Thursday, September 19, 2013

A Day in Napa Valley

Last week we had a chance to spend the day in Napa Valley.  Better yet - we got some great ideas from Elena on what to see while we were there.  But one day in Napa Valley is not enough, there is way too much to see.  It's on the 'Go Visit Again' list.

I like this map of the area from  We began or day starting from the lower part of the map.   We drove in a clockwise direction first stopping in Yountville.  Then we went to the Robert Mondavi Vineyard for a tour.  And we made a stop in St. Helena before heading just north of St. Helena on Highway 29 before heading east for a few miles.  Then we drove south through the valley on Silverado Trail to see that side of the valley.
Yountville - our first stop.
Elena gave us some great tips of where to stop and what to see.  We began our day at the renowned Bouchon Bakery for some coffee and pastries. And people watching.
Then over to the Blue Heron Art gallery to see if we could meet water color artist Betty Jo Marsh.
Yay! - she was there (on Tuesdays) and was very gracious and showed us some of her work.  It was getting close to noon by now and we drove just north and easily found the Robert Mondavi Winery.
We checked things out and bought tickets for an early afternoon tour.  Then went went to find some lunch.  Not very many fast food places in this neck of the woods…  So we decided to try a market and hope they had a deli.  Turned out to be one of the highlights of the day.
Wow!  What a great find.  Fantastic burrito and chicken quesadilla!  Can't get more local than that.  Right in there with lots of vineyard workers.  And it is harvest season so it was busy.

Then back to the Robert Mondavi Winery.
What a great tour!  At $30 a little pricey but worth every penny.  Bill was our guide.  He really knew his stuff and made it fun and very interesting.
Napa Valley had about 20 vineyards in the early 1970's.  Now it has over 500! In fact up into the Sierras and into the northern part of the state, we have seen more vineyards than we imagined.  I think wine has become California's cash crop.

Robert Mondavi began his vineyard in 1966 and traveled to Italy and through Europe to learn from the best.  He brought that knowledge back to Napa Valley and shared it will all the other vineyard owners hoping that the valley would become a world class source of top notch wine.  He got his wish.
We walked through the vineyard and Bill explained the whole growing and cutting and trimming process and talked about white and red wine.  And the difference between the $150 dollar bottles and the lesser labels.

Then into the building where the grapes are crushed and processed and put into large and not so large French Oak barrels.
Then on into the private dining room for some wine tasting.
We started off with 2011 Chardonnay Reserve, Carneros.  This wine, "has the intensity and balance to cellar for 6-8 years, but it is enjoyable today with dishes such as roasted chicken".  Retail: $50/bottle.
Then on to 2011 Pinot Noir Reserve, Carneros.  The writeup says, "Aged 12 months in new French barrels, this silkey wine has aromas of baking spices and red cherry." Retail: $60/bottle.
And another - 2010 Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon.  "The wine mixes power with elegance, as aromas of blackberry, roasted herb and graphite mingle with supple tannins."  Retail: $90/bottle.

Well I gotta say, after all that - This Place was a Hoot!  I am a very casual 'Two Buck Chuck" kind of guy so this was foreign territory to say the least!  But it was interesting and fun!  It was an hour and a half well spent!

St. Helena
After the winery tour, we stopped in St. Elena and found the 'house' where Elena grew up.
It has since been turned into office buildings and the area doesn't resemble the hometown of years ago.

It was getting late in the afternoon, so we headed east across the valley and drove down the Silverado Trail.
We had a great time on our first trip to Napa Valley.  We don't know when, but we'd like to go back and spend more time.

Thanks for joining us today on the Roadrunner Chronicles!  Until next time...


  1. It certainly looks like we could spend weeks in that area! Loved the wine tour. Just think. If you had the time and the money, you could do that at 499 more wineries :)

  2. We agree that visitors to the Napa Valley are needs much more time than just a day. We spent a few days there last week but it is definitely on our visit again list.

  3. Hi, just joined as a follower today. We enjoy your blog. Travel safe and keep blogging.

  4. Nice! Penny and I have visited Napa, but years ago. We lived in Winters, Ca. and went to Napa on a day trip with my mother and a friend of hers. We took the lunch train tour that slowly went through the valley. Lunch was outstanding and it was a nice slow ride. We have never taken a tour, because we tend to be the two-dollar chucks. Your lunch place does sound fantastic and we will check I out. Happy travels. Bill & Penny Medbery Travis #52

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  6. I have also visited Napa .Napa valley is one of the best place to see:)
    sonoma wine tours

  7. Napa is best and funniest visiting place. I really glad to see the level of napa valley, it is best place of fun vacation tour. This is outstanding.