Just when you think Napa Valley can’t get any better, she starts to shed her leaves and metamorphose into a brilliant Autumnal paradise. As a girl who grew up being spoiled by Fall in New England, you bet I can appreciate that time of year when the leaves get crunchy and the air becomes crisp. Never could I imagine a place like Napa to recreate those warm childhood memories of Autumn bliss, yet it truly does. Here are my top reasons why I fell in love with Fall in Napa Valley.
1. The Harvest Activities
I moved to Napa Valley earlier this year to give wine more prominence in my life and career. I wanted to live near the vines to experience firsthand the lifecycle of the grape. So when I discovered that Grigich Hills Estate was kicking off their grape stomping season, you bet I was the first person in line (seriously).
Holding the skirt of my dress to one side, I climbed into a barrel of freshly picked grapes just waiting to be pressed. I excitedly hopped in place, releasing bright grape juice from the clusters beneath my feet. The stomping was a little wet, a little squishy, and a whole lot of fun! Once my feet were covered in purple grape must, I stepped out of the barrel and onto a keepsake t-shirt. Only a few minutes of drying in the sun and it was ready for wearing!
This experience is offered at Grigich from mid August through Halloween and is a great introduction to the harvest season for any newcomers in Napa Valley.
2. The Brilliant Colors
Vineyards and country drives become a vivid display of the colors and textures that accompany this time of year. Richly hued golds and garnets spread from tree tops making their way to the lowest bough as the days get chillier. The breeze from San Pablo Bay eventually shakes the leaves to the ground, leaving a visual feast for all who walk by.
One of my favorite locations for enjoying spectacular Fall foliage was the hidden driveway leading to Far Niente Winery in Oakville. Although beautiful all year-round, there’s something about this tree-lined drive in the warm light of a Fall afternoon that just takes the cake.
3. The First Rain
Early November brought magnificent low gathering clouds and refreshing rains to the valley. The first rain shower after our dry, hot summer revitalized everything and everyone – inspiring the first sprouts of winter’s cover crop to peep through vineyard floors. A carpet of green now covers the rows, adding some color to the bare canes above.
Vineyards have shed their canopies and are ready for a winter slumber. While dormant, vineyard crews will begin to carefully prune the vines to shape the yield for next year. Winter is coming!
4. The Mild Weather
Fall in Napa Valley brings a welcome morning chill and comfortable afternoon warmth. It’s the perfect time of year to explore this beautiful wine region. The locals have coined this cozy time of year, “Cabernet Season.” Running from late Fall through early Spring, Cabernet Season is Napa Valley’s best kept secret. Travelers can experience a lesser known side of Napa Wine Country from the rolling hills of the Southern Carneros region to the northern reaches of Calistoga. Milder temperatures inspire local chefs to create menus with heartier fare, making it the perfect time to drink the region’s finest red wines, namely Cabernet Sauvignon.
5. The Slower Pace
As the commotion from the harvest season comes to an end so too does the weekend traffic. Wines begin to age in the cellar, winemakers can finally take a much needed vacation, and Napa Valley settles into her finest colors. The atmosphere of the valley shifts and takes on a leisurely pace. As a local, this has become my favorite time to venture to new wineries and restaurants. While reservations are still recommended, overall it is easier to snag a table at the place you’ve been dying to try. Off-season is on in Napa Valley!
Cheers to a remarkable Fall season and to happy holiday season ahead! I can’t wait to see what the New Year will bring for me in life in Napa Valley.