Meaning “land of plenty,” the Napa Valley name was given to the area by the native Wappo Indian population.
Word of the region’s abundance and temperate climate spread quickly in the 19th century and by the late 1840s the area was teeming with quicksilver mines and lumber mills.
The region’s popularity grew when steamships began traveling the three-hour trip from San Francisco to the city of Napa via the Napa River.
A railroad line soon became available from the ferry terminal at Vallejo on the shores of San Pablo Bay to the city of Calistoga, creating new access to the healing waters of Calistoga’s famed geothermal hot springs.
The Napa Valley has weathered some tough times in its relatively short history.
The Valley’s once-famed Silverado Mine was exhausted in 1875 after just three years of operation.
In 1893 an outbreak of phylloxera, a serious grapevine disease, crippled many of the Valley’s 140 wineries.
Prohibition, enacted in 1920, dealt the final blow to the early wine industry.
Only a handful of wineries survived the 13 years of Prohibition by producing sacramental wines and selling grapes to home winemakers.
Today, however, with vision and perseverance, the industry has greatly surpassed its earlier “golden age,” and now boasts more than 400 wineries, producing some of the world’s finest wines.
The Napa Valley stretches approximately 35 miles in a northwesterly direction; its width varies from approximately five miles wide at its widest point near the City of Napa in the south to approximately one mile wide near the northern-most town of Calistoga.
Napa Valley’s five regions include, from north to south: Calistoga, St. Helena, Rutherford/Oakville/Yountville, the city of Napa, and Lake Berryessa/American Canyon.
Explore Wineries With Platypus Wine Tours
Nine years ago, Napa Valley local Don Rickard started his wine tour company Platypus Tours with the goal of creating “the anti-snob wine tour.”
At the time, Rickard was managing a restaurant in St. Helena and realized that there was a need for a daily wine tour that was geared with a more casual approach that wouldn’t break the bank.
“There were many limo companies and various transportation companies available but none that fit this specific market,” Rickard said.
Today, his approach has become a successful hit.
He said he has expanded to a fleet of 24 vehicles where his guides serve as both the driver and tour guide.
“They tell the stories, give the history, educate, and map out the daily tour,” he said. “We don’t tell them where to go but they get to build their own agendas based off of relationships that they’ve cultivated with the wineries.”
In total, Platypus Tours visit more than 250 wineries between all three regions: Napa, Sonoma, and Russian River.
For the “Join in Tour” guests visit four wineries over the course of a day.
Rickard said his guides focus on specific touch points when choosing wineries such as private tasting, back of house tours, owner or winemaker personal interaction.
“We’ve found that by giving our guides ownership of putting together their own tour that they take pride in that and are much more accountable to putting together a memorable tour,” he said. “Our tours run every single day except Thanksgiving and Christmas. We will never cancel a tour based on a low count.”
Platypus Tours also offer private charters where the tour group can pay by the hour and have a guide take them to specific wineries, or have a special itinerary developed for them.
For the “Join In Tour” the company does pick-ups at any of the hotels and B&Bs within a certain region that the tour is based.
For example, Napa winery tours pick-ups take place from the regions of American Canyon, Napa, Yountville, and St. Helena.
For Sonoma winery tours, pick-ups are from Napa (because that’s where the company is based), Sonoma, and Glen Ellen.
For Russian River winery tours, pick-ups are from the regions of Petaluma, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa, and Healdsburg.
The “Join In Tour” costs $99 per person (winery tasting fees not included, but the cost does include a picnic lunch).
For more information, call 707.253.2723 or visit www.platypustours.com.
Live It Up In Luxury At The Harvest Inn
Looking for an authentic Napa Valley experience with country estate-style accommodations spread among eight acres of gorgeously landscaped gardens and hundreds of redwood trees?
A hidden gem ideally situated at the center of the Napa Valley, the Harvest Inn is the perfect retreat where guests can relax and rejuvenate after a full day of wine country adventures.
Located in St. Helena, it offers stunning vineyard and mountain vistas with warm, inviting hospitality and high-quality service.
The building of the Harvest Inn began in 1978. The original 54 rooms and main reception room were all completed by 1985.
Harvest Inn owner Rick Swig built on the additional 20 rooms (the Fountain Section) along with the Fountain View Conference center in 2006.
General Manager Debbie Greene said the property stands out as a relaxed, romantic retreat offering extraordinary beauty, comfortable luxury and a low-key ambiance every season of the year.
“The Main Lodge features a welcoming lobby with singular 20-foot ceilings and custom carved woodwork throughout,” Greene said. “Just beyond the lobby is the Inn’s spacious Great Room, where guests enjoy fireside wine tastings beside the massive cobblestone hearth. The cozy wine bar offers fine samples of local vintages as well as tranquil views, handsome leather sofas, a grand piano and backgammon tables. Complimentary guided wine and cheese tastings from local producers are offered on weekend evenings in the Great Room.”
Each morning the Harvest Inn provides a complimentary wine country breakfast for all guests.
Breakfast is served in the Wine Country Kitchen, with charming indoor or outside patio seating amidst sweeping vineyard and Mayacamas mountains views.
When guests aren’t exploring the wine country, there are two heated swimming pools open 24 hours, a well-equipped Fitness Room, and relaxing massage therapy services developed by Spa Director Loma Alexander, named one of the world’s top 20 spa visionaries by “Spa Magazine.”
The Harvest Inn is located at 1 Main Street, St. Helena. For more information and nightly rates, visit www.HarvestInn.com.