Which came first, the city or the wine? Did Napa Valley make the wine, or did the wine make Napa Valley? Napa Valley, known for it's wine, is one of the most popular places for people to visit on the earth. It is one of the most premier wine regions in the whole world, that is quite an impact. You might as well say it is #1 on tourist destinations, or close to it.
Lets get into some of the history of Napa Valley, California. You might all remember this area as being close to San Francisco during the hippie days. If you are too young to remember, it was a very happening spot back in the late 60's, and it still is. Only the locals knew about the wine until it gained world fame in 1976. This happened when it rose to 1st place, in the ranking of wine regions with France. The wine tasting contest took place in Paris, France. The person conducting the wine tasting event, thought it was a waste of time for California to enter, as everyone knew France was the “King of the Wines”. What a surprise, California wines took all of the winning spots. The local winery that put Napa Valley, on the map was Chateau Montelena.
If you are wanting to visit the grand-daddy of wines, this would be the place to hit. We were already enjoying the wine of Napa Valley, long before France came into the picture. The Paris wine tasting event was called “The Judgment of Paris”. There have been two movies made about this event, one is called Bottle Shock, and the other took on the name of the actual event. The first movie is the most note worthy. There is some controversy involving the second movie. Bottle Shock is a very good movie, full of action. You can find the trailers on the internet, if you would like to sample a taste of it.
At one point, the Valley was fruitful in many types of agriculture and crops. So, we are going to say that Napa came first, and the wine was hiding in the background, just waiting for the bountiful day to be the “King of Napa Valley”. The day came, and it became known as the best regional wine industry for all to enjoy.
It is also a very magical place, known for its wine all over the earth. Wine makes the heart merry. Napa Valley is a little warmer then some of the surrounding wine areas, and has a better growing season for such wines as Cabernet Sauvignon. You must be sure to taste of this. It is a red wine that grows better with age. The particular grapes that produce this have a low yield per vine, but are very hardy, and frost resistant. So the rarity of this wine, due to it's low yield is quite a treasure.
Napa County, home of Napa Valley, was one of the first counties in California. Incidentally, it became a county the same year as California reached its statehood, in the year of 1850. As if the 1976 incident was not enough, the Chateau Montelena has been placed on the Register of Historic Places, which means it is now recognized as one of the leading wine industries on an international scale.
A Short History of Napa Valley, California
We have already established that Napa Valley is famous world wide for its wine. We have also established that it is as old as the state of California. Lets break it down into a few categories regarding its history.
1. Who Founded Napa Valley?
• The name was most likely taken from a tribe of people whom lived in the area, in a place called Nappan Village. A lot of Native Americans lived here.
• Nathan Coombs laid out Napa City in 1856. The Valley was added later, but Napa City became the county seat, according to the Napa County historical society.
2. What were the first buildings?
• The first building was a saloon.
• The second building was a general store.
This is a good place to stop and talk about the GOLD RUSH in California. Where ever there is a gold rush, it seems the first buildings to go up are a saloon, and a general store. It is not known what kind of wine they served at the saloon, but it is sure the drinks were plenty. They had to have a general store so they could get staples, picks, shovels and all of the stuff that gold miners needed. There was plenty of gold to be found in the area.
The Gold Rush and the Silver Rush in California
The gold rush in California played a very big part in placing Napa Valley where it is now. Somehow the earth, the water and the gold miners knew that this was going to be the place with the fabulous wine. The gold was particularly strong around here, and it was tossed freely. The quicker they found it, the quicker they spent it. Up rose the saloon and the general store. Banks were quick to follow suit. Schools and churches were thrown out the door, in the time of the miners. This was a miner's town, and the gold had given everyone the gold fever. Right after the gold rush, a new rush started. Silver had been found in the Eastern Hills. From gold to silver, Napa found its self in the middle of the great silver rush. Workers from everywhere were flocking to Napa County to work in the silver mines.
Besides Beating Paris in Wine, And the Chateau Montelena Earning Recent Recognition as a Historic Place,
What Other Attractions Are There? Everyone knows that Napa Valley is famous for its great wine tasting tours, and wine festivals. Be sure to get a calendar of events if you visit, or plan to visit. Everyday is a special day in Napa Valley. Napa also has several sites on the computer because of their world wide fame. You can find out a lot about the wine tasting tours on the internet. It is sure to be one of the most interesting and fun times you have tasted of. Have you ever walked in a vineyard on a sunny day? What other highlights does the Valley have to offer? There are so many, it is almost impossible to touch.
- Don't forget your mountain bike, or whatever bike you prefer, and your hiking shoes. There are also bike rental places scattered here and there. Right near downtown, there is a park called Skyline Park, and it has miles of trails. As you are hiking and biking you will have fantastic views of downtown Napa and the valley. When you are ready to rest, find the glass of wine that suits you best, and enjoy the beautiful sunset as you sip some of the finest wine on the earth.
- If you are really into cycling, there is plenty for you here. You might like to try the Sip'n'Cycle. What is this? The Sip'N'Cycle is a wine tasting bike tour. Did you ever hear of such a thing? The bikes and helmets come with the package. A picnic lunch amongst the vineyards is also provided. The best part of the bicycle tour is riding through the vineyards. If you have never been in a vineyard, it is really something to see, almost of a holy nature.
- Kayaking trips are also available. If it is kayaking that you want to do, there is a place called Napa Valley Adventure Tours. They start the trip off with a gourmet meal. Besides kayaks, they also have hiking and bicycle tours.
- While you are there you should enjoy the Valley Art Gallery of the Napa Valley Art Association. You might even get some time to fit in some theater at the Uptown Theater Napa, they have the biggest names on their concert venue. You might also follow this with a gourmet dinner at one of the many luxurious places, with the finest of wine lists. We certainly do not want to leave out the famous Riverfront, which has gained the reputation of being the best in premiere dining, wine and arts across America.
- The motels are tremendous in Napa Valley. You should book ahead of time because as mentioned earlier, this is one of the top tourist destinations. There are hotels, bed and breakfasts, and inns to meet most every guest's needs. This includes budget needs also. There is a place for everyone here. Most of the motels have chauffeur services to the wineries, of which are many. I might add that you are also only a hop, skip, and a jump from San Francisco. If you have not checked out Mount St. Helena, a real live volcano, you should probably add that to your “must see” list. It is kind of like the “Disneyland” of wines. It is impossible to experience it all in one day. There is just so much to see.
- Almost all of the motels and hotels have spas and other luxurious amenities. You might like to try the Meadow Wood Napa Valley as your place to catch up on 40 winks amid all of the excitement. Do not let the simple name fool you. Once you get comfortable at Meadow Wood, you will not want to leave. You will want to spend the rest of your life in the comfort that awaits you. Something really special is the fact that they offer you Wine Education. You will go home as a connoisseur. In addition to this, as if that is not enough, they offer golf, tennis, croquet and other sports to engage in. And of course they have a spa and fine swimming and fitness facilities. • There are also numerous resorts and spas, which offer a complete package such as the Siverado Resort and Spa. You will find your perfect get-a-way here. If you are considering a honeymoon or an anniversary, this would be quite the happening place.
- Something else that is very interesting, is the fact that you can purchase any supplies you could possibly need for making wine. If you do not move here after finding this out, at least take home what you will need, to make your own wine. Hopefully it will be California wine, because it has been proven by France, that Californians make the best wine. We already knew that, before they told us. After a sip of Napa Valley wine, you will know we are winners. Who knows, you might return home as a professional wine maker. Make sure to stock up on your Wine Making Supplies, while you are in Napa Valley.
- You can also take a limo tour of Napa Valley which includes all the best places to go as far as wine tasting, vineyards, and wine rooms. A suggested place to start is the elegant Napa Valley Limo Tour. Not only can you take a limo tour, Napa Valley is famous for its Wine Train. The Chateau Montelena Winery, will blow you away to see the Gothic type structure, more like a castle from Harvard, that serves as their headquarters or home. It is listed on the National Historic Register. This has put the Chateau on the international maps. It helped to win in the French competition in 1976, but we are talking now. There is a lovely waterway, or large pond with arched bridges. There are actually swans swimming on the water, just like you have stepped into some fantastic painting. We all deserve a chance to partake of this other world.
- As a matter of fact, when one is telling about Napa Valley, the Chateau Montelena is a story as unique as ever, and deserves to have a whole book written on it. There is even a shrine built there. The actual winery has been there since the late 1800's, but it was put on the map in 1976. Locals, mostly unique type people from San Francisco and professors from Berkeley knew about it long before the French people did. Drinking a bottle of wine from the Napa Valley was something that the hippies appreciated also. A lot of wine orientated communes sprang up in this area.
Lets talk about Jade Lake
At one time the Chateau, as we shall call the Chateau Montelena, was quite neglected. Its glory faded into the rambling wilderness. It became overgrown with all kinds of native plants and weeds. Its fabulous past as a winery of Christian descent, complete with statutes had fallen into ruins. The Chateau fared well because it is built of the most solid materials, but the grounds had gone to ruins. Big changes were in the tidings as a Chinese man and his wife discovered the hidden beauties in the 1950's. The Chinese man was inspired by his homeland to make a lake, and Chinese gardens. This is how the beautiful Jade Lake came about. Today the gardens still exist, and have become a sanctuary, along with the lake. Weeping willow trees sweep the ground with their lovely branches. The Chateau has become home for many animals. The lake is over flowing with several varieties of fish. The beautiful Jade Lake has become a living source, full of life, offering of its cool waters a drink to many a thirsty animal. It is also a feast for one's eyes.
The Caves of the Chateau, and Others There are many wine caves in Napa Valley. Actually wine caves have become something that constructing investors are paying serious heed to. There are many caves for wine in the Napa area, and most of them are mapped out using the latest in technology. The caves use to be a place of secrecy and solemness, but now many are open to the public. Many of the caves have actual wine tastings. Barrels are stored in the tunnels, and caves, which are located beneath the actual Chateau. The Chateau is a place that was created for wine making. The Chateau is located at the base of Mount St. Helena, which is actually a volcano, so all of the caves and tunnels have very unusual patterns and markings on their walls. The natural caves were originally used to age the wine. Now entire wine making facilities are being built under ground, especially in the Napa Valley Area. It is an economical way to use construction of a cave or tunnel to your advantage. The temperature always remains the same. There are many ways that this process of an industry can be very ecology friendly. It could be a little bit nerve racking, pertaining to the fact that Napa Valley is right at the base of Mount St. Helena. Scientifically this would just add to the excitement of your visit.
The Estate Room and the Tasting Room at the Chateau The tasting room is located on the top floor of the Chateau. When going to a wine tasting here, you will come upon a castle in the glades, by a beautiful lake, and in you will go to the ultimate in wine tasting paradise. There is a private library room, which is limited to about 8 guests. Here you can taste and buy wines not commonly available on the market.
Judgment in Paris, Historical Recognition, and a Beautiful Place Called Napa Valley
Can we have a retake on the 1976 Judgment in Paris? At the time, there were 10 seats of honor, and the judges were blindfolded. The judges were mostly French, with one American and a British person. California was considered a joke in the great wine tasting event. Well guess what? Off came the blindfolds, and to much surprise, what wines had taken the seats? California wines had taken all of the seats, with Napa Valley being the number one. You know what they did? They called for a re-match in 2006, the 30th anniversary of the original “Judgment in Paris”. And guess what happened? Well, you know, Napa Valley won again. This is because the valley cannot be beaten, when it comes to wine. Maybe it is the caves, or the tunnels that have the magic. Maybe it is the grapes that are magic.. Maybe it is a combination of all of these and more. What ever it is, it is turning out prize winning wines. There are several more honors bestowed upon Napa and its wine industry, which are not mentioned here, but it would be clearly worthy to research and share in the honors with them. The most recent is for the Chateau Montelena, having been added to the historic register as a historic winery. There are a lot of interesting things to do in Napa Valley, California. When you are there having fun at the spas, and all of the other entertainments offered, stop and look around you.