Napa Valley Allure

by Lydia Crichton

Lydia Christine Crichton is a novelist who lives to craft her works of fiction in the heart of Napa Valley.

The narrow Napa Valley, less than thirty miles long, stretches north “up-valley” to south “down-valley”, winding along two main roads framed by dramatic palisades on either side. Vineyards grace the landscape on the valley floor and terrace the gentle slopes.

Getting the Lay of the Land
For a picture-perfect view, take a short drive up the Oakville Grade and pull over at the top. Mount St. Helena looms at 4,343 feet up-valley, north of Calistoga. From its peak, on a clear day - most days are - the hearty hiker will be rewarded with a stunning view of the blue Pacific shimmering in the distance. A tranquil flight above the patchwork of agriculture in a hot air balloon may be the best way to get a feel for the place. Napa Valley Balloons launch at sunrise for a fantasy flight followed by a champagne brunch.

California Dreaming
The world-class Auberge du Soleil has Mediterranean-inspired rooms and villas terraced down the hillside feature Italian linens, down bedding and a plethora of deluxe amenities. The full-facility spa and renowned restaurant ensure that guests need not want for, well, anything. The view from the bar/restaurant wrap- around terrace is simply the most spectacular and romantic imaginable, day or night.

Eats & Sweets
Brix, near Yountville, offers al fresco dining with vineyard views. California cuisine with produce harvested from the on-site garden is prepared with a skilled but light hand. Tra Vigne in St. Helena epitomizes wine country ambiance. Classic Italian weds California fresh for a marriage made in heaven. Taylor’s Refresher right on Hwy 29 in St. Helena has a creative selection of the best burgers this side of Texas and an astonishing local wine list.

Nectar of the Grape
Over 400 wineries open their doors in Napa County alone, not to mention those in nearby Sonoma. Guests will discover stunning architecture, inspirational gardens, museum-quality art and, of course, some of the world’s finest wines. Many offer pairings of food and wine. Check out The Preiser Key to Napa Valley for complete details of where and when to go for public, private and reserve tastings.

Sterling Vineyards features a one-of-a-kind tram ride to a mountaintop winery with panoramic views and self-guided tours that culminate with an impressive variety of wines offered in the tasting rooms. Take a picnic to Robert Sinskey Vineyards, purchase a bottle or two of their “fine wines from organic vines” and enjoy lunch on the outdoor terrace with a sweeping view of the vines. The old-world atmosphere of Grgich Hills Cellar makes everyone feel right at home - especially during harvest when guests are invited to take off their shoes and jump right in to help stomp the grapes. Peju‘s elegant sculpture garden beckons from Highway 29 and you won’t be disappointed with the award-wining wines of this “boutique” family-owned operation.

Get Going!
Four major airports serve the San Francisco Bay Area, all just a short drive to the valley: San Francisco, Oakland, San Jose and Sacramento. So what are you waiting for? Book a flight, rent a car and cruise through the experience of a lifetime in the beautiful, the bountiful, the breathtaking California Wine Country.

Lydia's List: