10 Reasons to Visit Napa in the Fall

  • Yvonne Rich
  • 11/20/20

NO ONE DOES AUTUMN QUITE LIKE NAPA VALLEY

Quaint Napa boasts undeniable charm throughout the calendar year, from fresh spring blooms to winter’s restorative chill, but perhaps one of the best times to visit is fall. From cooler temperatures and turning leaves to wine tasting extravaganzas, here are ten reasons why you should visit Napa during the undeniably lovely autumn months. 

CELEBRATE AT CHARLES KRUG

Napa’s oldest winery welcomes the harvest season with a tradition that began in 1951. Tastings on the Lawn brings the community together for a countryside picnic at Charles Krug in mid-September. This is a 21-and-over picnic event, so participants are encouraged to bring lawn chairs, picnic blankets, and plenty of sunscreen. 

​​​​​​​In October, Charles Krug also hosts a Grill Your Own Steak event where the Mondavi family teaches guests how to dress, season, and grill the perfect steak. By using carefully-sourced aged beef and exquisite seasonings, each steak is immaculately prepared and will change the way you grill forever. This event is capped at 25 people, so make reservations early to ensure your spot behind the grill. 

Even later in the season, Charles Krug hosts the Library Dinner in November, which pairs gourmet cuisine with vintage wines for a decadent meal. This personally curated selection of vintages is hand-picked from the Mondavi Family Cellar by Peter Mondavi himself. It isn’t unusual for vintages to date back to the 1970s, and the evening teaches guests the careful art of decanting vintage wines. 

This winery opened its doors in 1882 and is home to California’s first tasting room experience. All season long, Charles Krug is a fantastic place to celebrate fall. 

GET MESSY WITH GRAPE STOMPING

Experience winemaking the way it used to be before machinery came into the picture with some good old-fashioned grape stomping. This particular tradition is integral to the winemaking process and was prevalent for centuries before the invention of the winepress. The earliest recorded example of grape stomping was during the 3rd century AD in Rome. Stomping on the grapes macerates them, releasing sugars and softening the skins, which begins the process of fermentation that results in wine. 

​​​​​​​Today, grape stomping is an all-hands-on-deck activity that draws people to wineries across Napa Valley in the fall after the grapes have been harvested. Available at Grgich Hills Estate August through October, grape stomping is an immersive experience that brings wine tasters closer to their beverage of choice. 

INDULGE AT A HARVEST PARTY

In Napa, the fall harvest is commemorated with celebratory dinners and, of course, drinks. Trefethen Family Vineyards hosts a Harvest Boot Camp that shows guests the entirety of the winemaking process. From grape picking to treading and savoring vintage cabernets during lunch alfresco.

Credit: Visit Napa Valley

The Lobster Feed & Harvest Party at Sequoia Grove Winery combines two incredible luxuries: a delightful lobster dinner paired with indulgent wines. This annual celebration kicks off with a family-style supper of fresh seafood on the patio and a grape stomping competition after dinner. At Inglenook, celebrate the harvest with the Harvest Food & Wine Pairing event, where a four-course meal is paired with a recently-released Rubicon—the estate’s premier red wine. 

​​​​​​​For something a little more upscale, head to V. Sattui Winery for their annual Harvest Ball. This black-tie event invites guests to peruse the Tuscan-inspired villa, dine on finely-crafted Italian cuisine prepared by Michelin-starred Chef Stefano Masanti, and sip sparkling wines as well as vintage cabernets all-night long. 

EXPLORE THE VALLEY PAST ITS SUMMER PEAK

After the summer crowds have headed back home and the crops have been harvested, Napa begins to move at a slower pace. This peaceful shift in November brings a time of rejuvenation to the Valley. Not only is the area less crowded, price points for accommodations and activities often lower in the fall, so you can experience everything that Napa has to offer at a reduced cost. Grapes have been crushed, wine is aging in its barrels, and fewer tourists mean that the town is draped with a peaceful ambiance. 

​​​​​​​It’s easier to get reservations at your favorite Napa restaurants if you visit in late October or early November, as well. If you’re craving a taste of The Restaurant at Meadowood or Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry in nearby Yountville—both of which have received three Michelin stars—you’ll have a much easier time reserving a table this late in the season. Whether you’re enjoying a Thanksgiving feast at one of Wine Country’s finest vineyards or taking advantage of the shorter waits at Napa’s five-star restaurants, exploring Napa after the heat of summer is a lovely change of pace. 

ENJOY FALL’S MILDER WEATHER

While Napa enjoys moderate weather during most of the year, temperatures dip in the fall and the sunshine is bookended by a few rainy days—the first after Napa’s notoriously dry summers. With a total average of 260 sunny days a year, you can bet on clear skies and crisp autumn air during your visit. Daytime temperatures pivot from the summer’s mid-eighties to high-sixties by November, and evenings bring a welcoming cold snap. 

Credit: Napa Valley

BIKE THROUGH THE CRISP LEAVES

While Napa enjoys moderate weather during most of the year, temperatures dip in the fall and the sunshine is bookended by a few rainy days—the first after Napa’s notoriously dry summers. With a total average of 260 sunny days a year, you can bet on clear skies and crisp autumn air during your visit. Daytime temperatures pivot from the summer’s mid-eighties to high-sixties by November, and evenings bring a welcoming cold snap. 

Napa Valley Bike Tours offers a variety of guided tour packages to accommodate your traveling style. The Cycling IN the Vineyards Tour is slightly shorter, ranging from 2 to 4 miles between stops, while the Napa Valley Winery + Picnic Bike Tour is a five-hour event with two winery visits for tastings and a catered picnic lunch provided by local Bouchon Bakery. Combining the best of both tours, the Electric Bike Tour takes guests to two vineyards, provides a picnic lunch, and is made simpler through the use of speedy electric bicycles, which is an excellent option for casual cyclists. 

​​​​​​​If you want to do a little exploring on your own, the Napa Valley Vine Trail is a 47-mile trail that connects the entire Napa Valley, from Calistoga all the way to Vallejo. Napa Valley Velo is a local full-service bike shop that offers bike rentals for visitors. 

IMMERSE YOURSELF IN A CINEMATIC ENVIRONMENT

The Napa Valley Film Festival arrives in November and is a celebration of the silver screen. With a focus on independent filmmaking, this festival fosters a strong sense of community and honors the art of cinema. During the festival, there are several industry events that connect filmmakers, such as vintner circle dinners, which combine Napa Valley’s adoration for good food, great wine, and fantastic films, as well as the Festival Gala. At the Gala, over 50 winemakers are represented during an evening filled with live music and dancing. 

GO BIG WITH THE LITTLE BOOK 

If you’re looking for an all-inclusive taste of Napa Valley, the St. Helena Little Book of Big Experiences grants VIP access to 15 area wineries and is an unmissable autumn experience. Beginning each November, the Little Book of Big Experiences is a passport to Napa Valley—  each book allows entry to finely curated, exclusive events that can’t be experienced any other way. Delve behind the scene at winery tours, explore Napa Valley caves, taste rare batch wines, and so much more when you purchase the Little Book. A few participating wineries are Beringer VineyardsRutherford Hill Winery, and Brasswood Cellars

Credit: Napa Valley

GO SIGHTSEEING FROM A HOT AIR BALLOON

There is no better way to take in the beautiful fall foliage than from above. Take a ride in a hot air balloon for a luxurious birds-eye view. Napa Valley Balloons offers a selection of balloon packages that range from the simple—a 45-minute sunrise balloon ride over Napa’s Wine Country—to the extravagant. Balloon and wine tour packages make it easy to pair blue skies with white wines. Balloons Above the Valley offers private balloon flights with complimentary coffee and pastries for an unforgettable sunrise ride. 

TAP INTO NAPA’S BLUEGRASS ROOTS

There is no better way to take in the beautiful fall foliage than from above. Take a ride in a hot air balloon for a luxurious birds-eye view. Napa Valley Balloons offers a selection of balloon packages that range from the simple—a 45-minute sunrise balloon ride over Napa’s Wine Country—to the extravagant. Balloon and wine tour packages make it easy to pair blue skies with white wines. Balloons Above the Valley offers private balloon flights with complimentary coffee and pastries for an unforgettable sunrise ride. 

*Header Credit: Visit California

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