I found myself in the Los Gatos area of California to photograph a gorgeous west coast wedding at Testarossa winery. Friends who were there to attend mentioned Napa wasn’t too far away – perhaps just two hours north of the San Jose region where we were staying. With spare time on our hands to experience the area the next day we decided to make the drive for a day tour of the region. Here’s 5 Things You Didn’t Realize About Napa that may surprise you.
I had been looking to going for a while, not realizing the opportunity would present itself. We were going to drive there early (around 8-9am) when we were told by locals more familiar with the area things don’t open until 10-11am there! So we pushed back a bit and arrived later. I was surprised by what we experienced that day, completely shattering any pre-conceived notions I had about what “Napa” is. Here’s the 5 Things You Didn’t Realize about Napa, which I learned that day.
1: MOST WINERIES CLOSE AT 5:00PM
We arrived to the area with a tour at Opus One schedule upon our arrival. After we left there we were shocked to find out most wineries close at 5pm and we had less than two hours to hit up two or three more spots before they locked up for the day. I truly imagined they would close closer to 7pm. But they do not!
2: NAPA IS ONLY FOUR EXITS OFF THE HIGHWAY
Napa is only a couple exits off of of route 29. There is a greater “region” but I expected Napa to be geographically larger. Most wineries do not, in fact, have Napa addresses. They are situated in surrounding towns, including Yountville, Oakville and Rutherford, to name a few, and St. Helena, where the Orin Swift tasting room we visited was located.
3: IT MAY NOT HAVE THE ROLLING HILLS OF VINES YOU DREAM ABOUT
Blame is on Hollywood but I envisioned rolling hills covered with beautiful, bright green vineyards. It’s just not so. In the photo above you see flat land with vines and the hills simply covered in trees. I don’t recall seeing any hills with any sort of resemblance of vineyards – and if I did it was certainly incredibly uncommon.
4: IT’S NOT EASY TO DRINK WINE ALL DAY
I love wine. But I suppose I realized I have a limit. Everyone’s tolerance for alcohol is different. I have friends who can’t drink more than a sip of wine because their body can’t process alcohol. We all have a friend or two who can drink beer ALL day. For me, it’s difficult to do that. And if you’re like me you think spitting it out to simply “taste” is a waste of money and all around goodness wine provides.
You DO have the option of tasting and spitting but I opted not to. I quickly realized the red wine was affecting me, making me feel nauseous. So I laid off of it past a certain hour and opted for….water! Luckily there are great restaurants in the area and we stopped at Gott’s Roadside to enjoy some amazing tuna tacos. So if you don’t want to drink…you can certainly still enjoy the food, ambience and conversation at vineyards and wineries.
5: IT’S ONLY RECENTLY BECOME A NOTABLE WINE REGION
Blame it on my 1980’s birth date but I figured Napa was a region with deep roots (no pun intended) in centuries of viticulture. On our tour at Opus One we learned it wasn’t really until the 1960s it became a region (with quality wines to show for it) worth acknowledging in the winery world. Who’d have thunk it? Before that time the wine community frowned about wines produced in the US.
Heading to the west coast? Also check out:
- Self Guided Day Tour of the Best Breweries in San Diego
- How to Spend Two Days in Palm Springs
- My 12 Favorite Spots Around San Diego
What’s visions of Napa do you have?