Nearly 90 percent of all American wines come out of California, four percent of which can claim roots in the fertile hills of Napa Valley, a destination known both for its varietals and its very picturesque setting. Though only 30 miles long and five miles across at its widest point, Napa Valley is home to a population of roughly 125,000 spread out between small cities like Napa, Yountville, St Helena and Calistoga. You can expect to find the area packed with like-minded oenophiles in summer and fall, but the mild climate makes this an entirely agreeable vacation spot even off season.
Napa, at the southern end of the valley, is the area's largest city (75,000) and a convenient place to base for a multi-day stay. Next to the north is the town of Yountville, home to the Napa Valley Museum, and Oakville, of note for its fine deli (the perfect place to find picnic fixings). Boutiques and a historic center are the draw cards of sophisticated St Helena, but visitors will also find fine dining opportunities, the Silverado Museum (with a focus on Robert Louis Stevenson) and an assortment of overnight accommodations on hand. Calistoga, at the northern end of the valley, gets less traffic than its Napa neighbors but, endowed with hot springs and mud-baths, definitely deserves a rejuvenating detour. While you're in the area, consider a sight-seeing excursion to one of the nearby state parks, the Petrified Forest and Old Faithful Geyser, which blows its top every 45 minutes.
Tasting your way around a selection of the several hundred local wineries might top your "to-do" list, but be sure to leave an afternoon or two free to sample some of the area's cultural offerings, from colorful markets and art galleries to hot springs and small museums. Regional operators offer a variety of unique Wine Country tours, including hot air balloon flights, bicycle-based trips, Napa Valley Wine Train rides and basic winery tours (designated driver included). Outdoors enthusiasts can enjoy independent outings along well-trod trails in Bothe-Napa Valley State Park or head to the top of Mt St Helena in Robert Louis Stevenson State Park for superb valley vistas.
Napa Valley is located north of the San Francisco Bay.