First Visit to Napa Valley in the Fall
Jason Daniel Shaw
NAPA VALLEY – CALIFORNIA
Our first trip to Napa Valley was over Thanksgiving weekend and the autumn colors made the trip that much more spectacular! Even though we had done our research in advance, all of the hills and wineries were filled with yellows and oranges and reds which made it hard to decide where to stop. Amanda loves wines and generated an agenda based upon the different wineries that she wanted to visit. My agenda was based upon taking photos throughout the colorful region.
DOMAINE CARNEROS WINERY – NAPA VALLEY
Our first stop of the day was at Domaine Carneros Winery. Amanda had done a lot of research on which wineries that she wanted to visit before our trip and this was one of her favorites since they are known for their sparkling white wines. Being our first time in Napa Valley, we were excited to get started so we headed straight inside for a wine tasting. Unfortunately, due to our packed schedule, we opted to just do the tasting and not the full tour. However, the winery is beautiful and probably deserves a return visit for the full tour. The tasting came with generous portions of many different wines, all of them great. I only had a sip as I was the designated driver for the day. We did end up buying a bottle to bring home with us.
To my delight, we started taking photos during the tasting as Amanda started to feel the effects of the wine. Afterwards, we spent some time walking around the winery and taking photos in the grapevines and of the surrounding hills. It was then time to continue onto our next destination.
WELCOME TO NAPA VALLEY
We decided to take some of the backroads through the hills as we made our way to the Welcome to Napa Valley sign instead of the main highway so that we could enjoy the views. I am so glad that we did because we came across a couple vineyards that had such vibrant colors that we had to stop. The yellow vines and the red vines were brilliant and contested perfectly with the surrounding hills. I would highly recommend taking the backroads as you venture through the region, you never know what you might find. We made it to the Welcome to Napa Valley sign and took the compulsory photo before moving on to the next stop – my pick.
FAR NIENTE WINERY – NAPA VALLEY
As I always do, some of my research was done through my Instagram. I found that the road to Far Niente Winery was a winding road lined with beautiful yellow trees. I had to go to take photos. I was not prepared for how truly beautiful and rich with photo opportunities that it was. First, we went to the winery itself which was also spectacular. We didn’t have time to do a tasting and tour but will be back for sure to visit them.
After doing a quick walk around their grounds, we made our way back to the start of the road and took some photos. I could have spent the rest of the day there taking pictures and still not run out of ideas. It was one of my favorite stops but we had to keep moving on.
INGLENOOK VINEYARD – NAPA VALLEY
The next stop was another unplanned one because as we were driving up Highway 29, there was another of these beautiful tree-lined driveways that I had to make a u-turn and stop at. It happened to be Inglenook Vineyard. They had a wrought-iron gate that made it look even more impressive. It was a quick stop, just for the photo.
CASTELLO DI AMOROSA – NAPA VALLEY
Our last stop of the day was our most anticipated one – Castello di Amorosa. It is an authentically-styled 13th century Tuscan castle set in the hills of Napa Valley. We knew that in addition to the wine tasting, we wanted to take a tour. We bought our tickets which included a guided tour, self-exploration of the castle and the wine tasting. We set out to explore the castle on our own until the guided tour started. If you don’t have time for the full tour, I suggest at least doing the self-exploration. However, the guided tour and tasting was incredible!
The castle is so authentic and was built with such detail that once you are inside, it is hard to tell whether you are in Italy or Napa Valley. There is a dungeon and what seems like endless caves under the castle that house the wine barrels. After the tour, we were led to a cave where we enjoyed many of the wines that are made at the castle. I am not a red wine drinker, or I wasn’t before the tasting, but I enjoyed every wine that we tried there. One of the unique things about Castello di Amorosa Wines is that you can’t buy their wines in stores, only at the castle or through their wine club.
FIRST TRIP TO NAPA VALLEY
It was the perfect end to a great day exploring Napa Valley. It was our first trip to the region but certainly won’t be our last. I would love to hear recommendations for our future trips, whether they are for the wines or the photos and possibly some for Sonoma Valley as well. You can comment here or contact me over on Instagram. Check out our train ride up from Los Angeles along the coast and our rainy Black Friday in San Francisco and stay tuned for the rest of our trip, including, hiking Alamere Falls at sunset and exploring Marin County.