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Napa Valley is considered one of the top wine growing regions in the world. The combination of Mediterranean climate, geography, and geology of the valley are conducive to growing quality wine grapes.
The Napa Valley is located in Northern California, about 50 miles northeast of the San Francisco Bay Area and about 60 miles west of Sacramento. The Napa Valley is 30 miles long and 5 miles across at its widest point.
In 1968, Napa Valley vintners and others in the community had the foresight to preserve open space and prevent future over-development by enacting the nation's first Agriculture Preserve.
The Charles Krug Winery, established in 1861, was Napa Valley's first commercial winery. The number of wineries grew rapidly until, by the end of the nineteenth century, more than 140 wineries had been established in the area. Some of those wineries still exist today including Beringer, Beaulieu, Mayacamas, Far Niente, and Chateau Montelena.
By 1976, while Napa Valley was becoming famous locally for its high quality wines, France was still considered the undisputed wine champion. At the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, a Napa Valley Chardonnay from Chateau Montelena and a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon from Stag's Leap Wine Cellars won first place over some of the most famous French labels in a blind tasting. The wine world took notice. Today, Napa Valley is accepted as one of the world's premier wine producing regions.
According to the Napa Valley Visitor Profile Study, 4.7 million people visit Napa Valley each year. The relatively temperate California climate, beautiful scenery and large variety of activities all contribute to the popularity of this destination.
Napa By Season
Each season is a secret waiting to be discovered in the Napa Valley.
Fall is the time of harvest when the workers are in the fields in the wee hours of the morning. Grapes are harvested while they are still cool so there is less damage to the grape clusters. The grape leaves take on fall colors and the whole valley seems to range from yellow to orange. The daytime temperatures remain high, even in the 90's Fahrenheit in September though gradually cooling in October and November. This is the high season for tourism, so make your reservations early.
During winter, the grape vines lose their leaves and the young grasses spring up, encouraged by the inevitable January rains turning the valley green once again. Temperatures are low for California, in the 40's and 50's most of the time. This is the low season when you can get the best hotel room, the best seats in restaurants and you can most easily pass for a local.
The springtime weather is variable and can range from a low of 40 degrees to a high of 80 degrees. It is the season when pink and white blossoms sprinkle the valley and fields of yellow mustard flowers grow between the dormant grape vines. This is a low season for tourism and hotels rooms are usually less expensive and restaurants are not as crowded.
Summer daytime temperatures are usually in the 70's and 80's but can spike to 100 on occasion. The leaves have returned to the grape vines and the whole valley is green. If you look closely, you will see small grape clusters on the vines that will become fully mature in late summer or fall depending on the varietal.
There are a variety of activities in Napa besides the Napa Valley Wine Train. Here are some of the more popular things to do:
- Hot Air Ballooning
- Cruise along the Napa River
- Wine Tasting
- Spa Treatments/Massages
- Visit the Napa Valley Opera House
- Visit Lincoln Theater
For assistance finding lodging or activities in Napa, please visit NapaValley.com.