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Napa is the capital of California's wine country and offers a tantalizing culinary experience. Here, visitors pamper their taste buds with gourmet cuisine and passels of full-bodied wines from the valley. The trendy local boutiques and designer stores afford hours of retail therapy, while the many spas that dot the city offer relaxing massages and world-class beauty treatments that rejuvenate and refresh. Cultural experiences abound, and the city is home to museums and art galleries showcasing contemporary talent. Festivals and fairs like the Napa Wine & Crafts Fair make for an interesting exposé on the local culture and food preferences and draw crowds looking to savor a gourmet experience matched by few in the world.
Hop on this train and experience a first-class meal and fine wines as you tour wine county. The train offers a champagne brunch, casual lunches and fancy dinners. It is ideal for romantic dinners, executive parties and tourist excursions. The train's decor is elegant, though daytime travels are casual. Take in the sights both outdoor and indoor: mahogany, brass and etched glass in the restored 1917 Pullman Dining Car. At the McKinstry Street Station starting point, you will find a handful of charming little shops that specialize in wine (of course), gourmet foods and gifts.
This majestic Napa winery features a wine-making museum and an array of champenoise sparkling wines for you to try. It was started in 1991 and specializes in Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Its 1991 Reserve and a 1992 Blanc de Blancs are exclusive to the winery tasting room. The 40 million dollar wine-making facility sits on a hilltop and offers panoramic views of Napa Valley. Sit in a peaceful courtyard and enjoy a reflecting pool, sculpture, and fountains.
Take an unforgettable hot air balloon ride over the Napa Valley. A typical adventure includes an hour-long balloon ride with your pilot narrating the sights, followed by a garden champagne-brunch. Launches begin at sunrise. Enjoy incredible aerial views of Napa vineyards. Rates vary, call for details.
Robert Mondavi is one of the most renowned vintners in Napa County, producing affordable and complex wines. The Robert Mondavi Winery offers several tasting tours varying in depth and price. The Taste of Wine is a two-hour formal tasting dedicated to training your palate as well as learning about various wine characteristics. Reservations are required all tours and tastings. In addition, the winery hosts countless concerts, art exhibits and community events. Visit the website for details on tours, tastings and events.
Founded in 1973 by former photographer Jack Cakebread, this winery has produced a plethora of award-winning vintages. The winery produces 85,000 cases annually and is best known for its classic rich Rutherford Cabernets, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The entire family is involved with the winery operation, which includes promoting healthy food. The Cakebreads founded the American Harvest Workshop, an annual four-day event that promotes local agriculture and involves chefs, winemakers and farmers. The family also sells organic produce grown on winery grounds when available. Tours and tastings are by prior appointment only.
Founded as Inglenook in 1880, the historic Rubicon Estate has the honor of being one of the few remaining family-owned wine estates of its magnitude in existence. It is comprised of 235 acres (95 hectares) of organically certified vineyards, and is located in Napa Valley's Rutherford appellation. Rubicon Estate is home to the region's most famous Chateau and Rubicon—the estate's flagship wine. Dominated by a special clone of Cabernet Sauvignon that can be traced back to the original vineyard plantings of 1880, Rubicon is a Bordeaux blend that reflects the unique terrain of this property. In addition to the collection of award-winning wines, Rubicon Estate offers an array of tours and tastings, some historical, others are hands-on and interactive. From guided walks through the vineyard to barrel sample tasting in the cellar, the property's tour guides are experts at creating dynamic wine experiences for all guests. The estate also is home to the Centennial Museum housing memorabilia from Francis Ford Coppola's movies.
The Petaluma Wildlife & Natural Science Museum has a huge collection of taxidermied animals as well as live animals, and is open to the public every Saturday. The property also includes an aviary, dioramas, and a fossil and mineral collection.
Robert Louis Stevenson Museum hosts an exhibit of Robert Louis Stevenson ephemera such as 8000 manuscripts, photos, letters and the like. It is, in fact, one of the largest collections of Robert Louis Stevenson's works outside of Scotland and a must-see for fans of his work. Virtually all of his first editions are here. Stevenson spent his honeymoon in the area and wrote The Silverado Squatters.
Beringer Vineyards has been in the wine-making business for more than 125 years. With a combination of modern technology and traditional methods, it produces some great blends. Pinot Grigio, Sparkling White Zinfandel, Alluvium Blanc, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon are some of the wines produced. The store sells items such as two bottle wine boxes with handle, wine cellar tags, Beringer wine tasting wheel and much more. You can choose to join any of the four wine clubs.
This national park is the preserved home of one of the United States' most famous naturalists and conservationists, John Muir. Muir, who passed away in 1914, founded the Sierra Club and is considered the father of the National Parks system. The site consists of Muir's 17-room Victorian mansion and surrounding fruit ranch, his gravesite, the Martinez Adobe, and the recently added Mount Wanda area that features the John Muir Nature Trail. Take the self-guided tour of the grounds. There are special events around Christmas and on John Muir's birthday, April 21.
The CIA's (Culinary Institute of America) West Coast campus resides in the former home of the Christian Brothers winery—an imposing three-story building over a hundred years old. This is a masters-level training center for working, certified chefs. Visitors can take part in cooking demonstrations and sample the chef's creation. Visit the website for demonstration times and days. CIA's Campus Store stocks an impressive supply of cookware and cookbooks for the serious cook. You may also want to dine at the campus Wine Spectator Greystone restaurant—the view of St. Helena from the terrace is grand.