Why You Should Go to Napa Valley This Autumn

Six reasons fall is the season to visit the legendary wine region.

Why You Should Go to Napa Valley This Autumn

Autumn in Napa Valley means it’s harvest time. Learning the ways of winemaking is only one of the many things to do in the area this fall.

Courtesy of Visit Napa Valley/Bob McClenahan

Fall in Napa Valley is one of the most exciting times of year to visit. Harvest season in the wine region spans from August to October, bringing with it interesting ways to engage with the winetasting experience. Yes, it’s the busiest time to visit, but come mid-October, colorful fall foliage transforms the vineyards (drive down Silverado Trail for some of the prettiest vistas). Here are six reasons to take a trip to Napa Valley this fall.

Attend the Napa Valley Film Festival

The ninth annual Napa Valley Film Festival from November 13 to 17, 2019, brings together film, food, and wine—what’s not to love? When you aren’t watching independent documentaries, narrative shorts, or one of the other four competitive film categories, savor film-inspired dishes by top chefs and sip boutique wines between screenings. The festival also presents a distinctive way to explore different towns in Napa Valley; participants have opportunities to watch films at historic cinemas and other venues in Napa, Yountville, and St. Helena.

Soak on your private terrace with a glass of wine in Auberge du Soleil’s newly designed private maisons.

Soak on your private terrace with a glass of wine in Auberge du Soleil’s newly designed private maisons.

Courtesy of Auberge du Soleil/Trinette + Chris

Abscond in your hotel suite

Who says you need to limit yourself to wine drinking in Napa Valley? Discover a luxurious hotel hideaway. Auberge du Soleil has recently unveiled its redesigned Private Maisons, Cannes and Monaco. In the two-bedroom, two-bath suites, guests can luxuriate in 1,800 feet of privacy and enjoy the views overlooking vineyards, mountains, and the hotel’s gardens. Nightly rates for the private maisons begin at $5,225.

Enjoy Napa Valley fare—with a twist

With a huge concentration of award-winning restaurants, including six Michelin-starred eateries, there’s no dearth of options for incredible meals. But this fall, travelers can give back to the community and have a chance to play food critic. On November 18 at Archer Hotel Napa, chefs who are part of the Charlie Palmer Collective of restaurants (among them Napa’s Charlie Palmer Steak, nearby Healdsburg’s Dry Creek Kitchen, and Las Vegas’s Aureole) will each select a recipe from the American Fare cookbook and put their own spin on it; wine comes from Napa Valley’s esteemed cabernet producers. Guests will judge which chef nailed it, and proceeds will benefit the Children’s Museum of Napa Valley. Tickets go on sale on September 18.

Take part in the harvest

Though Napa Valley is a wonderful destination year-round, certain experiences only happen during harvest time. On October 19, visitors to Conn Creek Winery in St. Helena can participate in the Great Grape Stomp—$75 will get you a chance to stomp grapes in a barrel, sip Conn Creek wine, dance to live music (preferably not while stomping), and taste harvest-inspired food. Reservations are available until September 9.

Or if you want to know more about the ins and outs of modern winemaking, head to Round Pond Estate in Rutherford on October 5 for its annual “Day in the Life of a Winemaker” experience. Start off with fresh scones and sparkling wine in the olive grove, then take part in hands-on lessons in wine production, like learning to identify which grapes are ready for harvest; end the afternoon with a leisurely lunch next to the estate’s garden. Tickets are still available, but reservations are required; $250 for nonmembers.

Join the harvest parties

So you’ve learned how wine gets made and you’ve stomped your share of grapes. Now it’s time to live it up at one of the many harvest shindigs! At V. Sattui’s Harvest Ball on September 14 in St. Helena, get decked out in your finest attire for a multi-course dinner prepared by Michelin-starred Italian chef Stefano Masanti (paired with the winery’s top-tiered wines). Dance the night away to a live band, and don’t forget about the after-party in the underground Barrel Cellars. $285 for nonmembers.

Get gussied up for the annual V. Sattui Harvest Ball

Get gussied up for the annual V. Sattui Harvest Ball

Photo courtesy of V. Sattui/Joanna Salazar

For something a little more low-key, go to Rutherford Hill’s Barn Bash on September 15 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Barbecue fare paired with Rutherford Hill and Terlato Vineyard wines will fill you up for lunch, and live music in its Oak Grove will keep you grooving. $85 for nonmembers.

Celebrate Napa Valley history

This summer, 1881 Napa, the valley’s first wine history museum, opened. Housed in a landmark Victorian home built in—you guessed it—1881, that also functioned as the oldest continuously operating grocery in California, the museum showcases winemaking artifacts from the 18th and 19th centuries. It also serves as a tasting salon highlighting Napa Valley’s 16 sub-appellations. Guests can try an “Opposites Attract” tasting that allows comparison of cabernets among four different AVAs or one that teaches the difference between the tastes of wines from cooler areas and those from warmer ones.

For something a little less didactic, make your way to St. Helena for a visit to the Louis M. Martini winery. It originally opened in 1933, after the repeal of Prohibition, as one of Napa Valley’s first wineries; in March of 2019, it completed a two-year restoration and visitors can now enjoy new facilities—and new offerings. Try a seasonal outdoor cabana tasting with bottle service, or sip through its selections in the new tasting room.

>>Next: Plan Your Trip With AFAR’s Guide to Napa Valley

Sara Button is a writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience.
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