The Napa Valley is one the most beautiful places I’ve seen in my travels. It’s the Ideal vision of California almost everyone has in their head. Endless rolling green hills covered in a greener canopy of lurking deciduous trees. Miles of grape vines and quaint wineries nestled cosy in green valleys. Misty, snow-capped mountains above a sea of ocean-swept fog. And happy cows wandering freely down the verdant hills. Sooo many cows. Its no wonder the hills are so green.
I’d never visited in the spring before, and I have to say I think I prefer it. I’m not a guy who loves hot weather, in fact if I have a choice I’ll often take rain and wind over sun and burn. This trip had the most perfect weather. A couple days of sunny, puffy-clouded skies and a couple days of warm, misty downpours. Never above 70 F, never below 55 F. Yes please sir I’d like some more.
On our third day in Fairfield we had decided to sojurn out to a winery or two, mostly so Liz could get a taste of the local scenery. After a decidedly Irish corned beef hash breakfast, we set out to visit a place that had been the highlight of my last trip down here.
In 2005, I traveled to Napa with my uncle and father. One of the first wineries we visited was owned by a certain filmmaker who made a certain gangster movie. You may have seen it once or twice.
The Niebaum Coppola winery was the one of the most beautiful buildings I’d ever seen. We had visited mid-summer, so everything was extra green, flowering and full of tourists. I was too young to try the wine, but I was busy enough enjoying the little golden statues in the display cases. Revisiting the winery, I found it to be the same, but different. First off Coppola had restored it’s original name, Inglenook, after the sailor family that originally owned it.
This time we were visiting it in spring, so the vines covering the house had not yet bloomed. Amid the fog and mist the house had a completely different character now. It was mysterious, majestic and seemed even more ancient. It was also almost completely empty this time around, which helped too.
We got to explore the grounds and walk the cellars almost unmolested. Even though I was old enough now to enjoy some wine, I didn’t feel like dropping 50 bucks for a tasting and tour. So I accompanied my family to the waterlogged town of St. Helena for some lunch and shopping.
St. Helena is a lovely little tourist town, sporting a nice main street full of little wine shops and trendy clothing offerings. It was also very wet. I like me some rain, but we were getting completely drenched. Hence the lack of photos. We stopped here primarily to grab some grub. A little hole in the wall restaurant called “Cook” provided us with an excellent meal, some good wines and a nice dry place to rest for a bit. It was Ken’s favorite place to eat in town and I can see why.
After a nice meal we got to have a little change of pace. Instead of visiting a couple winerys, Ken took us on a rip-roaring car tour of his favorite back-roads in Napa. For about an hour he zipped down switchbacks and launched up mountain sides, leading us to some truly inspired views. Ken loves those sharp corners. Lizzie not so much. I wanted to stop and take pictures so many times but before I could get the lens up the moment would be gone.
After that exhilarating speed run, Lizzie opted to stay at the house and rest her guts for a while. I was raring to go, so I decided to hike a local park in the hills above Eileens house. I took my car and went to Rockville Park.
The hike began with a slow climb through the dampened woods and above a rock quarry. The first leg ambled alongside the highway, so at first I felt like the park was kinda dinky. As I reached higher up the trail, I realized the gravity of my misconception. This park was huge. There was a lake, a cave trail, a massive rock garden and tons of other unmarked trails to explore.
I scrambled up to one of the summits in the park, getting one of my favorite shots of this whole trip. The valley stretched out beneath me, opening toward the bay amid the clouds beyond.
Getting down was a fun challenge. I may have fallen down a part of that hill. Not too far. But far enough to get lost.
I had unwittingly ended up on the wrong side of the hill, deeper in the park than I thought. But there was no hurry. I explored some more, venturing through rock garden and finding a route to the local cave. Though the shelter was inviting, climbing the slippery sand stone went against my better judgment. A helpful hiker pointed me back in the direction of the road. Just follow the power-lines. I felt more than heard the sound of rain hitting the wires. Like bacon being cooked in heaven. God I hope they have bacon in heaven.
I made it back and found Eileen’s spaghetti and meatballs waiting. I was soaked to the bone, and my camera was terrifyingly damp as well, but I couldn’t have been more content.
The next morning I awoke early to shoot a time-lapse of the Napa Valley sunrise. Then my sister and I piled into the car and set off. As we waved good-bye, I felt overcome by how awesome my family is and how lucky I am to have them. We Browitts can be a stubborn, sarcastic bunch. But we’re also a stalwart adventurous folk, and I’ve never known more courteous hosts than my own relatives. Must be the Croatian in us.
For pictures click me face:
And heres the link for some more pics:
Thanks for reading!
Onward to Glory!