"Napa: Gateway to America's Premier Wine Region" Top 5 Page for this destination Napa by atufft

Napa Travel Guide: 443 reviews and 1,253 photos

Napa Valley River

First, I should redirect those who are looking for winery and restaurant information for the Napa Valley to these additional links for St. Helena, Calistoga, Oakville, and Angwin. I lived and worked for many years in both the wine and restaurant industry within Napa Valley areas as a young adult, and have taught wine appreciation at the college level. So, my tips and images are scattered in a wide variety of places for the appreciation of those interested enough to do more than impulse read.

One of the few rivers not controlled by the US Corps of Army Engineers, the Napa River frequently flash floods into the city. During some summers, droughts have been severe enough to require water rationing. Legend has it that at this fork in the river, near where the Redwood Creek flows into the Napa River, George Yount forded the river by horseback to found the city. The word "napa" means fish in Wappo, the language of the original inhabitants. It was on the banks of this river where the modern city of Napa is located. In the photo above, the overview of the city shows the river and its proximity to San Pablo Bay, which is essentially the northern part of the great San Francisco Bay.

As already mentioned, for those interested in wine tasting in the Napa Valley, please also visit my pages for St. Helena, Calistoga, Yountville, Oakville, and Angwin. These smaller towns to the north of Napa are actually more central to the location of the wineries and vineyards which tourists like to visit. Nevertheless, the City of Napa remains an administrative and winery supply headquarters for the industry in California. And, on these pages I do include the tips for Carneros, Stag's Leap, and Chimney Rock, appellations of the Napa Valley relatively close to the city of Napa. Thus, the Napa Valley isn't the same as Napa itself, and the VT system doesn't allow for this world famous area to be designated as a national park.

Napa's history is more than just wine

Traditionally, wine has been just one of many agricultural products transported out on schooners that sailed up the river. Cattle ranchos exported hides and tallow for many years before wine took root, and in the late 19th century grains were ground at local mills for domestic consumption and even export. Even as recently as the 1960's, other fruits--prunes, plums, peaches, cherries-- and nuts competed with grapes for agricultural influence in the valley. All of these commodities ultimately were exported from the valley by way of the city of Napa, and so old stonewarehouses, as well as modern industrial warehouses, are a common sight in the city. The downtown of Napa developed into the financial center of the valley and the winemaking industry here, and remains the home of many wine consultants and industry supply distributers. The multi-million dollar COPIA: The American Center for Wine, Food, and the Arts used to be located near the oxbow bend of the Napa River downtown Napa, but collapsed financially in the 2008 recession. Thus, efforts to turn the city into a modern capitol wine for tourists has continued not only with the local advantages of good bottle shops and refrigerated storage locker facilities for private wine collections survive, but also with new developments, such as re-engineered Napa River and Riverwalk restaurant and shopping complex. The town has many fine examples of Victorian and Queen Anne Style Architecture, a few of which have been restored into Bed & Breakfast Inns, but there are also a number of new boutique hotel developments.

Redevelopment of Napa...

Because the city doesn't have the quaint boutique charm of St. Helena or Calistoga, the old city center had tended to suffer neglect until recently. 1970's Redevelopment of the commercial shopping center took attention away from the river front area, and so recent ongoing the river walk area development is under a huge transformation. Originally, a key feature of this redevelopment was the cultural museum and education center called Copia: The American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts. This 12 acre complex was sponsored in large part by Robert Mondavi, and so brings some tourism back into the city of Napa. But, this ambitious project seemed to be an over-reach financially. The recent River Walk complex near the 3rd Street bridge has been more successful, and includes a much smaller Tourism Information Center.

After examining these tips on Napa, please read my pages and tips for St. Helena, Calistoga, Yountville, and Oakville for more advice regarding wine, food, and hospitality related activities within the Napa Valley wine country.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Napa has the most affordable lodging in the valley
  • Cons:Its still a drive away from the best of the Napa Valley
  • In a nutshell:Napa is the capital of America's Wine Region--check it out
  • Last visit to Napa: Feb 2006
  • Intro Updated Sep 4, 2011
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Reviews (21)

Comments (10)

  • kenHuocj's Profile Photo
    Jan 26, 2013 at 4:58 AM

    it's not from Napa, but try a Cathedral Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon from SAfrica ;-))) will be visiting again

  • travelgourmet's Profile Photo
    Apr 20, 2009 at 4:34 PM

    Hello Alan, Very in depth knowledge of the vine. Just a reminder or a wake up, Copia is not in business as of Nov, 2008. They dropped all employees without warning. Just shows that an elitist wine attraction needs more than a name to survive.

  • Jun 14, 2008 at 4:13 PM

    Thank you for your support! JV has moved to 301 First Street in Napa, directly accross the street from the old location. Customer Service customer_service@jvwine.com 301 First Street Napa,CA 94559 (707) 253-2624 Fax(707)226-5293 www.jvwine.com

  • Ewingjr98's Profile Photo
    Sep 23, 2007 at 9:52 PM

    Alan, I wasn't enamored with Napa, but then again I didn't try the wine. Will have to go back for that reason. The wine train sounds like a good way to see the wine region.

  • TheWanderingCamel's Profile Photo
    Jul 19, 2007 at 12:31 AM

    Very informative page with loads of good advice from someone with indepth local knowledge - invaluable! leyle

  • SLLiew's Profile Photo
    Feb 12, 2007 at 5:23 AM

    In-depth and inside information of Napa and wineries. Great page. Bring back fond memories of wine tasting at Napa.

  • Oct 13, 2006 at 11:12 PM

    By reading your tips on Napa, I see that it is very famous for its winery, and not that far from Merced if it is 20 min from Vallejo. Carneros Creek Winery seems like a great place,especially reading that it has great selections of older vintages. Eng41

  • Oct 10, 2006 at 3:54 PM

    I learned quite a few things about Napa. For instace i did not know that the loudspeaker was invented in Napa. Trefethen Winery sparks my interest. Good thing Napa is not far away from Merced. Guillermo Hernandez Engl. 41 MW 10-11

  • Bavavia's Profile Photo
    May 8, 2006 at 5:21 PM

    I may try the Silverado next time, i see it in the wine store, but dont remember trying it . I think i will next time!

  • mary2u99's Profile Photo
    May 5, 2006 at 9:37 PM

    Alan...I do enjoy California wine... I should come and try some wine from here someday. :-) You added more tips.

atufft Used To Live Here!


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