Napa Valley

Napa Valley

There are four main towns in the Napa Valley: Napa, Yountville, St. Helena, and Calistoga. Each town has its own charm but St. Helena and Calistoga are more “boutiquey” walking towns and Yountville and Napa are more spread out with more fine dining.

To get around, picture Napa Valley as a ladder. Calistoga is at the top of the ladder and Napa is at the bottom. Highway 29, the main road into town is the left side of the ladder and the Silverado Trail is on the right. The famous Napa Valley wineries lie between the two legs of the ladder between Napa and Calistoga. Highway 29 can get quite congested with cars pulling on and off the road for frequent wine tasting. You can take a side road over to the Silverado Highway, drive up or down, depending on which way you need to go, and over to your winery or restaurant destination without the traffic snarls.

The world famous Napa Valley is full of wineries whose labels most people have seen on their local supermarket or liquor store shelves. These are the sights that people come to see. The wineries are amazing, some simple but others with huge gates, impeccably manicured grounds and large tasting rooms resembling chateaus and European castles.

For a unique way to see the Napa Valley while wine tasting and dining on gourmet food, the Napa Valley Wine Train, with its beautifully restored antique rail cars, is the way to go. 707/253-2111 or 800/427-4124

The Napa Valley Wine Train has a special trip, which for $45, will pick up passengers from the San Francisco ferry in Vallejo and provide transportation by shuttle to the Napa Valley Wine Train station. There are packages available for-on board wine tasting, winery tours or for a gourmet lunch on the vintage train. The price is roundtrip. Call Napa Valley Wine Train @ 800/427-4124 for information and reservations. Or for an extra-special trip, the “Napa Deals Without Wheels,” is a package that includes round-trip transportation, a gourmet lunch on the train, one night’s luxurious accommodations at the Napa Valley Inn, gourmet in-room breakfast, and two wine tasting cards good for tastings at 13 Napa Valley winery tasting rooms, for $428 (retail value $673.)

There is more to do here than just wine tasting. Eating and shopping and luxury spas with hot springs are very popular activities. In fact the best restaurant in California is the French Laundry, in Yountville, among many, many great eateries in Napa Valley. The annual Restaurant Guide rated the French Laundry as one of the top fifty restaurants in the world. The cuisine is French/California and it’s fantastic, if extremely expensive. The prix fixe menu is $240 per person and that’s without wine. It’s not unusual to see the rich and famous dining there on any night of the week. Jackets and reservations are required. The French Laundry is located at 6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94559 707/944-2380