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San Francisco's Top 10 : The Wine Country (part 1)

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The world-famous Wine Country comprises two picturesque valleys, Napa and Sonoma, and the extensive hills and dales surrounding them. Altogether, this bucolic zone boasts over 300 wineries, from which countless award-winning wines have emerged. Napa, the slightly more distant of the two, is more developed for visitors, while Sonoma is more low-key but equally inviting. Both are convenient for a day trip, but it’s worth spending a day or two here – not only to sample the fruit of the vine but also to take a dip in one of the rejuvenating hot springs that abound throughout the area (see Wine Country Spas).

Napa Valley Wine Train

Clos Pegase

Sterling Vineyard

Opus One

Domaine Chandon

Hess Collection

V Sattui

Beringer Vineyards

“Old Faithful” Geyser


California Wine

Since 1857, wine-making has been the mainstay of this area. A phylloxera blight in the early 1900s nearly put an end to it all, but Europe was hit harder, and it was resistant California vines that brought back the wine business to parts of Italy, France, and Spain. In 1976 California wines were put on the international map, when they trounced France in a blind taste-test in Paris. Now, many European producers have wineries in the valley.


Map of the Wine Country

Napa Valley sign

For very special snacks try the Model Bakery at

1357 Main Street in St Helena
.

The Napa Valley Wine Train costs $49.50 for a round trip, but for the gourmet meal the cost rises to $89 (lunch) and $97 (dinner).




Top 10 Sights
  1. Napa Valley Train

    Leaving from Napa and arriving in St. Helena, or vice versa, you can avoid the traffic and partake of a gourmet meal complemented by local wines. The trip takes 3 hours each way and the train features a 1915 Pullman dining car.

  2. Sonoma

    This appealing town, nestled in the Valley of the Moon, is filled with high-end restaurants, small hotels, and shops. The town also features a State Historic Park with a mission building and structures from the early to mid-1800s.

  3. Clos Pegase

    Housed in an award-winning Postmodern structure, this beguiling winery offers free tours and features an extensive collection of modern art. The wine is memorable, too – specialties include Cabernet, Merlot, and Petite Syrah port.

  4. Sterling Vineyard

    These whitewashed buildings perched on top of a mountain can be seen for miles. The self-guided tour is well marked. Notable wines include Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

  5. Opus One

    Legendary winemaker Robert Mondavi and Baron Philippe de Rothschild have put their skills together to produce Bordeaux-style reds in their state-of-the-art facilities, modeled on the Château Mouton Rothschild winery in France.

  6. Domaine Chandon

    Lovely gardens, a fine restaurant, and sweeping views complement the sparkling, champagne-style wines of this Moët Hennessy showcase. The winery produces 500,000 cases every year.

  7. Hess Collection

    The tours here are a pleasure, including not only wine-making facilities but also the owner’s private art gallery of contemporary European and American artists. The Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chardonnay are especially good.

  8. V Sattui

    Extensive gardens and a gourmet deli make this the ideal place along the main Napa Valley road to stop for a picnic. Also on offer are wine-tastings of lesser products free of charge – you have to pay for reserve tastings.

  9. Beringer Vineyards

    The oldest Napa Valley winery, established in 1876, and the most beautiful. Tours include a visit to the 1,000-ft (300-m) wine tunnels, which Chinese laborers carved out of volcanic stone.

  10. ”Old Faithful” Geyser

    One of only three known geysers in the world that erupt with near-perfect regularity. Every 40 minutes, it spews boiling water 60 ft (18 m) into the air.

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