Wine Getaway: Napa Valley

June 24, 2009
by Sarah Amandolare
The Napa Valley is by and large the most well-known and beloved wine region in the United States, enticing oenophiles and foodies with gorgeous vineyards and bountiful restaurants. Web sites with itineraries and official winery portals can enhance your trip. 

Getting to Know Napa Valley

Napa is both the oldest and biggest city in the Napa Valley, according to Fodor’s travel guide to the region, and has been booming for the past decade or so. Before you begin planning a trip, take a look at “Fodor’s Choice” to find favorite restaurants and sights to see, including notable wineries and vineyards.

Travelistic has three Napa Valley videos entitled “A Golden State of Mind,” featuring host Emily Hornsby. She leads viewers on a bike tour of wine country, and the camera follows her inside various wineries and restaurants where decadent food is the norm. Watch all three short videos to get a peek at the Napa Valley scenery and an introduction to the laid back yet sophisticated professionals who make their living in the Valley. 

Napa Valley Vintners offers a complete list of wineries that’s well-organized and easy to browse, and includes links to each winery’s Web site, contact information and winery features. Use the links on the left to organize wineries by various criteria, including wineries displaying art or wineries that are dog friendly.

Planning a Napa Valley Itinerary

Use the California Wine Country Trip Planner to map out your own personalized wine tour. The map displays wineries and provides driving directions from one to the next.

Napa Valley’s many vineyards can seem overwhelming if you’re a newcomer. Luckily, Napa Valley Vineyards suggests several themed itineraries, including one for first-time visitors to the region. Other options include a wine tour for art enthusiasts, and a tour of wine caves, featuring Del Dotto Vineyard’s 120-year-old caves dug by hand.

Another itinerary is available from Wine Country, a Web site with an article on a few specific wineries (such as Alpha Omega, a vineyard that makes a great Red that’s “smooth” but has the “complexity of a slightly aged Cabernet Sauvignon”) and eateries for all tastes. Read about Taylor’s Refresher, a restaurant that has a “slew of burger choices,” and Bouchon Bakery, which offers tempting chocolates, for example.

Napa Valley Activities and Accommodations

For a rundown of the best restaurants, active pursuits and places to stay that Napa Valley has to offer, visit Adventurous sorts will be pleased to learn that there are opportunities for hiking, biking and even extreme sports in Napa Valley, in addition to low-key wine tasting.

History of the Napa Valley

Napa Valley Vintners outlines the history of the region’s winemaking industry. Things kicked off in 1861 with Charles Krug, who is said to have established the very first winery. By 1889, nearly 150 wineries were up and running, including the still popular Beringer brand. However, things weren’t all roses; the new industry’s fast growth eventually led to plummeting prices and a grape surplus. To make matters worse, a “destructive root louse” called phylloxera ruined a great deal of vineyard land.

Things took a crucial turn in 1944, however, when several vintners joined forces to collaborate on methods of growing grapes and making wines. The group enjoyed “good food and wine,” according to the Napa Valley Vintners Web Site, and their appreciation for fine living led to the establishment of the Napa Valley Vintners trade organization. Today, there are about 325 wineries in Napa Valley.

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