You know the scene in “I Love Lucy” where Lucy visits Italy and stomps into the grapes in the big vat? Visiting Napa Valley in the fall feels kind of like that. It’s fun, exciting, and you’re not sure what might happen next. (And you might even get to stomp some grapes! Though it’s not likely.) Napa Valley is a popular destination at any time of year; the mild weather, ample wine tasting opportunities, gorgeous views, and romantic bed and breakfasts make it an irresistible vacation spot. But there is no time like the fall to visit Napa. When the leaves are changing and the harvest season has started, there is a magic in the air that you can’t imagine until you’ve been there.
If you find yourself meandering through a Napa Valley vineyard in the fall, here are 7 things you absolutely must do.
Take in the Harvest
Mid-August through October is harvest season in Napa Valley, and there is an electric sense of urgency everywhere you go. Winemakers hit the vineyards before dawn to race against the clock collecting their grapes, and huge trucks overflow as they carry their abundant harvest from the fields to the barrels. Just be sure to book your tickets early, at least four months in advance! You’re not going to be the only ones interested in all the hustle and bustle.
Attend the St. Helena Harvest Festival
One of the top destinations in Napa Valley, St. Helena, is also home to one of the most beloved Napa Valley traditions, the St. Helena Harvest Festival. Kids of all ages will enjoy the carnival, music, crafts, and food, while adults can enjoy the fantastic sampling of Napa Valley wines. The harvest festival takes place in mid-October.
Get Away From The Crowds
If you’re not a fan of the huge crowds, but you still want to catch the harvest festivities, you can visit the Napa Valley vineyards between Halloween and Thanksgiving. You’ll still get to drink delicious wines and see the grapes in transit, but the vineyards will be less crowded thanks to the dropping temperatures and the rapidly approaching holidays.
Soar Above The Clouds
When the weather is still warm and the grapes are in harvest, it’s the perfect time to take it all in from above. Take a ride in one of Napa’s hot air balloons and get an experience you’ll never forget. Hot air balloon rides start before the sun rises, so you’ll need to make it an early morning, but the breathtaking views will be worth it.
Visit a Farmer’s Market
Many of Napa’s farmer’s markets are open year-round, and some of the best produce is available in early September through October. Fill your reusable bags with root vegetables like purple carrots, turnips, and parsnips, and round out your fall harvest with squash and pumpkins. Then, take it all home (or to your hotel) and have fun trying your new treasures with different kinds of wine.
Take A Bike Tour
There is arguably no better way to tour the Napa vineyards than by bike. And when you take the bike tour in the fall, you’ll have the added bonus of seeing the leaves change to brilliant red and orange while you pedal between wineries. Full and half day tours are available, and all equipment is provided with the cost of attendance. Just make sure you take the bike tour in the beginning of the fall. If you wait until late fall, you may wish you would have stayed inside instead.
Take A Cooking Class
Obviously, when you’re visiting Napa Valley, the wine is the start of the show. But don’t miss out on all the delicious food that Napa has to offer. Choose a class that teaches something you’d really love to learn more about, and then pretend like you have your own show on the Food Network! You’ll learn proper techniques, new recipes, and of course, how to pair each course with exactly the right wine. (Ok, so the wine may still be the star of the show.)
No matter what you choose to do in Napa, you simply cannot go wrong visiting in the fall. The excitement of the fall harvest is palpable everywhere you go. You may even find some stray grapes on the side of the road (casualties of all the hustling back and forth via large trucks). Whether you are coming with your family, taking a romantic holiday, or celebrating solo, you will make memories to last a lifetime.
And if you come for a visit and decide you can’t stand the thought of leaving, come talk to us about purchasing your own slice of vineyard heaven.