This bustling time of year in Wine Country has all hands on deck. Winemakers are up before sunrise to ensure grapes are picked at their prime sugar levels. Winery teams eagerly await bins of perfectly ripe Napa Valley fruit. Simply entering the valley during harvest season will be an experience to remember. Watch as trucks drive by overflowing with grapes, and smile as they spill into the road at every bump. Harvest season encompasses the art, and romance, of winemaking. It’s no surprise that hotel, restaurant, and wine tasting reservations need be made months in advance—we recommend booking at least four months in advance. Touch the small French oak barrels and see the bottling line at the O’Brien Estate. Tours at the O’Brien Estate are approximately 75 minutes and cost $40 per person. Reservations are required and can be made by calling (707) 252-8463. Del Dotto Vineyard offers an Estate and Barrel Tasting at their St. Helena tasting room for those who want to get an early impression of wines straight from the barrel. $60 per person, call for reservations. Harvest is also a great time to visit Napa Valley with children in tow because of the multitude of family-friendly, harvest related events. The St. Helena Harvest Festival, which features a legendary pet parade, live music, food, crafts, and kids’ carnival. The annual 5K run also has a special run for the little ones.
Insider tip: The period between Halloween and the first two weeks of November slow down a bit in the valley, so enjoy the fragrant smell of harvest while it lasts.
There are few places in California that see color changes as dramatic as Napa Valley. This is the best time to visit Napa Valley if you want to get your fix of fall foliage before the winter sets in. For a stunning one-of-a-kind perspective, ride the aerial gondola up to Sterling Vineyards and behold the bird’s eye view of the valley. Spend an hour winding your way up Highway 29 by car to Stony Hill Vineyard so you can enjoy their legendary crisp white wines. When you make your reservation the winery will email you directly with specific directions to this slightly-off-the-beaten path autumnal mini-adventure.
Board the Napa Valley Wine Train and start your gourmet dining adventure in a vintage Pullman train car as you relax and roll through the vineyards. A variety of different experiences are offered, including the Grgich Hills Winery Tour where, after your lunch, you can de-board and explore the famed winery.
See Napa’s rich architectural history on twinkling holiday display during the Napa B&B Holiday Tour & Taste Event. Stop by some of the prettiest inns in the area and sample their favorite wines paired with cuisine from top Napa Valley restaurants. Most inns offer live music as an acoustic backdrop to this delicious experience. Proceeds from the $75 ticket price benefit local charities. Though wineries are usually closed on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, there are plenty of events during the last week of the year to sprinkle some Napa Valley magic on your holiday. Enjoy a three-course prix fixe Christmas Eve dinner at the cozy and rustic Angèle where the French cuisine is said to rival even the best in France. The food is impeccable and the crusty bread that comes with the table is a treat unto itself.
Almost immediately after the New Year, wineries are closed on New Year’s Day and the quiet season settles in. The grapes will have been picked from the vines by this time, but that doesn’t mean that the sprawling vineyards and rolling hills won’t be as stunning as they are during the harvest season. This is the best time to visit Napa Valley wine country if you seek a leisurely wine tasting experience and want to avoid premium hotel pricing. Room rates are typically reduced during the low season at bed The Napa Inn, which is comprised of two stunning Queen Anne Victorian mansions built at the turn of the century. The Napa Inn’s Roman Suite features 12-foot ceilings, an in-room fireplace and a whirlpool bathtub big enough for two. Room rates at the bed and breakfast typically start at $269 per night during this time of year. The weather is more variable during this time of year, so your trip could see a rainy day or two. A rainy day could, however, be the perfect excuse to enjoy Pinot Noir by the hearth at the marble-floored fireside salon in the Chateau at Domaine Carneros.
During the spring, everything is green in Napa and the mild weather makes it a perfect time to embark on a hike through the hills to get up close and personal with nature. Spend an afternoon traversing the trails in Skyline Park (admittance is free) and enjoy the park’s native plant garden. Combine wine tasting with your love of nature during a visit to Harms Vineyards & Lavender Fields for a sweet smelling tour of the winery where you can pick up organic gifts like lavender sachets, cooking stems and essential oils.
Summer is the time of year that Napa residents get out of their homes and join visitors to celebrate the intersection of art, food, music, and culture. BottleRock Napa Valley kicks off the summer with headlining musical acts meeting local brewers, vintners, artists, and chefs for a three-day festival that delights all the senses. July 4th is always a time for celebration as Napa Valley locals flock to the Napa County Fair & Fireworks in Calistoga, which begins with a downtown Independence Day parade. The revelry continues at the fair where visitors can taste award-winning foods and wines, enjoy lots of rides, and see the spectacle of the biggest fireworks show in the area as the day draws to a close. Artistic enrichment continues as the Festival del Sole hosts top performers from fine art, classical dance, jazz, and theater plus top local wineries and restaurants for ten days of top-notch cultural immersion. What time of year will you visit Napa Valley? Start planning your trip today!