First Time to Napa Valley: Must Do Activities
We often get emails from first-time travelers to the Napa Valley asking advice for where to go or what “must activities” to include in their trip. Here is our list of what we think first-time visitors to the Napa Valley should consider doing. These activities don’t just apply to the first timer, anytime you visit the Napa Valley, these ideas should be considered.
Take a Winery Tour
Take a tour that covers the entire process of winemaking from the vineyard to the finished product. Here are two that are among the best winery tours in the Valley. You will need to call ahead to make an appointment. At Hendry Wines, owner and winemaker extraordinaire, George Hendry, will take you on a two-hour tour and tasting. We think this is the best tour of any in the Napa Valley. Another great tour is at Frog’s Leap Winery. This one will last about an hour. Don’t forget to show your appreciation by buying at least a few bottles of wine. When you open one of these wines at home, it will bring back memories of your trip and the wine will taste that much better. Wine always tastes better when there is a story behind it.
Picnic in the Vineyards
This is one of our favorite activities, so much so that the weather has to be pretty bad to prevent us from picnicking. Either prepare a deli lunch or buy one at one of the many great delis in the Valley. Here are four wineries where you can sit and view vineyards: Clos du Val, Robert Sinskey, August Briggs, and Folie a Deux. See the Trip Planner for the exact location.
Visit One of Napa Valley’s Older Wineries
Before 1970 there were fewer than 30 wineries to visit. Today, there are over 300. Take a step back in time and visit Beringer, Charles Krug, Inglenook, or Schramsberg (appointment).
Visit a Small Family-Run Winery
There is nothing like meeting the owner and winemaker of a small winery. They are always very passionate about their work and their wines. Here are a few small family-run wineries: Tres Sabores , Casa Nuestra, Smith-Madrone, and Elyse. It is always fun to visit a large corporate-owned winery immediately afterward to get a real appreciation of the small family-run winery. See our list of corporate wineries.
Visit the Culinary Institute of America
The CIA is housed in the Christian Brothers Winery stone building constructed in 1888. Drop by and visit the store, check out the displays of old winemaking equipment and barrels. If you have time consider lunch at the Wine Spectator Restaurant. The view is very beautiful.
Bring Your Camera — Take Photos
What’s a trip to the Napa Valley without photos? Take your digital camera or Smart Phone and take many shots of every place you go on the trip.
Hire a Driver
Rumor has it that various police agencies are beginning to increase patrols on wine tasting room exits. If you hire a driver, have your plan ready and hand it to the driver. There are several independent limo drivers who do a great job.
Check the Winery Finder/Trip Planner for sorting through wineries and mapping your trip.
Chris Fagbolu says
Awesome! This a very helpful information that’ll be recommended to our clients should require more TO DO while touring the vineyards.
Katrina Kirkham says
Joe: Thanks for the recommendation to Casa Nuestra. We try to be true to our name (Casa Nuestra means “our house”) and one can usually find one of the family at work on the property! – Katrina
Rick Spear says
Thanks for the kind words about Blue Heron Custom Tours and Travel. I always enjoy your website and newsletter.
cheap wine says
Great ideas… especially the hire a driver part! No need to take a risk there. I didn’t know the Culinary Institute of America was out there. I’ll have to check that out.