POSTED ON December 23, 2009 | IN Wine News | BY Joe Becerra

Sonoma County, Mendocino, and Paso Robles are doing their best to attract wine country tourists and they are outspending Napa by a large scale. Not long ago, most folks traveling to California wine country were under the impression the Napa Valley was the only game in town. Could it be that people are opting to go to these other wine regions because they are being led to believe that the Napa Valley is too chic, too expensive, or too crowded. Bottom line, tourism is down in the Napa Valley. So in the works is a plan to have Napa hotels and B&B’s being asked to pay an assessment to fund a tourism business improvement district. This likely means we’ll see a little bit more tax on our Napa Valley hotel bill that should generate some 4 million dollars to promote tourism. Stay tuned.

Calistoga Happenings

Talk about no tourists, we spent a couple of days in Calistoga last week and as one tasting room worker said, “things are dark” around here. The popular Brannan’s restaurant was practically deserted except for bar patrons. By the way, Janelle says Brannan’s makes the best Manhatten she has ever tasted. They call it the Branhattan. The secret ingredient we found out is the Punta E Mes Vermouth.

paupers-feastDown the street was a different story at the Calistoga Inn restaurant. There was a waiting line to get into the restaurant where the 19th annual Pauper’s Feast was taking place. I think we may have been the only non-locals in the place. Everyone seemed to know each other. That night a $10 corkage fee was in place and we saw a lot of supermaket wine being cracked open. What a wonderful time we had just people watching and listening to a musical group playing up a storm of holiday jazz. If you happen to be in Calistoga next year around this time, be sure not to miss the Pauper’s Feast.

Yountville Happenings

After 15 years the Napa Valley Grille closes it doors and just down the street a new and very chic restaurant opens up, the Cantinetta Piero. The Napa Valley Grille owners were said to close their doors because of a lease dispute but, any way you look at it, the recession bites again.

pieroThe Cantinetta Piero is part of the new Hotel Luca complex. The restaurant looks very inviting and is currently open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The restaurant menu looks reasonable enough but the hotel rates and spa services are very much upscale. One interesting note, the Hotel Luca has two rooms set up with a kitchenette for guests staying for 30 days or more. Price is $100 a night and we believe that includes breakfast. Now that sounds like a deal for someone who has to spend an extended time in the Napa Valley. The hotel is not quite ready for prime time; landscaping and a few other areas need to be completed but they are taking guests. We think for the next couple of months you can negotiate package deals.



  1. Holly says

    Napa is one of the best places on earth but why don’t more people know about it. Napa would benefit during this slow time of the year, by luring people up to the wine country with some great travel deals. With some new hotels, and lots of fantastic restaurants and wineries, you can’t beat a weekend in Napa to recharge your battery. There should be a collective effort to reach out to long time fans of Napa as well as people who haven’t visited the region before. Everyone is looking for a good deal these days. In the long run, it will just build the fan base for the area for when the economy comes back. Short term it is good for all the local businesses that rely on tourism to survive!

  2. Roger says

    If the desire is rebuild tourism, then hire professionals that have been successful in destination travel marketing. Lets face it, wineries make and market wine, they have little experience in destinatation travel marketing. Would you retain a harbor pilot to guide a 767?

    Phil and Joe, you are both seeing it well, but the message and product projection has not been crafted to correct the problems.

  3. Phil says

    I’m surprised you Napa folks are just now getting around to notice that non-Napa Wine Country is at your heals. You must not have benn able to see all the tourists leave your neck of the woods because of all that fancy architecture you can’t see behind. Nevertheless, real wine country with normal folks will take it from here! Thanks!

    You see, people aren’t going to drop $80-105 on mediocre Cab ever again. The future is ours to see and I see rational wine country kickin in, not “tourist trap Napa”. Over the next decade, Napa winery owners will see a 25-40% drop in sales due to A) lack of desire (and funds) to purchase $80 cab that woun’t lay down because of 3.9 ph’s and 70% new oak regiment. B) they desire to get away from crappy Napa lines and corporate bottom-lining, disneyland-style business where the NYC asset manager recommended to his very wealthy east coast clients to buy a land in Napa and start a winery as a “diversification of their portfolio”. You may have fooled them up till now, but they’ve evoloved into astute, knowledgable wine drinkers who know better.

    Thanks again Napa! We’ll take it from here…


    • joe says

      Janelle and I do not live in Napa but on San Francisco Peninsula. We travel to many wine regions throughout the year. What you mention in your comments about Napa, we also find that in other wine regions. In any wine town, there will be restaurants, inns, and spas that cater to the wealthy and wineries that charge too much for their wine. But you also find the unique, the old, the traditional, and the small family-run establishments that make it fun for us to visit the Napa Valley and other wine regions of California.