An Introduction To Napa Valley


If you are a wine lover, there is nothing better than taking a tour of some of the Napa Valley wineries. For many wine lovers, a visit to Napa Valley can be the culmination of a lifetime dream. The breathtaking scenery and very pleasant climate make for a wonderful vacation.

Napa Valley is situated in Northern California. The soil and climate in Napa Valley have proven to be among the best in the world for growing wine grapes. As a result, this region has become one of the premier wine producing regions in the U.S. A number of different wines are featured through wineries in Napa Valley, including Caymus, Chandon and Frank Family.

Millions of tourists and visitors flock to Napa Valley each year in order to tour the many wineries in production there. In fact, Napa Valley has become one of the premier attractions in the entire state of California. Not only will you be able to enjoy breathtaking vistas during a trip to Napa Valley but your trip will also provide you with a once in a lifetime experience to enjoy numerous culinary pleasures as well. In the event you happen to dabble in your own winemaking at home, a trip to Napa Valley can certainly provide you with plenty of inspiration.

Historically, Napa Valley has always been strong; however, there have been times during history when it seemed as though this fertile and beautiful valley would almost cease to exist in terms of wine production. One of these times occurred during Prohibition, beginning in 1920. A root louse known as phylloxera also contributed to the destruction of numerous fine vines during this time period as well. As a result a number of wineries in Napa Valley closed. Following World War II; however, they re-opened and Napa Valley once again became quite popular.

After the results of the Paris Wine Tasting were announced in 1976, at which time the Napa Valley Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon were deemed to be better than many fine French labels, Napa Valley became quite popular. Today, Napa Valley has continued to grow and expand and is home to literally hundreds of wineries. Some of the best wineries in the world are located right in Napa Valley.

A trip to Napa Valley provides you with the opportunity to enjoy wine tours from morning until evening. Not only will you have the chance to enjoy a wide variety of fine wines but you can also see the process of making wine from the very first step to the very end. In addition, many wineries offer high quality wines at rates that are highly discounted.

When you first travel to Napa Valley you will discover that despite the fact that so many wineries are located in Napa, the valley itself is rather condensed. The entire valley is just 35 miles long. The advantage of this is that you can easily travel from one end of Napa Valley to the other in a very small amount of time. Provided that traffic is not heavy it takes only about half an hour to drive the entire distance of the valley. Highway 29 forms the main route for the wineries; which is where most of the larger wineries as well as the restaurants, shops and hotels are located. Highway 29 begins at the mouth of the Napa River, quite close to the end of San Francisco Bay. You can easily reach every winery in Napa Valley by traveling along Highway 29.

 

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The Development of Spring Mountain as a Napa Valley AVA

On the western side of Napa Valley, on the Mayacamas Mountains, you will find the Spring Mountain wineries. There are approximately two dozen vineyards and about 20 wineries located in this region. The dramatic landscape of this region is the perfect backdrop for wine tours.

One of the most interesting aspects of Spring Mountain is its unique microclimate. In fact, the climate in Spring Mountain is quite different from what you will find on the floor of the valley. The marine breezes blowing in frequently help to cool the area throughout the day, creating a blend of acidity and tannins that are quite remarkable. While fog frequently settles on the floor of the valley during the night, this is less of a problem in Spring Mountain. As a result, the nights are often warmer; leading to the production of red grapes which are fuller bodied.

Red grapes are planted over about 80% of the vineyards here. The Cabernet Sauvignon hailing from this region is well known for its softer tannins as well as an acidity level that is somewhat lower than in other areas. For the most part, the majority of the wineries in this region are constructed on the hillside terrain. Generally, the vineyards here are smaller in scale than other wineries throughout Napa Valley. As a result, they are able to approach the production of grapes and wines with a highly unique style.

While grapes were first planted in other regions in Napa Valley as early as the mid-19th century; the history of Spring Mountain as a wine region did not begin until 1873. At this time, Charles Lemme planted what would become the first vineyard in the area.

That vineyard was comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon. Eventually, he also established La Perla Cellar. The name Beringer came to Spring Mountain in 1885 when Jacob and Frederick Beringer planted a vineyard over sixty acres. Today, that particular vineyard is called Beringer Flat.

Another of the early vintners of Spring Mountain was Tiburico Parrot. After arriving in the area during the 1890s, he set about producing some of the finest wines in the region. In fact, several of his wines won national as well as international awards.

A very impressive winery, Chateau Chevalier, was constructed in 1891 by Fortune Chevalier. Today that winery is owned by Jacob Safra and continues to produce noteworthy wines. In addition, a significant amount of acreage was owned by Peter Conradi toward the end of the 19th century. His vineyards focused on Syrah and Zinfandel.

As was the case with most other vineyards throughout Napa Valley, Spring Mountain suffered at the hands of both phylloxera and Prohibition. The wine production in this area was all but destroyed. Fred and Eleanor McCrea set about reviving the area during the 1940s after purchasing Stony Hill Vineyard. Later, during the 1960s and 1970s, a number of other wineries were established which went on to achieve critical acclaim. One of those was Smith Madrone Vineyards and Winery, which was established in 1971 by Stuart Smith. In 1977, the Frias Family purchased 100 acres and planted their first vineyards eight years later. Although the vintners in the region certainly face a number of challenges presented by slopes that are almost inaccessible, they seem to have faced up to these challenges with tremendous success. Their dedication and resourcefulness in growing grapes on Spring Mountain have paid off well. By 1991, Spring Mountain had been able to achieve AVA status.

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Tips for Planning a Pleasurable Napa Valley Wine Tour

Napa Valley is a great destination to plan a vacation where you are a wine connoisseur or you know absolutely nothing about wine but you would like to learn. There is a keen belief that you need to be a wine expert in order to enjoy a trip to Napa Valley; however, the truth of the mater is that you can still enjoy a great time in Napa Valley even if you are not very knowledgeable about wine. If you are considering starting a wine cellar at home, a trip to Napa Valley is a great way to educate yourself about different types of wine as well as stock up on quality wines at reduced prices.

First, be aware that when you plan a trip to Napa Valley it is a good idea to make your reservations in advance. Napa Valley has truly experienced a surge in popularity in recent years. More than five million people visit Napa Valley and take wine tours each year. As a result, it is a good idea to make reservations in advance.

Most of the wineries in Napa Valley are located on Highway 29. Napa Valley itself is just a mere 35 miles long. When traffic is not bad you can easily navigate the distance of Napa Valley in 30 minutes. That said; however, the immense popularity of Napa Valley has meant that there have been numerous construction projects; both in terms of building construction as well as road construction. This means that you should plan for road delays. The good news about this is that you will have plenty of time to read up about the many different wineries located in Napa Valley while you are waiting.

Due to the fact that you may get delayed on the road, it is a good idea to make sure that you start the day with a full tank of gas. You certainly will not find any gas stations at any of the wineries. In the event you run into construction or a road delay you do not want to find yourself without gas.

When packing for an outing or a day of taking wine tours it is a good idea to make sure that you bring along several items with you to make the day easier and more pleasurable. First, keep in mind that it is a good idea to bring along a pack lunch. While it is true that some wineries will offer food; there may not always be substantial amounts of food so it is a good idea to be prepared. Many wineries offer picnic areas that are absolutely stunning so you will have plenty of opportunities to enjoy a relaxing and breathtaking lunch.

In addition, it is a good idea to bring along some bottled water. In most cases, you will spend a lot of time walking around and traveling between wineries. Bringing along your own bottled water is a good way to make sure that you do not have to stop for water or go thirsty in between.

You will also want to make sure that you bring along a camera. Napa Valley is certainly well known for its fine wineries; however, the scenery and landscapes in Napa Valley are nothing short of spectacular.

Finally, make sure that you bring along plenty of dollar bills and five dollar bills. You will find that there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy wine tastings for just $5.

Jason Smith

Former Marine, IT Guy & Builder of Websites.  I have 5 US states left to visit. I enjoy hot springs, adventures, hiking, photography, sci-fi, wine, coffee & whiskey.  I am fluent in sarcasm, name that tune, & speak in movie quotes.  I spend most of my time building websites, fixing computers, metal detecting, magnet fishing and gaming occasionally.

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