No, we didn’t get “drunk” in Napa. Because I assume that’s what everyone is thinking when I tell them we went to “Wine Country” – that we spent the day guzzling vino and stumbling from one vineyard to the next. (It’s unlikely anyone is probably thinking that – I’m just paranoid because no one in my family drinks wine, and when I show up to family get-togethers they usually make some sort of comment like, “There’s the wine drinker!” <— So, that’s how they know me back home. “The wine drinker.” Of all my accomplishments, there’s one to be proud of.)
We drove up to Napa for the day on our trip to San Francisco last month. We had planned to go last year but skipped out when the concierge at our hotel told us to “stay away” after all of the wild fires broke out in 2017. (I had sorta-kinda wanted to go anyway, but Kyle was like “LOL we’re not going to Napa when everything is on fire.”)
So we compromised and went this year. Upon entering the town of Napa (the first stop on our “Napa Valley” itinerary), I texted my best friend back in Chicago and said “I want to have my Bachelorette party here”, and she was like “Is this your way of telling me he proposed???” And I was like, “No. I’m just saying – when or if we ever get engaged, this is where I want my Bachelorette party. It’s cute and classy.” <— Napa in a nutshell: Cute and classy. Also, there’s wine.
I didn’t realize there was a “town of Napa”. I had always assumed that “Napa Valley” was just, like, a valley. A row of wineries set up on the countryside of California. And for some reason, I had always pictured it being, like, ten miles long. Max. Just enough to ride your bike around through the vineyards – no need for a car. (In hindsight, I realize this makes no sense. Some of these wineries distribute nationally – they can’t do that if their vineyard is like, one acre wide, you know?)
Anyway. If you’re coming from the south, there’s also a town that you can hit – Napa – before you actually make your way up through the vineyards. The town itself is small and reminded me of towns like Breckenridge, CO or… I don’t know, other cute small towns. (Breckenridge was on my mind because we had just visited in May.)
Our first stop was a winery called Acumen, which is set up like an art museum (but of course you can also do wine tastings, and the tastings don’t require an appointment). The lady who performed the tasting (is that the right verb? “Did” the tasting? The lady who poured the wine.) was extremely nice and told us all about her admiration for the midwest after we told her we were visiting from Chicago. (I’m sure she was not just saying this with hopes that we would buy more wine.) She also told us which wineries were the best to hit up north.
Beringer was my favorite. Mostly because it was one that I had seen in every grocery store ever since I’d started buying wine at the grocery store. That was the other thing I didn’t realize – a lot of these wines (like, the wines at the grocery store) are FROM Napa Valley.
I get it. Everyone knows this. It’s why Napa Valley is a “thing” – it’s why they call it “Wine Country” and have a giant billboard on the outskirts of town that reads: “Welcome to Napa – the world famous wine growing region”. Obviously I knew it was “a wine place”.
But I didn’t know it was the mother-of-wine wine place. Home to Beringer. Sutter Home. Hess. (These are on the more common “mass distribution” end – but still. I’ve seen them in the grocery store, and now I’ve seen where they come from, and THAT’S COOL. It’s not just something they made from ANYWHERE and slapped a sticker on it. THEY’RE REAL WINERIES.)
Most of the wineries look like old mansions. If you can go during the week (like we did), the tasting rooms shouldn’t be as crowded. (I’ve heard some of them get so crowded on the weekends that you can barely move.) Tastings range in price depending on where you are. The highest we found was $40 per person, and the lowest was $5.
Have any of you been to Napa before? What did you think? Share your stories in the comment section!