Discovering Northern California
Napa County California

Napa County
Heart of California Wine Country!

Napa County can't lay claim to the first premium winery in California - that honor belongs to Sonoma County - but Napa is world famous as a premium wine region, having beat the French at their own game in the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976 (otherwise known as the Judgement of Paris)!

It's true that Napa's the premier wine region in the United States, but - wonderful as the wineries and vineyards are, there's much more to Napa than just wine!

Napa County
What's in a Name?

Napa River Inn CC Wayne HsiehNapa River Inn CC Wayne Hsieh

Remember the book that was made into a move, The Three Faces of Eve?

Napa's sort of like that - it includes three different, but related identities!

No wonder we get confused...

But don't let it worry you, it's really quite simple!

There's Napa, the town; Napa Valley, the wine region or appellation; and there's Napa County, where the other two are located.

So, you've got Napa, the town; which is in Napa Valley; which is in Napa County.

Pretty easy when you look at it that way!

The County is north of San Francisco and is one of the counties that constitute the Bay Area.

Some familiar names pop up when you begin to take a look at Napa County's history. George Yount (for whom the town of Yountville was named) is considered to have been the first settler of Napa County. He also planted the first vineyard.

General Vallejo handed out Mexican land grants to friends and relatives in the Napa area. And Sam Brannan bought land near Mount Saint Helena and founded the town of Callistoga and turned that area into a hot springs resort for tourists from San Francisco. 

A silver rush brought more people to the Napa Valley in the late 1850s and 1860s, but it was ultimately agriculture - and especially viticulture - that settled Napa County.

And Robert Louis Stevenson honeymooned in Napa and wrote about the settlers of the valley and the spas and hot springs in his book, The Silverado Squatters.

The Town of Napa Rises Anew

The town of Napa CA is in transition.

It doesn't have the same charm and personality that you'll find in the town of Sonoma and around Sonoma Plaza, but it's definitely working on it! For some photos of the transition, check out our Napa Facebook album.

Historic buildings have been restored, like the Hat Building, the Napa River Inn, the Napa Opera House, the Winship building... just to name a few!

The downtown is being renovated with stylishly designed hotels, shops, restaurants, cafes, and galleries, all well-devised to blend with the historic look Napans wish to preserve.

The Napa Town Center area on First Street between Franklin and Main is one shining example, as is the area around First Squeeze. And not to be outdone is the Napa River Front District, which includes the Napa Mill.

So have a walk around the town - visit the historic buildings, shop in and around the Town Center and the River Front District, take a walking history tour, have a lovely meal with wonderful wine, and walk the river front! You'll enjoy it, I promise!

Napa Valley
The Wine Region

Napa Valley's history is every bit as venerable as Sonoma's - the Wappo Indians contributed the name; Padre Jose Altimura wrote about it in 1823; and the population began exploding during the California Gold Rush.

Napa Valley has been known for quicksilver mines, lumber mills,
its natural beauty, its water ways, the healing springs and geysers, and a wide variety of agricultural crops.

Today this thirty-five mile long valley nestled between rolling hills
is known as a premier premium wine region - the place to come for exquisite wines that rival those from anywhere in the world, gourmet food, beautiful scenery, leisurely bike rides through the countryside, healing springs and geysers, hot air ballooning, the Napa Valley Wine Train, and - of course - Napa Valley wineries!

Napa County
Where Napa CA and Napa Valley Reside

Lake Hennesey by Wolf RosenbergLake Hennesey by Wolf Rosenberg

What's left to talk about, you might be wondering. The answer is, lots! Napa and Napa Valley get all the attention, but the rest of Napa County has plenty to offer also!

It's home to the San Pablo Bay National Wildlife Refuge; several lakes, including Lakes Berryessa and Hennessey, offer recreational opportunities; you'll find fishing, boating, camping, and white water; take a drive in the country and up into the foothills; visit a petrified forest or Old Faithful Geyser of California.

Spend some time at Skyline Wilderness Park for the hiking, biking,
and horse trails; or the Carolyn Parr Nature Museum near Westwood Hills Park; and, of course the Robert Louis Stevenson State Park where the famous man spent his honeymoon in 1880 - you'll enjoy the wild terrain and evergreen forests! If you're very brave and fit, make the climb to the top of Mount St. Helena.

But, I have to admit, most people come to Napa for the wineries, the fine food, the luxurious spas, and - did I mention? - the wine tasting... (check here for some Wine Tasting Tips!)

Whatever your reason for coming you're sure to have a wonderful time, whether you come for the day, the week, or for a month!

We'll have more to share with you about Napa in the coming weeks, like:

  • Napa Attractions
    What will you do when you visit Napa California? Tour wineries? Wine taste? That's all well and good, but try these Napa CA attractions as well!
  • Napa Beaches
    Don't look so surprised!
  • Napa Communities
    Incorporated and not!
  • Napa Parks and Preserves
    State Parks, Nature Preserves, Marshes and Bogs!
  • Napa Wineries
    The ultimate of Napa CA attractions!

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