Time of year for Napa tour?
My husband and I are trying to figure out vacations, and we are wondering if there is a good and/or bad time of year to tour through Napa? Also, would 3-4 days be enough there or are we going to be sad that we didn't spend more time?
I assume by Napa you are talking wine country as Napa is my least favorite, and to me, the least attractive part of that area. Plan at least one day in Sonoma, if you can get there in September, stop by the Tuesday night farmers market. The towns north of Napa, especially Healdsburg are lovely.
I would say that summer is the least favorite time, even mid-week when there are fewer crowds, because the heat can get oppressive.
Growing up in the Northeast, I love Jan-Mar in Wine country with the hills green, the mustard in full bloom, the orchards in blossom. No after-holiday let down slogging through dirty snowy slush. It is quieter and the area is given back to the locals.
However, I would choose September/October. Not only can you see the grapes on the vine, but all of the summer harvest is available. The menus are the most interesting to me and you can still visit the farmers markets. The grape vines in full color are beautiful, but IMO, September in Sonoma is the best.
Personaly four days is enough for me. There's only so may wineries I can take at a time.
Much depends on how you define good or bad. If you want to avoid crowds, come in the early part of the year (Jan-Mar). It might be rainy, might not, but the mustard is in bloom and everything is lush and green making a stark and dramatic contrast to the grey skies. There are fewer crowds and tasting rooms are quieter. The downside is that the vines are dormant, so you won't see grapes.
Fall is a beautiful time to visit, as we do get some fall color, the light changes and the sunsets can be really gorgeous, and harvest creates a great deal of excitement. The hills will still be brown unless we have gotten some recent rain. It is busy during harvest with many visitors, big trucks on the road hauling grapes, and winery folks that have worked 31 days straight and are running alternately on caffeine and beer. Due to some cool bouts this summer, harvest will still be happening right up to November this year. If you plan to come in fall of this year start making your reservations asap as things fill up.
A visit of 3-4 days will give you a good taste of Napa. Don't try to cram in any more than 2-3 winery visits a day, which should still leave time for eating, shopping, enjoying a spa treatment, and just relaxing.
I agree with all that fall is a wonderful, uncrowded time in the Valley. But if that doesn't work out, February can be just as nice ... vines are just starting to green up, mustard grass is in full bloom, and the Valley is even more uncrowded and relaxed than in the fall. Weather can be dicey, tho ... can be sunny, beautiful and in the 70s all week, or it can be overcast and rainy. If you manage to catch a sunny week, which are not that uncommon that time of year, its a real treat.
October and November are fantastic since the leaves are changing, usually there is harvesting... there is also a great food and wine festival the first weekend of november that is wonderful in which about 100 wineries participate serving a dish that is paired with one of their wines. you can find more info on their website... www.wineroad.com
Hands down, the most beautiful time of year to visit is around Thanksgiving weekend. The harvest is over (no more crowds) but the wineries are working hard turning all that juice into wine.
As opposed to the height of the tourist season (June through October), the hills surrounding the valley are brown and dull and the vines are all green. By fall, the hills have turned a beautiful lush green but the contrast is that the vines are on fire with red, orange, and yellow. It is California's version of fall colors and it is stunning. Also, with the onset of great fall vegetables and game meat, I believe the restaurants start serving enlightened cuisine.
By January, the leaves have entirely fallen off the vines and look barren, staying that way until April or May.
If given an opportunity, try and visit in the fall... <sigh>
If you can, I would wait until after Labor Day. The crowds will be down plus crush will probably have started which is an exciting time of the year in the valley. I would think 3-4 days would be enough time for a fun visit. You won't get to see everything but can certainly have a very good time both visiting wineries and eating.
It would be my guess that you will want to return once you visit. We live in the bay area and still go to Napa at least once a month. And, of course, there's also Sonoma which is also very pretty and full of excellent wineries.