With school vacations, leafy vines and warm weather, it's no wonder that people like to visit the Napa Valley during the summer months. Harvest (September and October) is another popular season, when the valley is bustling with picking, crushing, and fermentation.
But these seasons also have the most foot-traffic, for obvious reasons.
Never fear, dear reader. There are a few work-arounds we can recommend to see the Napa Valley during the most popular months without experiencing a human "crush." To wit:
Bookend the holidays. Consider planning your trip just before or after a public holiday or long weekend like Memorial Day, Father's Day, Independence Day, Labor Day, or Veteran's Day. Hotels, restaurants, and tasting rooms often have more openings during these "off" weeks.
Mid-Week visits are better. Staying Sunday through Thursday is less crowded than on the weekends.
Be an early bird. Most visitors don't really begin their touring until late morning. Get an early start, so that by the time tasting rooms open (usually around 10am), you've already gotten a few activities under your belt.
Reverse your route. Many visitors start their tours of the valley in Napa and work their way north. Instead, begin your day in Calistoga and head south. Chances are, you'll beat the traffic on Highway 29 and find less crowded venues as you go.
Adjust your dining hours. Since you've already gotten up early, you can take your meals before the lines begin to form at the most popular cafés and restaurants.
Plan ahead. Whenever possible, make your winery and restaurant reservations well in advance.
Stay late. Many wineries and tasting rooms – especially those located in the downtown areas of Napa, Yountville, and St. Helena – extend their hours into the evening. Consider making an early evening of tastings and wine/food pairings instead of going to a sit-down restaurant.
Relax. Even if you find yourself in a crowd, all you have to do is look around. You're in one of the most beautiful locales in the world. You're all here because you love good food and wine. Raise a glass and toast each other. Life is good.
Photo Credit: Bob McClenahan