Our day in Napa starts with breakfast at the Model Bakery in nearby St Helena. We’ve read that they have a stellar raspberry croissant, so of course we have to try it, along with a cheese Danish and a pecan roll. Coffee for the daughter and tea for me complete the repast, although I look longingly at their artisan breads.
After a leisurely breakfast, we head north along highway 29 to absorb the scenery before absorbing any wine. Wineries are all around, many with imposing tasting rooms. But the acres of vineyards and other crops once again remind us that, tourist appeal apart, California is an agricultural state of major importance. Beachcalifornia.com tells us:
California has been the number one food and agricultural producer in the United States for more than 50 consecutive years.
California is the nation’s number one dairy state.
California’s leading commodity is milk and cream. Grapes are second.
California’s leading export crop is almonds.
Nationally, products exclusively grown (99% or more) in California include almonds, artichokes, dates, figs, kiwifruit, olives, persimmons, pistachios, prunes, raisins, clovers, and walnuts.
From 70 to 80% of all ripe olives are grown in California.
California is the nation’s leading producer of strawberries, averaging 1.4 billion pounds of strawberries or 83% of the country’s total fresh and frozen strawberry production. Approximately 12% of the crop is exported to Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, Hong Kong and Japan primarily. The value of the California strawberry crop is approximately $700 million with related employment of more than 48,000 people.
California produces 25% of the nation’s onions and 43% of the nation’s green onions.
Gilroy, California, “Garlic Capitol of the World,” has hosted 2 million at the annual Gilroy Garlic Festival.
The bottom line, however, is that Napa is wine country, and with over 400 wineries in Napa and hundreds more in Sonoma, the next valley over, choices are virtually unlimited. We had a recommendation from my boss and one from a friend of Shannon’s, but we also look online for additional possibilities. We come up with a clear winner: Pride Mountain. They do tours and tastings by appointment only, but we’re able to get in as soon as we can arrive. The road winds up and up the mountainside, emerging eventually at a winery that straddles the county line. Part of it is in Napa, the other in Sonoma. That makes for two sets of books and lots of work but amazing wines.
Pride Mountain has man-made caves, something most wineries here do not. Our guide is knowledgeable and enjoyable, so the time passes quickly and all too soon we’re off with our purchased bottle.
Lunch and another tasting are next at V. Santui, a winery that offers not only tastings, but food, a place for picnicking, and almost anything else wine-related you can think of. In contrast to Pride, it’s packed with people, as no appointment is necessary and it’s also along the main highway. They make more than 65 wines, none of which can be found in stores, only online, at the winery, or via their wine club. The young woman who does our tasting is not particularly interested in anything beyond parroting the party line about each wine, which makes the experience less than good and proving once again the importance of good customer service!
Our tasting day ends at Elyse, a small winery with delicious products. Even though we’ve only done three tastings, the amount of wine, small though it seems, adds up and we’re definitely done for the day. We head back to our B&B and then into the town of Napa itself to explore a bit and look for some dinner.