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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Napa Valley - Disneyland for Adults

Napa Valley is sometimes described by locals as a "Disneyland for Adults."  It's a magical place grownups dream about visiting someday.  You can hang out and chat with other adults from all over the world. And maybe even hang with local rock stars (winemakers).
The Napa Valley Wine Train
Image from thetraveleditor.com

You can get a buzz on and maybe do something you wouldn't ordinarily do back home around the relatives.   It's not Vegas (thank God), but many visitors think it's a place to let loose.  Yes, I've seen a few things going on that are at least R-rated plus seen people drinking on the streets or even drinking and driving--things they wouldn't do back home for sure.

So by calling it "Disneyland for Adults" isn't meant in a derogatory fashion although some places and some events may cross the line into a bit of Vegas or Hollywood.  Is this wrong?  Well, these places and events sure are popular just like the real Disneyland.   Obviously, many people are looking for a bit of a fantasy vacation--that's why Vegas is popular, right?

Castello di Amarosa Winery
It's a well-done recreation of a Italian castle using materials brought over from real European castles.  There's a fee just to get inside.   Some people are put off by this, but then the Hearst Castle in San Simeon, CA doesn't let you in for free either. The Castello is very popular with the out-of-state and foreign tourists.   It's a fantasy in the true Disneyland model.

Chateau Montelena Winery
Darioush
Image from about.com
The wine geek's Disneyland because of the "Judgement of Paris."   If you don't know what that is you're not a real wine geek.  If you are then it kind of like visiting Mecca.

Darioush Winery
The ultimate Disneyland in Napa.  Or is it Persia in Napa?   Or a Hollywood set? You can certainly call it spectacular.  It's just tough to call it a winery.

Napa Valley Wine Auction
Everybody dresses up and looks for stars.  Maybe Michael Jordan will be back to add to his collection?  Those nerdy-looking kids over there must be Google execs.  Lets hope Robin Williams won't swear at all the rich people bidding at the auction this year.  Looking for a sugar daddy (or momma)? This is the place!

Pride Mtn Winery
Pride Mountain got cult status a few years ago.  With any trend they come and go but these guys know how to cash in with a top-of-the-line $75 tour/tasting.  Someone will pay it.  But if you think that's bad you can make an appointment at one of Kendall-Jackson's Napa holdings, Cardinale, to taste their current release wine (that's singular) for fifty bucks.
Opus One. Sure it's overrated,
but you know you wanna go.

Silverado Vineyards
No, it's not a Disneyland-style winery, but it actually has a Disney connection as it's owned by members of the Disney family.  It's a nice winery, with nice wines, and Mickey is not to be seen anywhere.

Sterling Vineyards
There's an entry fee to get here as you must ride a tram up to a Moorish castle.  You might wonder what a Moorish-style castle is doing in Napa and what it has to do with wine, but after looking at Darioush it's really pretty tame.

V. Sattui Winery
If you're there on a rainy Wednesday in January you won't get the Disneyland connection. But if you're there any other day with the buses, screaming kids, pushy tourists, and the frazzled employees you'll see a spectacularly successful winery in full tourism mode.

Yountville
All I can say is, "It's a fake town" in that the locals don't have anywhere to shop.  It's small and cute and loaded with expensive lodging and food.  But then I just got back from Mendocino on the Pacific coast so I understand the allure of those picturesque places that exist only to cater to tourists.

Foppiano Winery in Sonoma County
No Disneyland effect or prices here!
Image from winecountrythisweek.com

So just like every kid wants to go to Disneyland every adult who drinks wine even occasionally wants to visit Napa Valley.    Go ahead, but don't say I didn't warn you!   You can visit and stay away from the Disneyland effect by visiting some of the smaller and more out of the way places.  Or, of course, you can come over the hill to Sonoma County.