The first time I visited Napa Valley , was about 20 plus years ago when I was visiting a dear friend in San Francisco and of course he took me to see the major sites of the city, we ate clam chowder at the fishermen’s wharf, visited China Town where I also had my first bubble tea and loved it, we rode on the famous red trollies, visited Ghirardelli square and crossed the golden gate by bicycle and took in the marvelous views from Sausalito.
But today I want to tell you about Napa and Sonoma valleys other wise known as California’s wine country.
To get to California’s wine country, it is an easy ride by car if you fly into San Francisco and or Oakland airports or fly into Santa Rosa regional airport. It’s an easy 1, 1-1/2-hour drive or less, depending where you start from.
You might recall that wild fires raged thru Napa and Sonoma counties in October 2017 leaving a path of destruction behind and affecting thousands of people and business. However, during and after the devastation, people came together to help each other and build again. The people from this region have a spirit that won’t be tamed by anything or any wild fire. Those who lost homes and or businesses continue to rebuild, persevere and grow stronger than ever.
Whether you decide to spend time in Sonoma or Napa, you are sure to have plenty of things to do, see and of course wines to drink.
We all have a favorite drink, whether its wine, beer, whiskey, etc., but when in Napa or California, you must go for the wine, white, red or sparking (my favorite) and in California’s wine country, there is something for everyone.
If you already have a favorite wine from California, you might want to visit the winery of your preference, but no matter which winery you go to, it seems like each winery is more beautiful and grander than the one before.
One of my favorite wineries is Sterling, they have a magnificent aerial tram that will take your breath away. The tram ride lasts only a few minutes and takes you from the base of the winery to the top of a hill where the winery sits, as you go up, you will have some of the best views of the valley, the views are as picturesque as they are breathtaking in a way that it is poetic as it is beautiful, they reminded me of Tuscany, rolling hills and tall long cypress tress adorn the valley, just sit and take it all in , or take as many pictures as you can . Then of course enjoy a glass or more of wine.
Robert Mondavi and Francis Ford Coppola wineries are also some of my favorites, the tasting rooms and grounds in general are as beautiful as can be, but then again, I felt the same in every winery I have ever visited, it’s hard to have a favorite. My point is that wine country is a feast for all the senses.
A couple more notable mentions and worthy of a visit , are Round Pond Winery in Rutherford with its lushes grounds, olive mill, orchards and grand tasting room terrace overlooking the winery.
For a one of a kind experience, visit any of Jean-Charles Boisset wineries, lounges or retail spaces in the area, if you know the guy (Married to Gina Gallo, of Gallo wines) he is larger than life, his personality, style and brand are as eclectic and whimsical as his wines and well deserved a visit.
If you appreciate hard work and passion for craft, let me introduce you to wines by Bibiana Rave, a Colombian born woman that early in life discovered wine and became mesmerized with this marvelous “grape juice” and decided it would be her mission to make it when she grew up. And make wine she did , after studying wine making in France and spending time working in wine regions of Australia , France and California; she made Sonoma County the home of her wine making business and her home, which she shares with her husband ( also a wine maker) and her beautiful 2 sons. Hearing her talk about wine making is mesmerizing, her passion for wine is contagious and made me want to be as passionate about anything, as she is about wines. Bibiana does not have a winery you can visit, but you can taste her wines by appointment.
If you like beer or just need a break from all the wine, head to Mad Fritz, “UNIQUELY BREWED BEER IN THE NAPA VALLEY” , the beer is excellent, refreshing and makes for a great pallet cleanser in between wineries.
For a unique experience, visit The Ackerman Heritage House , it is a beautifully restored Victorian home in the heart of downtown Napa that can be used for private events, wine tastings, private chef-lead wine dinners, corporate meetings, murder mysteries and more. Every inch of this house has been restored to its original splendor, no detail was spared and you will feel like you stepped into the past when you walk into this house, not to be missed.
Where to stay? Well there are many options to choose from, whether you prefer a chain hotel, boutique, Inn or bed and breakfast, there is something for everyone and every budget.
Last time I was in Napa, I stayed at Las Alcobas, a Luxury Collection Hotel, part of the Marriott family. The hotel opened in 2017 and is also home to The Acacia House, restaurant By Chef Master Chris Consentino. Beautiful, adults only property with a Zen , serene and minimalistic atmosphere with spacious rooms that have either balconies or wrap around verandas that invite you to sit and enjoy your own private fire pit and wonderful views, adjacent to Beringer winery and walking distance to downtown St Helena, shops, restaurants and the Culinary Institute of America.
To summarize, California Wine Country is thriving and it wants to welcome you with open and warm arms, go, enjoy, discover, drink, you will possibly have the best time of your life , or at least very close.