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
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
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
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
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
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.
Copyright © 2011 by Santa Monica Mirror. All rights reserved.