. It is the time of year when the air is breezy and crisp, all of the vines are beginning to bud and visitors attempting to beat the “busy season” crowd trickle in. True to the pacific region, it gets cold – especially at night. During the day, while the sun is beaming, everything is warm and comfortable. As a Texas girl… I like warm and comfortable! When the sun goes down, all the mystic glory of the pacific float inland and you can feel that even though it is spring time, the ocean still has some catching up to do. If you go between the months of November and May, be advised you’ll need to bring layers of clothing. Keep things light and layered so that as temperatures fluctuate, you’ll be prepared.
- Be mindful of the times in which you plan to have a meal. Napa still has some charming qualities of an old town somewhere off the map. In most major cities, when you seek to grab a bite (no matter what time of the day it is) you’ll be able to find something very decent to indulge in. When my husband and I touched down in Napa Valley we thought we’d get acclimated to the area our hotel was in by enjoying some of the local eats. To our surprise, around 3 o’clock in the afternoon, many of the places that struck our interest were closed…in the middle of the day! We’d found ourselves right in-between the local lunch and dinner crowds. Most places looked deserted around this time but we tried anyway. Upon walking up to the door of at least 2 or 3 restaurants we got our bubble busted as we learned of the restaurant hours. Several were open for lunch but were closed between the hours of 3 and 5 pm. Because we refused to settle for fast food, we ended up dining in at one of the only restaurants open at that time… a Chinese restaurant. It wasn’t half bad! Speaking of Asian cuisine, there’s a strong Asian influence on the food there. I recommend having sushi in Napa. Sushi Haku is amazing. You’re Welcome.
- Venture on Hwy 29. Don’t bother planning an elaborate itinerary to see Napa. All you need to know is to drive up Hwy 29 all the way until you arrive at Calistoga. Every wine vineyard you’d want to see as a visitor to Napa is along Hwy 26. It’s a relaxing and scenic drive. Plug in your favorite music and enjoy a ride along the country side which includes an abundance of picture-esq views and adventure around every corner! If you see a vineyard name that you recognize, pop in to say hello. For me, a recognizable favorite was Beringer. Almost anytime I’m making a wine run to the grocery store, it is for Beringer White Zinfandel. For my fellow adventurers, turn off into one of the long uphill driveways and into some tasty wines and memories to last a lifetime.
- Stop by Castello di Amorosa. For me, my diamond in the rough was a vineyard by the name of Castello di Amorosa. You cannot see this vineyard from the road! We had no idea when we made the turn that we would stumble upon a castle! The castle was incredible… complete with a moat, live animals in the side yard and the most breathtaking views. It was here that we met and extraordinary wine Somalia who changed the way we viewed wine forever. During our tasting, he went on to describe our wines as celebrities! “This wine is deep and complex… but definitely has a mellow element as well… much like Denzel Washington… and this one, lots of body. It’s sultry and irresistible with a sweet finish… much like Marilyn Monroe.” It was a great experience as we laughed boisterously and tasted not only the wines but also fine salted chocolates which served as a perfect pairing for some. We walked away with a bottle of our favorite from the tasting and do not plan to open it until maybe our 10 year anniversary.
- Stop in Calistoga for a meal. Calistoga is a quaint little old town with lots of charm and good eats. It’s important while enjoying a day of wine tasting to remember to eat. We stopped here for a large pizza at a local Italian spot. It felt perfect to have a meal full of bread and cheese… something we rarely dine-in for but was so appropriate that day.
- Peak time is Fall to witness the harvesting. If you want to see the grapes at their juiciest and even get a chance to pick them off the vine, go to Napa in the fall. This is the time of year when you can catch a lot of the crushing action and if you’re lucky, even get in on it! Be advised that this time of the year will be packed. Napa Valley California is one of the largest producing cities for wine in the world and is a popular destination, especially for the more seasoned travelers.
- Group tours. If you are traveling with a group, plan ahead and book a group tour. Many types of tours are offered. Some offer a private car, limousine or even a party bus. They have something for everyone. You can even plan a picnic lunch while you are touring. Groupon offers great rates for groups.
- Romantic Get away. As for us, we went the romantic route on our day touring Napa. My husband and I were our own tour guides. It felt nice to be in total control of our pace and the vineyards we got to visit. I recommend Napa for a fun or romantic get away and some tasty wines.
BONUS: San Francisco is not too far away from Napa and while we were on the west coast we had to check out the landmark, Golden Gate Bridge. Although I have been to California multiple times, it was my first time in San Francisco. The bridge was more glorious than I ever thought it was. I was expecting old and rusty. It looked surprisingly elegant and vibrant! My smart phone did a pretty decent job capturing it in its glory. I’m happy we made a point to go see it.
Thanks for reading! Xo -Riss
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