This Roadhead has done a bit of traveling and asphalt kicking in his time, but when it comes to the sheer galactic gravitational pull of tourism few regions can top the G-force of Northern California. It's a dazzling display of towering redwoods and sequoias -- every bit as impressive as the Statue of Liberty or the Washington Monument.
It's also a region of quaint seaside communities like Steinbeck's beloved Monterey and bustling burgs like Jack Kerouac's San Francisco and Jack London's Oakland. One region, nestled in a valley approximately 50 miles north of Ess Eff has been enticing a breed of tourist known as The Vino Visitor to this land of the vintner's art from around the globe in droves. A veritable Garden of Eden of varietals and vino...The Napa Valley or Wine Country USA!
The Napa Valley is a paradise for lovers of the vine and those who wish to worship the grape gods. The valley has wineries aplenty from the large established names like Mondavi and Sutter Home to the smaller unique boutique operations. Wine tours and tastings are plentiful and guaranteed to please the palate and to insure that your visit is truly memorable, nothing goes better with fine wining than a good bout of fine dining -- and you have plenty of award-winning choices in that category.
Shopping, of course, is an offbeat treat with merchants offering up for sale everything from wicker picnic baskets -- complete with fine china and stemware -- to an assortment of Hawaiian shirts and custom Jerry Garcia neckware. Touring the valley is varied and exciting no matter which mode you choose. You can drive yourself, or luxuriate in a limo or you can even pretend you're trying to circumnavigate the globe and enjoy the sunrise with a spectacular view of the rolling valley below while sipping on a glass of early morning champagne.
To top off your day, you can ride the rails in luxury with haute cuisine and fine wines on The Wine Train as you roll gently through the valley with a backdrop of mountains kissed by a sunset. So grab your corkscrew and get ready to uncork the wine country!
The Napa Valley wasn't always a vintners enclave. The Wappo Indians inhabited the region 4,000 years before the Spaniards arrived. Mexico eventually gained its independence from this European power and assumed control of the whole of California. In 1831, George Yount, the first American settler in the Napa Valley arrived and it was he who planted the first grapevines. These original plantings were from Mexico and it wasn't until 1860 that the higher-grade European grapes were introduced.
The Gold Rush came and went and in its wake it left a demand for the Valley's wine. By 1891, there were more than 600 vineyards in the valley serving the needs of a thirsty population. Today, there are more than 200 wineries in the area, turning out marvelous Merlots, Zinfandels and Rieslings and other faves of the wine crowd. All this has also produced a harvest of tourist green with more than 5 million vino visitors a year!
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