Napa Valley Marketplace Magazine “In Our Own Backyard” July 2007.
In Our Own Backyard – Yountville
By Kathleen Dreessen
In Our Own Backyard is a series of articles about destinations around the valley. Napa county residents enjoy fabulous weather, picturesque vista and abundant natural resources-so, when was the last time you got out and became a tourist in your own backyard?
With more than a dozen restaurants, Yountville is a mecca for foodies. It’s a great walking town, so why not stroll down Washington Street? Or better yet, take a bike ride.
We start our day in Yountville at the south end of town at Napa Valley Bike Tours (6488 Washington Street). This place has everything for a biking excursion, including road, road-hybrid, comfort, or full-suspension mountain bikes, tandems and recumbents. Prices start from $30 a day for a road hybrid. They also have children’s bikes and child trailers. The nice folks will set you up with cycling routes, a helmet, lock, handlebar bag, a repair kit and water bottle cage. If there’s a mechanical problem or a flat, they offer free roadside assistance. They’ll even come pick you up if you get too ambitious, although there’s a fee for that.
If you want to splurge for the day, but still feel like you’re getting exercise, we recommend their Ride, Wine and Dine Tour. It’s a self-paced, guided tour, with full van support, to four valley wineries. The ride in between the stops is about four level miles. Midday, you’ll stop for a gourmet lunch. The guides will work with you if you tell them in advance what types of wineries you like to visit. The price is $125 per person, not including tasting fees, but worth it for a unique view of the valley that engages all your senses. (www.napavalleybiketours.com)
If that’s too much exertion for you, how about going on an art gallery tour?
The fine former home to Gottlieb Groezinger’s winery, Vintage 1870, has 16 shops and four art galleries with fine art, photography and sculpture.
Across Washington Street from Vintage 1870 in Beard Plaza are galleries and shops worth a peek. The most unique is RASGalleries. Owner Ronda Schaer started the gallery 17 years ago and it is still the only exclusively American Art Glass gallery in Napa County. The pieces in her shop range from large, seemingly fluid sculptures to dainty glass candies you’d swear you could eat.
Amble north to the Volakis Gallery, at 6730 Washington, which features new and established artists in photography, painting, sculpture, mixed media and installation work, with an emphasis on physical craftsmanship and novelty. The owner Emanuel Dimitri Volakis creates exhibitions of the finest quality masters and contemporary artists within the architectural space of the gallery. The current group show, “Echoes of Surrealism,” runs through July 31.
Housed in the same Old World style building as the gallery is Jessup Cellars Tasting Room and Retail. Their friendly staff will pour from a selection of Zinfandel, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Port. Tell them you’re a local and the $10 tasting fee will often be waived, and you’ll definitely receive a 10% discount off your purchase through the Napa Valley Vintners Napa Neighbor Program.
When you’re ready to eat, it’s hard to go wrong. Enjoy the warm ambiance of Hurleys, the country French charm of Bistro Jeanty or the sleek sophistication of Redd. Enjoy the he popular Mexican cuisine of Compadres before their move to Napa in the autumn. These and the other Yountville restaurants offer great food and wine at a range of price points.
The town of Yountville (population 3,264) boasts three parks. At the south end of town, you can practice your bocce game at Veteran’s Memorial Park. The opposite end of town has Yountville Park, which has shaded picnic grounds and a huge play structure.
Across the street from Yountville Park is Pioneer Cemetery, the final resting place of George Yount, the first Anglo settler in the valley and founder of Yountville.
As the day winds down, head west on California Drive toward the Veterans Home and turn right at the top for the Napa Valley Museum. The museum has two permanent exhibits, “Land and People of Napa Valley” and “California Wine: The Science of an Art” and revolving art shows. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Monday. Admission is $4.50 for adults, $3.50 students and seniors, $2.50 ages 7-17 and under age 7 is free. Check napavalleymuseum.org for the current art show.
The venerable California Veterans Home has lovely vistas, a museum and chapel. The public is welcome to walk the grounds and most of the vets like talking to visitors.
At the end of your day, stop in and enjoy the beautiful gardens and sparkling wine at Domain Chandon. The etoile lounge is open from 6 p.m. until closing.
There you have it-shopping, food, recreation and fun in Yountville. And it’s all in our own backyard.