The long and winding road … to Napa Valley

By Emily McBee
Baltimore Watchdog Staff Writer

California is known for its beautiful beaches, rolling hills, and the celebrities that live there, but when taking a closer look it’s easy to find the beautiful Napa Valley.

Napa Valley is about an hour outside of San Francisco. The drive into Napa Valley consists of winding roads coming in and out of mountains. The road will eventually turn into another one lane road with wineries on either side. The wineries line the street for a stretch of 4 miles before turning into Sonoma County.

The very first winery to see from the one lane road is Sterling Winery. Sterling Winery is up on one of the many rolling hills. Once pulling into the winery, a gondola will takes visitors up to the top of the winery on the hill. The Spanish style building is three stories filled with art and barrels that age and add a different taste to each wine.

“The views from the gondola are incredible,” said Judy Martin, 43, a visitor from Pennsylvania. “My daughters and I were pointing out the next stop on our winery excursion.”

After getting off the gondola, the first station on the tour is trying the Sauvignon Blanc. Sterling has 5 different stations on the tour. Each station is in a new area of the winery. The stops include different red or white wines. Christie Conner, 32, a tour guide for Sterling, has worked there for six years.

“The best part of Sterling other than the wine is how amazing the views are,” Conner said. “Sterling sits up on a hill making the perfect background for selfies. We pride ourselves on standing out from the competition. Between the gondola and our exquisite wines it’s a unique experience from start to finish.”

Angela Jackson, 41, the director of media relations for Napa Valley, said her favorite winery is Robert Mondave. It is the oldest winery in Napa Valley and has been there for 150 years.


There are 400 wineries in the Napa Valley and 600 if you include Sonoma County a neighboring winery hot bed. Robert Mondave specializes in red wines and is a tourist attraction in and of itself.

“I am so lucky to be a part of a community that supports each other,” Jackson said. “I have the most gorgeous views from my window, and I give the best presents-wine.”

Drinking wine isn’t the only activity that goes on in Napa Valley. While each winery has its own hook, Napa Valley puts on festivals and concerts throughout the year.

“We bring in vendors, musicians, and of course our local wineries to put on our festivals,” Jackson said. “Festivals are for the tourists who come to the area. If you show them that there are things to do for the whole family, including the little ones, more tourists come.”

Of course wine isn’t for everyone. However, music is something for all to enjoy. The Capp Heritage is a small local venue that is home to some of the best singers and performers in the country.

Capp Heritage is a venue were not only musicians go to perform. It also hosts art and dance shows. The Heritage has an old timey feel and of course supplies alcohol in Napa Valley fashion. They do tastings of beer and wine.

Another favorite of locals in Napa is the City Winery, located on Napa River. The City Winery brings in music lovers, wine lovers, and beer lovers. The small stage has been home to many acts that perform every Friday and Saturday night. City Winery is setting the bar when it comes to cutting edge wine technology. The City Winery uses wine taps similar to a key tap for beer, however, the kegs are replaced with bottles of wine.

“I have always loved performing on this stage,” said Beau Kicks, 34, a local musician. “I come here to watch my friends play too. I enjoy a nice glass of wine and sing along to the songs I know.”

Kicks has been performing for three years on the City Winery stage. Kicks says he doesn’t see why he would perform anywhere else.

Peju, a notable winery in the area, is known for the Italian inspired building and setting. Peju is a family owned winery and has occupied the area for 30 years.

“We recommend people at least take a tour of Peju,” Jackson said. “The Peju family has out done themselves with a moat that surrounds the building. The beautiful fountain and willow trees that shade the area have been the backdrop to many magazine articles.”

The drought in California is the worst it’s been in years past. The lack of rain hinders wine makers from producing wine with the same taste and quality. Although the wine doesn’t have the same taste as it has in years prior, the taste will be unique to the year.

“The winemakers work really hard for the wine to be consistent with the wines they have sold in the past,” Jackson said. “Wine making is a long, delicate process that changes with the weather.”

The drought has added extra stress to winemakers. However, the tourism hasn’t dropped in the slightest. There are about 3 million people that visit Napa each year. Napa relies heavily on the tourism that brings in close to $2 billion each year.

“Without the tourism Napa would not be able to survive,” Jackson said. “I certainly wouldn’t be talking to you right now because there wouldn’t be a director of media relations.”

The visitors come from all over the world but mainly from the United States. Napa Valley brings in East Coast tourists because of the lack of wineries and views on the East Coast.

“I think we don’t see as many out of country tourists because a lot of other countries have big wine countries,” Jackson said. “Typically people from out of the country are visiting southern California and the beaches, or where the Kardashians live.”

Visitors from the United States stay in surrounding counties of Napa Valley such as Santa Rosa’ where it is cheaper and easier to find a hotel. A bed and breakfast can cost a tourist upwards of $300 a night.

“We stayed in Santa Rosa, California when we were visiting,” Martin said. “It was much cheaper for me and my two girls and we were closer to San Francisco so we got to visit the city on a different day.”

Napa Valley is certainly geared toward adults, but the kids are not an afterthought for the wineries in the area. Some of the things that are offered for kids are grape stomping, tours of the grounds on each winery, and hayrides.

“I liked going to the wineries with my parents,” said Madeline Grace, 12. “I think my favorite part was getting a tour of the area on the tractor.”

Napa Valley is the perfect spot for vacationers, wine enthusiasts, and families. If you enjoy music, great food, and some of the best wine in the world. Napa Valley is the place to go. Napa Valley has beautiful views that are the perfect back drop to any picture. The variety in wine and the different wineries have something for everyone.



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