Each year, sometime between the end of July and the end of August, the green hills and hollers that make up Napa wine country begin to change. The grapes, having matured for a full growing season, are ready for harvest. This process takes approximately 8 weeks, and it’s that special time when these exquisite wineries show out their Farm Charm.
Early each morning, beginning at dawn and working feverishly until breakfast time, workers turn their full attention to harvesting the grapes and loading them on trucks, which then bounce and roll their way to the wineries, where they’ll be turned into the liquid gold these hills are known for.
Fall in Napa is unofficially defined as roughly the period between Labor Day and October, though the harvest kicks off unpredictably each year, depending on how the weather treated the grapes during the summer. Once the vines are spent — giving up the last of their green and purple treasures — they follow the lead of the trees and bushes, turning vivid shades of red and gold that easily rival the spectacular Fall views so adored in New England and along the Appalachian Mountain chain.
To participate in the glorious time known as Fall in Napa, you need to secure your reservations a few months ahead of time for the more popular restaurants, most visited wineries, and other heavy tourist attractions. Here are the best reasons to add a Napa Valley wine tour in the Fall to your bucket list asap.
Get a totally different perspective on Wine Country.
If you’ve taken a Napa wine tour during the spring or summertime, you probably associate the Valley with a wide range of greens, perhaps dotted with a few colorful wildflowers, and of course, the signature gold tones produced when the California sunshine graces the hillsides. In fall, all that quickly morphs like a chameleon on a kaleidoscope. The endless medley of shades of green give way to bursts of red and orange, gold and burgundy — painting the Valley in an entirely new wardrobe. Really, it’ll take your breath away. In fact, Napa’s Fall colors are the most remarkable you’re likely to find in the entire state of California.
Appreciate the hardworking farmers that are Napa Valley.
Most of the time, Napa wears the mask of a refined and cultured wine region. It’s all about the wines, grape varieties, sleek and polished wine tasting rooms, and indulgent tours of the vineyards. During fall, the mask of the hosts and hostesses is put aside and they openly, proudly don their true hats: the farmers’ hats. Uppity Napa gives way to her rural side, resembling the farmlands more associated with the Midwest and Deep South. At least for those few furious hours in the early mornings, farm trucks filled with just-harvested crops crowd out the shiny limos and SUVs you usually notice on Napa highways and byways. It becomes more like a scene from Gone With the Wind or The Grapes of Wrath.
Temperatures are absolutely perfect!
If you’re used to the scalding Desert Southwest or the steamy Deep South, the usual mid to high 80’s of Napa’s summertime probably seem mild to you. But those from the mild Pacific Northwest, windy Midwest, and downright chilly New England regions are going to love the fabulous temperatures of Napa in the Fall. Highs usually don’t stray out of the 60’s, yet lows rarely dip below the mid-50’s: ideal temps for a nice, long stroll around the vineyards or a few hours browsing at one of the local farmers’ markets. Visitors from the hotter regions, bring your jackets! The southern edge of the Valley (closer to the San Francisco Bay) gets frequent fog in the mornings, casting an eerily beautiful haze over the colorful hills and valleys. In October, Napa begins to get the rains that are all but completely absent in summer, deepening the colors and adding to the mystique of the Valley.
Most of the back-to-school crowd is outta here.
Sometimes, parents think a Napa wine tour is a family affair. Sure, many of the wineries accommodate children and their parents by providing things like coloring books and basketball goals to play with. But let’s be realistic: most of us want to enjoy adulting on a wine tour. It’s a great romantic getaway or snazzy way to wine and dine clients. It also makes for a memorable honeymoon, boys’ or girls’ weekend trip, or even a good bonding exercise for office coworkers. None of these, however, are great settings for kids. Since most schools around the country are back in session by the time grape harvest is underway, you’ll find fewer rugrats, if avoiding those is a priority for you and your fellow wine tourists.
You can actually stomp grapes with your bare feet.
Since ancient Rome, people have stomped grapes for winemaking with their bare feet. If this sounds like your kind of fun, there are a few wineries in Napa Valley that allow guests to stomp their grapes. One even lets you make your own T-shirt using your grape-juice-stained feet. This little side attraction isn’t available outside harvest time (because there aren’t any ripe grapes to stomp on). Be sure to mention this when you book your Napa wine tour if it’s important, so you can schedule your visit to those wineries when the stomping is happening.
Later in the Fall, Napa Valley prepares for the holidays.
Perhaps you’re too late to catch the harvest and grape-stomping in August, September, and October. That’s okay! You can still catch one of the most exiting times of the year in Napa Valley, or anywhere! Beginning in November, Napa businesses and residents begin preparing for the glorious holiday season — embellishing the already stunning Napa architecture with lights and bows, Christmas trees and sparkling tinsel. Restaurants, in particular, roll out the red carpet, offering their ultra-special seasonal menu items, and naturally, paring them with the best Napa wines produced during the hectic Fall harvest.
What are you waiting for? Make your reservations for your Fall Napa wine tour now! Check out these helpful links below to help plan your perfect tour.
Napa and Sonoma Valley Trip Planner
Napa Valley Lodging/Hotels
Napa Valley Winery Map
Sonoma Valley Winery Map
Sparkling Wine Wineries
Best Reasons To Take a Napa Wine Tour This Fall
Wine Tasting Tips
Wine Tasting Etiquette
Napa vs Sonoma Wine Tours
Why use a Custom Napa Limo Tour
Best Wine Tours in Napa
Napa Valley Facts
Napa Travel Tips
Why Ship Home Wine Bought in Napa
Napa Valley Food Pairing Tips