The Napa Valley

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Is there a wine lover who hasn’t heard of Napa Valley? Not only are its wines superb, but Napa’s natural beauty makes it a feast for the senses. 

The broad, lush valley sprawls between the heavily forested Mayacamas Mountains on the west and the spare, rock-ribbed Vaca Mountains to the east. 

Between the two, crossroads link a landscape of pristine vineyards, little farmhouses, old stone bridges that span the Napa River and, here and there, architecturally extravagant wineries styled after temples or castles. 

Want more expansive views? Head to the hills. You’ll find breathtaking panoramas from high up along twisting lanes such as Oakville Grade and Mt. Veeder Road.

Cabernet Sauvignon is Napa’s superstar wine, of course, but the valley also produces stellar Syrahs, Merlots, Sauvignon Blancs and Petite Sirahs. And its Zinfandels are world class. 

Chances are that somebody, somewhere in Napa and its 16 subappellations, is doing something incredible with almost any other grape variety you could name.

The namesake city of Napa draws visitors to its revitalized riverside downtown, home to exciting restaurants, bars, clubs and performance venues. 

But top-notch dining extends all the way up Highway 29, from the foodie hotbed of Yountville to laid-back Rutherford, and from glamorous St. Helena to funky-chic Calistoga, with its mud baths and old-fashioned July Fourth parade. Upscale and eclectic, Napa’s cuisine is tailored to match the local wines.

While the dry season (May–October) attracts the most visitors, Napa Valley holds four-season appeal, from spring budbreak to winter barrel tastings. Traffic can be tight, but the reception that visitors get in tasting rooms is warm.—Steve Heimoff

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The Napa Valley

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