Before you drive south to the city of Napa, stop by the Napa Valley Museum
in Yountville. The museum will give you a good historic overview, from the first pioneer winemakers in the 19th century to the phenomenal growth of the region in the last 50 years. In addition to the photos and artifacts in the permanent collection, the museum hosts temporary ones focused on local artists.
It’s only a few minutes by car to Napa, the “big city” in the valley, with a population of 80,000. Visit the Oxbow Public Market
to peruse its selection of produce, gifts by local craftsmen, and outposts of popular restaurants. It’s a good spot for a light lunch from places like the Hog Island Oyster Co. or the Model Bakery. Afterwards take a walk along Napa’s Riverfront
. On the west bank of the river, the development offers waterfront dining and shops in a project that brought some new excitement to downtown when it opened some 20 years ago. With everything from high fashion to casual cuisine, it continues to be a favorite of visitors.
An art of another sort lives on at Napa’s Seguin Moreau, where fourth-generation master cooper Douglas Rennie crafts wooden barrels used to age some of Napa Valley’s finest wines. The cooperage isn’t open to the public, so he encourages visitors to seek out such barrels at wineries like Opus One
, Far Niente
, Nickel and Nickel
, and Duckhorn
. “A lot of top wineries have them in beautiful showcase tasting rooms; it’s really a sight to see when you walk into a cave or cellar and there’s barrel after barrel of the traditional hoops.”
You might take him up on the advice and detour to Oakville for a tour of Opus One or Far Niente. While in the neighborhood, why not mix things up with an olive oil tasting at Round Pond Estate
in Rutherford (you did have a light lunch, after all). Come dinnertime, circle back to Oenotri
in Napa, where you’ll be greeted by the aroma of wood-fired pizzas, served along with house-made salumi and rustic Southern Italian dishes.