From murals to brandy, Napa Valley does much more than wine, though you can’t go without at least a sip.
Advertisement

Everyone knows California's Napa Valley as one of the world's foremost wine-making regions, but there's more to this verdant land than vino.

In this episode of Walk With T+L, wine writer Noël Burgess takes viewers beyond Napa's world-famous wines and introduces some of its unsung heroes, from contemporary art to brandy to the seasonal mustard bloom.

Since it was founded in 2016, the Rail Arts District (RAD) in downtown Napa — formerly an underutilized industrial area — has been a must-stop on any visit to the destination. This outdoor contemporary art museum is free to visit and packed with perfectly Instagrammable murals, installations, and sculptures by renowned local and international artists.

If you work up a thirst while walking the RAD, wine isn't the only way to quench it: California Brandy House is a rising star in Napa Valley. You may find yourself wondering along with Burgess, "What is a brandy house doing in Napa?" Wine and brandy are more closely related than you'd expect: California Brandy House makes their signature sip by distilling wine, then aging it in barrels for three to four years. 

Landscape with hills and valleys at sunset at a vineyard in the spring in Napa Valley, California
Credit: Getty Images

While vineyards are gorgeous at any time of year, go to Napa during the annual mustard bloom (typically between January and March) to be surrounded by tall, cheery yellow flowers. Burgess sees them at Baldacci Family Vineyards while stopping for a tasting (there's also a cool on-site wine cave), but these blooms carpet much of Napa Valley at the right time of year.

While there's a lot to do beyond the vineyards, going to Napa Valley without partaking in some wine-centered activities would be taboo.Stop by Domaine Carneros, a winery with a French-inspired chateau and formal gardens, to witness a wine sabrage (slicing off the top of a bottle with a saber), which is arguably the most dramatic way to pop the cork on a bottle of wine. The winery is well-regarded for its sparkling varietals.

And, of course, to savor a sip of cabernet sauvignon — the variety Napa Valley is best known for — you can't do better than award-winning Hall Wines. "We're a family-owned winery," explains winemaker Megan Gunderson. "We like to make big, bold, flavorful wines that are balanced and representative of where they're grown."

Organic, sustainable farming practices are top of mind at Hall Wines, but it's Lawrence Argent's 35-foot-tall stainless steel sculpture, "Bunny Foo Foo," that really gets visitors talking.

Catch a glimpse in the episode, or book your own trip to Napa here.