Sunday, November 21, 2010

Falling for Napa

A week ago, my wife and I were in California to attend the wedding of our beautiful youngest sister, Mary Elizabeth Avanzado (Tambis). One of our side-trips was a visit to quaint yet intoxicating Napa Valley, a grape-growing region located in Napa County, California, USA. Considered one of the top wine regions in the United States, it is one of only nine Great Wine Capitals on earth, with a history dating back to the nineteenth century.

After a smooth hour and a half ride from Sacramento, we were taken to the picturesque countryside of Napa, a place vibrant with colors of amber, green and crimson. The shades of the flora were changing, and the leaves falling fast, signifying that winter is around the corner. The air was sweetly aromatic and the temperature comfortably cool. We arrived around 2 pm and had a late lunch at a/k/a Bistro in downtown St. Helena. We were greeted in a bustling bar area and comfy lounge serving up handmade cocktails which won them Diner's Choice award last year.

The setting is sophisticated yet casual with butter-cream walls, concrete floors, twig-wrapped light pendants, an eco-friendly fireplace and a soaring wall of wine. a|k|a Bistro also features one of the most compelling wine lists in the Napa Valley, with 50 wines by the glass and 500 on the list. "The discovery of a wine is of greater moment than the discovery of a constellation. The universe is too full of stars.", read the front page menu. I feasted on the succulent steak, crispy portobello fries with basil aioli and calamari. After the sumptuous meal, we visited some wineries and nostalgic vineyards for posterity. Four types of wine were tasted at the BV winery. My favorite was the one grown at the Creek. The combination of Mediterranean climate, geography and geology of The Valley are conducive to growing quality wine grapes.

John Patchett established the Napa Valley's first commercial vineyard in 1858. In 1861 Charles Krug established Napa Valley's first commercial winery in St. Helena. Viticulture, the science of grape-growing, in Napa suffered several setbacks in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including an outbreak of the vine disease phylloxera and the Great Depression. The wine industry in Napa Valley recovered, and helped by the results of the Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, came to be seen as capable of producing the best quality wine - equal to that of Old World wine regions.

Napa Valley is a very popular tourist destination in California with almost 4.5 million visitors yearly. It is also "The World's Best Wine and Food Destination" as awarded by Trip Advisor's 2010 Travelers' Choice Awards. You don't have to be a wine lover to love this place. If you love beauty and you love life then you'll surely love this enchanting place- I surely did.