Let’s face it, Napa’s lit. A small town surrounded by some of the best vineyards in the world, there are far worse things you could do than spend a few months of your life here. Sure, housing’s through the roof and there’s an endless stream of tourists to compete with on the weekends, but none of that matters. What matters is that you are at the center of all things viticulture, winemaking and hospitality, and the people are right down sublime.
From what I’ve picked up, Napa’s changed a lot over the past 10 years. And while long-term residents may disagree, as a harvest intern just out of college here’s a few things I think makes this place so great.
1. The views.
Every sunrise and sunset in the valley is pure magic. Yes the mountains are nice and perfectly symmetrical rows of vines mesmerizing, but it’s really those moments early in the morning and late at night that captivate your soul. From pale pinks to heart-stopping oranges and reds, they’re worth taking five minutes out of your day for.
2. The vines.
Shocking, I know. If you like wine, odds are somewhere in this valley there is at least one game-changing vineyard for you. While many of them just ride on the Napa name, charging exorbitant prices for mediocre wines, if you know where to look there are some truly great bottles out here. Ditto for Sonoma. And the only way you’ll know is to try. Which brings me to my next point.
3. Free tastings.
If you work in the industry in the valley, nearly every place will offer you a complimentary tasting and 20 – 30% discount on their bottles. The point is to be able to understand their wines and recommend others go visit there, because it’s a small community and we’re all in this together. But really, it’s just fun to see what everyone else is slinging.
4. The Whole Foods bar.
Ohmygod the Whole Foods bar. Let me just say, coming from a city where alcohol isn’t even sold in the grocery store, this place is a dream come true. Not only can you buy and eat the incredible food you get here at the bar, but every day they have some sort of deal and during happy hour you can try like four wines for $5. Or four ciders for $5. Or four beers for $5. Needless to say, I’m in love.
Whole Foods aside, this is my favorite bar in Napa. Not only because it is the coziest, classiest place with the best wine list but because people love going just as much sober as they do drunk. Cadet is always a slam dunk, especially on Wednesdays when they feature new producers or regional wine flights to broaden your perspective.
Hungry? Thirsty? Need a birthday gift or to do holiday shopping? Want to meet up with friends before going out on the town? Oxbow’s your place. If you’ve ever been to Florence, this is Napa’s Mercato Centrale. Filled with incredible vendors from Ca Momi to Fieldworks, there’s something for everyone here and I cannot get enough of it. From killer brewskies at Fieldworks to tacos at Casa, ice cream at Three Sisters and pizza at Ca Momi, you pretty much can’t go wrong.
7. Brunch at Fumé.
Although their $5 burger Mondays are a strong second, nothing beats brunch at Fumé. The food’s amazing but it’s really their habañero bloody mary that steals the show. One sip and you know that despite what happened last night or your bank account says, all’s right in the world.
8. The Bel Aire Plaza.
Aka my home for the past three months. While locals love to complain about the traffic and parking, I think it’s perfect. Where else could you find a Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, Target, Nekter, Pure Barre, Peets and Francesca’s all in one place? Since moving here I’ve been to this plaza almost every day, and I regret nothing.
9. The locals.
Things they like: Happy hour, Gotts, and Redd Wood pizza.
Things they don’t like: Paying an arm and a leg for rent, getting stuck in traffic on 29 and Sutter Home.
At the end of the day, the people make the place and Napa’s filled with some pretty incredible people. Genuine and passionate about what they do, it’s hard to find a better environment to pursue your dreams and have fun along the way.