What are some interesting facts of Napa Valley (Wine Country)?!
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Wine has been made there for something like 150 years. In the 1870s there was an epidemic of phylloxera in France, a little bug that eats the roots of the grapevines. Almost all the French vines were wiped out, and they rebuilt their whole wine industry by importing American grapevines from Napa Valley and grafting their plants onto them.
Some great wines from from Napa Valley. The problem is that the valley has fallen victim to its own success. It's full of pretentious little restaurants and hotels, everything is obscenely overpriced. Winery tours used to be free, now they cost money and they even charge for TASTING!
The main highway that goes up through the valley is choked with traffic during the Summer, so you can't even drive through it. There is another highway, the Silverado Trail, that goes up the eastern edge of the valley. Same great views but no traffic! It's really a very beautiful area.
Also, some of the wineries are more than 100 years old. A handful, maybe 10. But in the last five or ten years, maybe two dozen more 100 year old wineries have sprung up! They are made to LOOK 100 years old, so they can have a nice picture for the label. 8^) Most of the brands these days I never heard of!
The town of Napa itself is kind of dull, but it has a newly redone downtown which is very nice. Then further north are very cute little towns like Yountville, Rutherford, St. Helena, which have a lot more 'atmosphere'.
To the west is the Valley of the Moon (I think it's also called the Sonoma Valley), and it is also very nice, but not nearly as famous, or as crowded. The little town of Sonoma is also very picturesque, built around a cute little town square.
I ride my motorcycle every year from the Bay Area up the coast to Fort Bragg (near Mendocino) to go camping overnight. I come back down 128 through Boonville and Philo, to Cloverdale, then over to Calistoga, and down the Silverado Trail to Napa. It makes a very beautiful afternoon drive on a nice day.
1) Napa Valley hosts an annual Mustard Festival from January to March, celebrating the " food, wine, art and rich, unique agricultural bounty of the Napa Valley". For some great tips on pairing wine with mustard
2) Napa Valley makes up only five percent of the total United States vineyard acreage. The region of Andalucia in Spain has more wine acreage than anywhere in the world.
3) Sulfur is the pesticide most commonly used in Napa Valley and is certified for use in organic farming. Green wine, anyone?
4) Napa’s Chateau Montelena caused a sensation when their 1976 Chardonnay put California wines on the map and beat French wines to take top honors at a Paris blind tasting. At the time, Napa was still considered a “backwater” wine producing region that could in no way compete with classic French wine. The plucky story was made in to a lovely little movie called “Bottleshock” starring Bill Pullman
5) Stag’s Leap 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon further cemented Napa’s global image when it won in the red category for that same 1976 Paris blind tasting – and came back to take top honors again in 1986 with their 1972 Clos du Val Cabernet Sauvignon.
6) In the 1830’s, George Yount planted the first grapevines in Napa Valley (they were from Mexico), after declaring, “In such a place I should love to clear the land and make my home. In such a place I should love to live and die." He founded the town that was eventually named Yountville in his honor, home to such dining delights as Bistro Jeanty and The French Laundry.
7) Viticulture and tourism top the list of Napa industries. And you can combine them both with wine tours and a great dinner out! Ah, two of my favorite things….
8) The Valley itself is roughly 30 miles long and a few miles wide. If you can actually hit every winery over the course of one weekend, however, then I’d like to shake your hand!
9) The first commercial Napa winery was established by Charles Krug in 1861. John Patchett created the Valley’s first commercial vineyard in 1858. From those of us who love wine, we offer our humble thanks.
10) Of the 140 Napa wineries in existence by 1900, the stalwarts that remain are Beaulieu, Beringer, Charles Krug, Chateau Montelena, Far Niente, Mayacamas, Markham Vineyards, and Schramsberg. You could put together a little tour of “The Classics” next time you are visiting. Markham in particular is one of my favorite wineries in the area.
11. We have the cheapest Wine Tasting Tour in the Napa Valley. Go to www.napawinetourdriver.com If you have a rental car it is the perfect oportunity to have a great wine tour.
There is a lot of wine.