Tours of world-renowned Napa Valley wine country are often a highlight of a stay in the San Francisco Bay area. There are myriad ways to experience the picturesque vineyards set against a backdrop of rolling hills, from the luxury of a private limousine to a hot air balloon ride. Here is everything you need to know before you go.
When to Go
From early August through October, summer transitions to crisper temperatures, leaves turn to gem colors, and Napa Valley becomes a frenzy of grape harvesting. The “crush” starts with grapes for sparkling wines, while late-harvest varietals linger longer on the vine. Whether you choose to partake in festivities that celebrate the harvest or simply join a food and wine-tasting tour, there’s really no bad time of year to sample the vintages of this premium wine region.
How to Go
Gain insight into the winemaking process on a group tour, or opt for a private wine-tasting with friends and receive the undivided attention of your guide. Excursions may include top wineries and tasting rooms such as Beringer and Castello di Amorosa in St. Helena; Madonna Estate Winery and Hagafen Cellars in Napa; Robert Mondavi in Oakville; and Domaine Chandon in Yountville. The Napa Valley Wine Train serves gourmet meals and lets you hop off at Grgich Hills Estate, Charles Krug Winery, or Raymond Vineyards, while the Wine Trolley makes a scenic journey aboard a replica San Francisco cable car. Sunrise hot-air balloon rides usually include breakfast and a sparkling toast.
Things to Know
- The Napa Valley is located about 60 miles (100 kilometers) north of San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge.
- Guided tours typically provide round-trip hotel transport, leaving you to consume alcohol safely without the worry of navigating city or highway traffic.
- Michelin-starred, farm-to-table restaurants abound in Yountville; oysters, gourmet cheese, and artisan-made chocolates stand out at the Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa. Many tours pair food with wine tasting.