California Wine Country | I-5 Exit Guide

Explore Napa Valley on a California Wines Road Trip

With dozens of diverse wine regions, California wine country offers a dazzling variety of experiences to enjoy. To help visitors explore them all, Wine Institute’s California Wines Road Trips series highlights a different region each month.  For December, visitors are invited to discover where to sip, stay and play in Napa Valley, located in California’s scenic North Coast region.

Napa Valley is a small region with a deservedly big reputation.  Only 30 miles long and a few miles wide, Napa Valley produces just four percent of California’s winegrapes.  However, in 1976, Napa wines won global recognition when they famously bested French wines in the “Judgment of Paris” tasting.  Napa Valley’s world-renowned wines have found an equal match with the area’s thriving culinary scene, where visitors and locals alike enjoy a range of options, from Michelin-starred restaurants to quirky and delicious food trucks.

SIP: Napa Valley is a wine lover’s paradise. Start exploring the region’s wineries with this helpful map from the Napa Valley Vintners. Or use the discovercaliforniawines.com interactive map to search wineries by amenities such as tours, gardens, art displays, concerts and picnic areas.  While tasting, it is best to pace oneself by using the spit bucket, which is considered polite, and have a designated driver or take an escorted tour.

STAY: From exclusive five-star resorts to charming little inns and even budget-friendly campgrounds, Napa Valley has accommodations to suit every traveler’s preference. Start the  journey with a ramble through vineyard hideaways and B&Bs listed atVisit Napa Valley.

PLAY: Take your wine country experience to new heights with an iconic hot air balloon ride above the vineyards. Stroll through “Old West” style Calistoga, where you’ll find dining, shopping and the town’s famous thermal mud baths, a fun activity to pair with wine tasting. Napa Valley also has some 40 other spas and fitness centers to experience.

For art lovers, spend an afternoon at the di Rosa Preserve, which houses some 2,000 works of contemporary art by 800 artists. Take in the symphony or ballet at the Napa Valley Performing Arts Center at Lincoln Theater in Yountville. Or visit during Arts in April, when cities throughout Napa Valley feature art installations, pop-up exhibitions, live performances, tours and access to private collections.

For nightlife, find live music in many of Napa’s downtown establishments, and the Uptown Theater is a restored art deco building showcasing world-famous music and comedy acts.

The ultimate Napa Valley wine experience takes place each June during Auction Napa Valley, a world-recognized charity wine event. Enjoy Napa Valley’s exceptional wines, culinary treats and intimate time with its renowned vintners wrapped in the splendor of the valley’s incomparable scenery. Proceeds from Auction Napa Valley benefit community health and children’s education nonprofits. Tickets go on sale Feb. 1, 2016.

MAKE: Many Napa wineries offer special blending seminars, where visitors can play winemaker for a few hours creating their own red wine blend. Find tasting and blending experiences here. For cooking classes, the famous Culinary Institute of America offers anyone who loves wine and food to perfect their technique with the Saturday Kitchens program or a Samplings demonstration class. View more culinary adventures here.

GROW: Named California’s first American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1981, Napa Valley has an abundance of diverse soils and microclimates and is part of or contains 18 AVAs. While internationally acclaimed for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, fine Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Zinfandel, Cabernet Franc and many other varieties are grown here. Home to the first Agriculture Preserve in the U.S., Napa Valley Vintners has established the goal that every eligible member will be in the Napa Green Certified Land or Napa Green Certified Winery program by 2020.

EAT: Napa Valley has a vibrant wine and culinary culture. The tiny town of Yountville alone is home to more Michelin stars per capita than anywhere else in North America. For a casual adventure, visit the many purveyors at the Oxbow Public Market or grab a picnic lunch at the Oakville Grocery—the oldest continuously operated grocery store in California.  For restaurants with a Napa Valley Wine List Award, check out these establishments with outstanding selections of Napa wines.

Visit discovercaliforniawines.com for information on wine regions, wines and wineries throughout the Golden State and for planning a trip to California wine country. California is the number one U.S. state for wine and food tourism with dozens of distinct wine regions, 136 American Viticultural Areas and 4,400 wineries.  Established in 1934, Wine Institute is the public policy advocacy association of nearly 1,000 California wineries.


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