Lay of the Land
“Wine to me is passion. It's family and friends. It's warmth of heart and generosity of spirit. Wine is art. It's culture. It's the essence of civilization and the art of living.”~Robert Mondavi
Napa is the more established of the two wine producing valleys. Its towns of Yountville and St. Helena have become landmark culinary destinations, increasing the interest in food-and-wine pairings and reaffirming the area’s bountiful resources. Most visitors fly into one of the San Francisco area airports and drive to Napa. Both Napa and Sonoma are sixty or so miles northeast of San Francisco, a drive that takes you up Highway 101.
The Napa Valley itself runs approximately thirty miles from the town of Napa, at the southern stretch of Route 29, to encompass Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford, St. Helena and, at its northern end, Calistoga. The distances between the towns are not great; however, because Route 29 and the Silverado Trail, the main thoroughfares, get very jammed, it can take more than an hour to travel between Napa and Calistoga.
Thanks to pretty temperate weather year-round, there really isn’t a bad time to visit Napa, except maybe weekends in the summer, when temperatures are stifling and traffic can be terrible. Spring and fall are slightly quieter, and the weather is sublime.
Indagare Tip: If you’re wine-tasting for a day, consider booking a limousine service. If you are staying longer, you will want a car to get around once you’re there. Depending on traffic, the drive from downtown San Francisco to Napa takes more than an hour. Avoid major thoroughfares when possible; they lack all the charm of the back roads. Weekdays are much less crowded and will afford you better luck in booking restaurants, hotels and winery tours.