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California's Wine Country - The Napa Valley

California's Wine Country - The Napa Valley

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California's Wine Country - The Napa Valley

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160 pages
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Jul 5, 2012


When you think of California Wine Country, the Napa Valley is most likely the first region that comes to mind. If you’re imagining a lush valley with bright vineyards rolling into the distance, historic wineries nestled in the trees, and quaint towns with
Jul 5, 2012

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California's Wine Country - The Napa Valley - Lisa Manterfield

California’s Wine Country:

The Napa Valley

Lisa Manterfield

Hunter Publishing, Inc.

To Jose

For the good life


Picture rolling hills, with long rows of vineyards trailing off into the distance. Imagine the early morning sun filtering through a low veil of mist. Think of historic stone buildings perched on hillsides overlooking the valley below, and you can form a picture of Wine Country.

No matter where you’re visiting from, Wine Country has the ability to transport you, for however long you’re staying, to a bucolic world, where exceptional wine flows freely and world-class cuisine is the expected norm. It’s almost impossible not to relax and unwind here.

Spring vineyards

Even if you don’t come for the wine and the food, Wine Country has something to offer almost every visitor. If you’re an outdoor-type, you’ll find beautiful state parks for hiking, biking, and nature watching, or you can take to the water and paddle your way down scenic rivers. If history is more your thing, you’ll know that the region played an important role in the history of California, and you’ll find several historic sites to visit.

And if you just want to relax and indulge in some personal spoiling, Wine Country has spas, luxury hotels, limousine tours, and boutique shopping.

Whether you visit for a weekend or a week, Wine Country has plenty to offer, no matter where your tastes lie.

About Wine Country

More than a dozen counties throughout California produce wine, but the North Coast region is by far the best-known. Four counties make up this region: Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, and Lake. Of these, Napa – or more accurately, the Napa Valley – is the most famous. Consequently, it’s the busiest and most commercialized of the regions, but it shouldn’t be missed. It’s a relatively compact region, so it’s easy to plan a tasting route. You’ll find excellent restaurants and a broad range of accommodations, from luxury resorts to homey B&Bs. Many famous winemakers call Napa Valley home, and you can still find undiscovered gems in small boutique wineries all around the valley.

Napa Valley vineyard

North Coast winemaking began in Sonoma County, and this region has managed to maintain much of its country living feel. The wineries here are spread over several areas, so your route may take a little more planning, but it’s easy to find both major producers and small, family-run operations. Sonoma may not have the glitz of Napa, but its wines rival any. Aside from wine and food, Sonoma also offers plenty of activities for visitors. You can visit the Russian River, redwoods, and, of course, the stunning Sonoma Coast.

Mendocino County sits just north of Sonoma County and seems almost to have shunned the tourist industry. Not that visitors aren’t made welcome. Tasting rooms are friendly and seldom crowded, and you’ll find little pretentiousness here. You will, however, find good food and wonderful wines, in fact several renowned Napa Valley winemakers also own wineries in the region. There are fewer accommodations in this region, and some visitors opt to stay in northern Sonoma County or on the stunning Mendocino Coast, and drive into the Anderson Valley and other Mendocino wine regions.

A Brief History of Wine Country

Russian settlers first planted grapes at Fort Ross on the Sonoma Coast in 1812. More than a decade later, the Sonoma Mission was founded, and Father Jose Altamira planted several thousand vines, presumably for the making of sacramental wines. Over the hill in Napa, George Yount began planting grapes in 1838 in what is now known as Yountville. It wasn’t until 1857, when a Hungarian Count by the name of Agoston Haraszthy founded the Buena Vista winery in Sonoma, that California’s wine industry was born. A few years later Charles Krug founded Napa’s first winery in St. Helena.

By the 1920s, the region was home to around 500 wineries with over 22,000 acres of planted vineyards in Sonoma County alone, but Prohibition was just around the corner. Although many winemakers went underground, making wine in their homes, and others weathered the period by producing only sacramental wines for the church, by the end of Prohibition, less than 100 wineries survived.

By the 1960s, Americans began to develop a taste for wine and the industry grew steadily, but it wasn’t until the 70s that California, and more specifically the Napa Valley, rocketed to winemaking fame.

In 1976 a British wine merchant living in Paris made a stunning claim that California wines could rival their illustrious French counterparts. He put his preposterous idea to the test by selecting 12 California wines and pitting them head-to-head with their French equivalents in a blind tasting by nine revered French judges. The outcome, as one wine journalist wrote, was like a vinous shot heard around the world as the 1973 Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon took the red wine category and the 1973 Chateau Montelena

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