Discover Solano Summer 2022: Discover Napa County
Napa County is still a land of wineries, restaurants, and easy living, despite the devastating earthquake of August 24, 2014, and the deadly wine country wildfires of October 2017.
The county has about 400 wineries. Beringer and Mondavi are among the most famous and owned companies. But most are family owned. The historic Inglenook Winery is owned by famed director Francis Ford Coppola. Winemaker Dario Sattui built the Castello di Amorosa winery, which sits in a reproduction of a 13th-century Tuscan castle.
Napa Valley is at the center of Wine Country. It is approximately 30 miles long and contains the cities of Napa, Yountville, Rutherford, St. Helena, and Calistoga. Highway 29 on the west side of the valley and the Silverado Trail on the east side are the major roads in the valley.
Napa is the county’s largest city with approximately 78,200 residents and the county seat. It was particularly affected by the South Napa earthquake, with the stone facades of some of the historic buildings collapsing. However, various restaurants and shops remained open following the earthquake and reconstruction continues.
The city center is a mix of old and new. Some buildings date back to the 1800s. The Riverfront development is a mix of restaurants, shops, and multi-story residences that opened a few years ago.
Flowing through downtown, the Napa River then flows through the Oxbow neighborhood, another neighborhood full of restaurants and shops.
Towns north of Napa were not hit as hard by the earthquakes. They have town centers with a mix of hotels, restaurants and shops.
For example, Yountville is home to the French Laundry, a world famous restaurant. It has been included among the 50 best restaurants in the world according to Restaurant Magazine and has repeatedly won three Michelin stars, as many as possible.
Calistoga, at the northern end of the valley, is famous for its spas and mud baths.
People who want to travel Napa Valley without driving have a choice. They can eat, drink and take in the sights from the Wine Train that runs parallel to Highway 29.
Napa County also offers opportunities for outdoor recreation. People can hike among the redwoods in Bothe-Napa Park between St. Helena and Calistoga. They can hike up scrubby hills to view the bay from Skyline Park near Napa. They can take a brief hike north of Saint Helena to see the Bale Grist Mill, with its wooden waterwheel.
Lake Berryessa in the county’s east offers opportunities for water recreation, from boating to fishing. The huge reservoir has seven resorts that are in the midst of a transition that has left two at full capacity, two closed and three with limited services. The United States Bureau of Reclamation manages public fishing and day use areas along the lake.
More information: www.countyofnapa.org
Faithful old geyser
You don’t have to go out of state to see Old Faithful.
A quick trip to Calistoga in Napa Valley will bring you to California’s version of the famous geyser that shares a namesake. It is one of three geysers in the world with the nickname “Old Faithful”, which are geysers that occur at regular intervals.
Old Faithful in Calistoga erupts about every 30 minutes, throwing water 60 to 100 feet into the air.
The grounds have a picnic area, snack bar, and gift shop in addition to a petting zoo that features fainted Tennessee goats, Jacob’s four-horned sheep, and guard llamas.
Location: 1299 Tubbs Lane, Calistoga
More information: 707-942-6463, www.oldfaithfulgeyser.com
Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park
The park is the site of a water-powered flour mill that was built in 1846 to provide Napa Valley settlers with a place to grind their corn and wheat into meal or flour. The mill remained in operation until the early 1900s.
Demonstrations and tours of the mill are offered on weekends. The park also offers several hiking trails.
Location: 3 miles north of St. Helena at 3369 N St. on Hwy 29
More information: 707-963-2236, www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=482
Culinary Institutes of America
For more than 60 years, the Culinary Institute of America has set the standard for excellence in professional culinary education.
A food tour at CIA will reveal the cutting-edge culinary prowess of future leaders in culinary excellence.
CIA is a private, non-profit college dedicated to providing the best professional culinary education in the world.
Located in St. Helena, the CIA’s California campus – its Greystone facility was built in the late 19th century and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places – offers teaching kitchens that are among the best professional training facilities in the world. Programs are centered in a demonstration theater and around a series of kitchen islands in the 15,000 square foot teaching area, which offers spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.
Location: 2555 Main Street, St. Helena
More information: 707-967-1100, www.ciachef.edu/california
Contemporary Art Center di Rosa
The di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art, located on over 200 acres in the Carneros area of Napa Valley, features a wide variety of Northern California art.
Gallery 1 is open for walk-in tours, while Gallery 2 is only available through tours.
Location: 5200 Sonoma Highway (Hwy 12), Napa
More information: 707-226-5991, www.dirosaart.org
Robert Louis Stevenson State Park
Famous author Robert Louis Stevenson spent his honeymoon in 1880 at the site of the state park that bears his name.
The park includes a 5-mile hike to the summit of Mount St. Helena, from which much of the Bay Area is visible, as well as Mount Shasta – 192 miles away – on a clear day.
Location: 7 miles north of Calistoga on Hwy 29
More information: 707-942-4575, www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=472
Napa Valley Wine Train
Take a trip aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train for a unique dining experience along a 36-mile round-trip, three-hour winding journey through Napa Valley.
The trip goes from Napa to Saint Helena and back, passing through the towns of Yountville, Oakville and Rutherford. The train has three kitchens, allowing customers to choose between lunch or dinner with regional cuisine.
Three packages are available: the Silverado package, the Gourmet Express package and the Vista Dome package. A host of wine tours and events, such as the Murder Mystery dinner theater, are also available.
Location: 1275 McKinstry Street, Napa
More information: 800-427-4124, winetrain.com
Calistoga Hot Springs
Calistoga is the place to be when it comes to relaxation. The Upper Napa Valley city is home to many spas whose business relies on the therapeutic value of mud and mineral baths. Calistoga spas include:
• Baths at the Roman Spa: 1300 Washington St., 707-942-2122
• Calistoga Spa Hot Springs: 1006 Washington St., 707-942-6269
• Dr. Wilkinson Hot Springs: 1507 Lincoln Ave, 707-942-4102
• Golden Haven Hot Springs: 1713 Lake St., 707-942-8000
• Indian Springs Resort: 1712 Lincoln Ave, 707-942-4913
• Roman thermal spa: 1300 Washington St., 707-942-4441
• Solage Spa: 755 Silverado Trail, 707-226-0800
More information: www.calistogaspa.com.
Hot air ballooning
Soaring high in the sky in a hot air balloon gives attendees a bird’s eye view of California’s premier wine country. There are several companies that offer adventurous participants a ride through spectacular scenery that includes soaring hills with spectacular vineyards and vineyards nestled in scenic valleys.
A variety of companies offer a multitude of ways to enjoy hot air ballooning in a variety of balloon sizes, such as wine and bike packages. Some offer continental breakfasts and champagne lunches.
Prices and lead times vary widely, so call for more information or visit the website:
• Napa Valley at altitude: 855-944-4408 or 707-944-4400, www.nvaloft.com. Meeting place: V-Marketplace, 6525 Washington St., Yountville.
• Napa Valley Balloons Inc.: 800-253-2224, napavalleyballoons.com. Meeting place: Domaine Chandon, 1 California Drive, Yountville.
• Balloons above the valley: 800-Go-Hot-Air (800-464-6824), www.balloonrides.com. Meeting place: Napa Valley Marriott, 3425 Solano Ave., Napa.