About The Napa Valley
Access to this area, California’s foremost wine region, is easy from San Francisco / Lake Tahoe route or from and you cover the best places to visit in an easy and interesting two or three-day excursion from San Francisco.
Palm trees may be more synonymous with California than wine, but in these three short valleys (Napa, Sonoma and Russian River) some 50 miles north of San Francisco it is neat rows of vines which stretch for miles into the distance, bearing the grapes which have turned the state into a major wine producer.
The Napa Valley has wineries at every turn and most of them offer free tours and tastings. We highlight a selection of them with the intention of showing the various types of wine the state produces, and to give a few insights into the practical aspects of wine-making. Have no fear if you are a newcomer to wine tasting: several wineries on the tour pride themselves on turning wine illiterates into comparative experts inside an hour.
Wine is unquestionably the valley’s number one attraction: tens of thousands of visitors arrive in eager anticipation of it during the summer, when traffic jams regularly clog Hwy-29 – the main route through the valley. (The Silverado Trail, a parallel route a few miles east, usually provides a quieter alternative.) However, don’t miss the valley’s state parks, which combine beautiful scenery with reminders of the region’s earliest white settlement, and the unusual geological phenomena resulting from the prehistoric eruptions of the now dormant Mount St. Helena.
If you’re planning on heading north, stop at the valley to Lakeport, a quiet town sited close to Clear Lake, California’s largest natural body of water and a delightfully relaxing place to come to rest.
Three AMTRAK (www.amtrak.com) bus services operate between San Francisco and Napa a day, but public transportation can get difficult further north. If you are travelling without a car, be reassured that renting a bicycle is a very pleasant and very popular way of touring the valley.