The Formation of Napa Valley
The uniqueness of Napa Valley begins with its topography. Napa Valley is nestled between two mountain ranges: the Vaca Range and the Mayacamas Mountains. These two mountain ranges were created during the formation of the San Andreas fault line, where tectonic plates grind against one another. Within these ranges, the hot Central Valley heat and cooler Pacific Ocean winds create climate conditions perfect for creating some of the best wines in the world.
Five Regions Worth Exploring
There are 5 main regions in the valley, with over 400 wineries! About an hour drive from San Francisco is where you’ll start your experience; tasting the renowned cuisine, relaxing in beautiful spas, viewing local art, playing golf, and, of course, enjoying a glass or two…or many!
- American Valley – the start of the valley
- Napa city – known for the public market of artisanal foods
- Yountville – known for its culinary excellence
- St.Helena – where the regions’ wine making history began
- Calistoga – a great spot for relaxing in the hot springs
Top Golf Courses in Napa Valley
- Silverado Resort and Spa
- Napa Valley Country Club
- Eagle Vines Vineyards & Golf Course
- Chardonnay Golf Course
- Mount St.Helena Golf Course
Top Resorts in Napa Valley
- Calistoga Ranch
- Meadowood Napa Valley
- Silverado Resort and Spa
- Meritage Resort and Spa
- Solage Calistoga
- Harvest Inn
- Southbridge Napa Valley
More Fun Activities in Napa Valley
We’ve covered golf and wine, but there are many more adventures to be had in Napa Valley too! Here is a sample of them:
- Walk through the Napa Valley Vine Trail
- Experience a hot air balloon ride
- Hike around Cold Canyon (a 4 mile loop)
- Tour an Olive Estate – e.g. Round Pound Estate in Rutherford
- Visit the Napa Valley Distillery- in Napa city
- Enjoy a relaxing day at the spa
- Travel by train through Napa Valley
- Drive through the countryside in a classic convertible
Napa Valley Cuisine
Whether you are looking for a family fun burger joint or a fine dining gastropub, Napa Valley has it all. This region is known for being a culinary mecca, and boasts several world class and multiple Michelin star restaurants – you don’t want to miss out on this dining experience. The valley is also known for some amazing farmers markets. As with most farmers markets, they’re only open one or two days a week. Just a side note – bring cash and remember that not all vendors are there every day. Many of the vendors renting tables in the market rotate their schedules, so if you like something grab it before they’re gone!
Did you know…?
There are more than 300 stone-arch bridges in the Napa Valley.
Did you also know..?
95% of all Napa Valley Wineries are family owned.
Wineries in Napa Valley
The history behind Napa Valley wine country began with the opening of the first commercial winery by John Patchett in 1859 in St. Helena. A few years later Patchett’s apprentice, Charles Krug, opened his own in 1861. From this point many more winemakers flocked to the valley and with them they introduced different varieties. The selection today includes chardonnay, bordeaux, pinot noir, merlot, and zinfandel.
There are several types of wine tastings that you can attend and each one has their merits. We recommend trying them all out! **Note: Some wineries offer free tastings for those who purchase a bottle or two.**
Wine bar tastings are the most popular. Standing at the bar you are given a preset list of wines to try. Some places will have a couple of lists and you can choose a line-up that includes their reserve wines. Typically there is a charge for these tastings – running anywhere from around $10-$20.
A sit-down tasting is a more intimate approach to wine tasting. After making a reservation, you will be paired up with a host who will pour your wines and provide you with background information about the winery, vintage, and characteristics of the wines you are trying.
A walking tour is when the host will take you around the facilities and offer tastings along the way. You’ll need to either make reservations for these or join the set times the winery has to offer. There is often a fee involved depending on the winery.
Another favourite way to taste wines is from the barrel itself – barrel tastings. Your host will take you into the belly of the winery where the developing barrels are, and your host will siphon a portion for you to taste.
Wine Tasting Etiquette
For those of us who are novices to the world of wine, Napa Valley is a great introduction, but there are a few things to consider. Wine Etiquette! Wine attracts all sorts of people and there are some who are very serious about their tastings, so here are a few wine tasting tips.
Tip #1 – Do not wear heavy perfumes if possible. Aromas can alter the tastings for both yourself and those around you.
Tip #2 – Cleanse your palate between wines by sampling the crackers they’ve provided you or by sipping on water.
Tip #3 – Taste the wines in order of strength, sweetness, or age. The host will present them in order, but you don’t want a stronger or sweeter wine overpowering the lighter and dry ones.
Tip #4 – Spitting. For those who plan on visiting a number of tastings, some places will provide a spittoon for after each wine you’ve sipped.
Tip #5 – Although this may sound backward to some, you don’t have to finish each one, especially if you’re tasting many wines and are trying to avoid the “winery stumble from intoxication.”
And last tip, #6 – Expect to pay for your tasting. Even though some will waive the tasting if you’re purchasing, you still want to support these wineries for all their talent and hard work.
Ready to plan your visit to Napa? Check out these popular guides and trips.