Saturday, August 13, 2011

My problem with Napa: Where is a picnic table?

To me Napa became “Disney World” of wine country: huge wineries with crowded tasting rooms, overhyped wines and overpriced tasting lists. But these are the things people expect from Napa nowadays: wine tasting has become secondary to winery design, collection of art, wine club tiers or celebrity chef nearby.

My problem with Napa is actually simple: give me something little that I don’t have to pay for. For starters, give me a picnic area where I can eat my lunch and drink your wine if I liked it.

View of Napa from the deck of Opus One Winery in Oakville:
vineyards and parking lots all around
Driving by Highway 29 in St. Helena you can stop by Dean & De Luca Market to grab a sandwich (Have you seen a deli without a table? No? This is the place!). Fine, noisy and dusty highway doesn't make for nice relaxing spot. I’ll go to one of the wineries south or north and enjoy it in tranquility of the garden or vineyard. What, I can’t? Wineries need a permit? And they don’t care to have one (except for those like V.Sattui where picnic area is huge place to consume goods sold at their deli). Things came full circle to crowded overhyped places where I have to pay to have a picnic (by paying I mean buying their food - not glass of wine).

When I come to Napa I do it on a weekday and for one day. I pick a historic winery that also offers tours to visit (like Rubicon Estate, Beaulieu Vineyards, Beringer, Charles Krug to name a few) and leave Napa behind back to its nicer sister wine country – Sonoma.

P.S. To be fair there are few wineries in Napa that offer picnic area - some alcohol-free, some are appointment only and some are not conveniently located. Plan your picnic in Napa using this map. And don't forget: their picnic table - their wine.

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