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Must-Do Activities When Visiting Napa Valley in the Winter

There is no place quite like Napa Valley in the winter. While some may think that a wine country getaway should only be reserved for summer and harvest, locals know that the winter months offer cozy activities, breathtaking views along with a less crowded serene atmosphere.
Markham Vineyards Capsule graphic
Outdoor image, blue sky with some clouds, Napa Valley welcome sign. It says, Welcome to this world famous wine growing region.

Take a ride with us as we explore the defining wine characteristics and wintertime activities of each of Napa Valley's wine districts.

Napa's Nested AVAs

Did you know… While Napa Valley is one of the world’s most renowned wine appellations, there are also 16 nested AVAs (or “districts”) that exist within the valley?

Each nested district is defined by unique soils and microclimates, resulting in distinctive flavors and aromas – from the intense blueberry and blackberry flavors of Calistoga to the violety aromas and firm tannins of Yountville.

In our District Series Collection, Winemaker Kimberlee Nicholls hones in on one AVA for each bottling, highlighting the extraordinary depth and variety of flavor that Napa Valley’s widely varied terroir has to offer.

Each district has unique growing conditions, which are reflected in the wines – but they also have a special atmosphere unto themselves, especially during the winter months.

Read on for our recommendations for places to go and things to do in Napa Valley in the winter!

St. Helena

The first stop on your winter adventure has to be at our Historic Napa Valley Winery located in St. Helena.

For an extra special treat, while our tasting room undergoes exciting renovations (slated to open in Summer 2022!), guests are invited to settle in amongst oak barrels for seated wine tastings in the Historic Stone Cellar, which was built in 1879, yet remains at the heart of our estate today. Or grab a blanket and enjoy the romantic atmosphere of our fire pits in the beautiful courtyard.

To make the most of your experience, we recommend adding a seasonal cheeseboard, endorsed by Paige Comrie of the popular Wines with Paige Wine Blog and @wineswithpaige Instagram account.

After tasting, stroll the streets of St. Helena’s classic downtown. Any chilly temperatures or drizzly skies can be evaded by perusing curated jewelry, clothing, and handcrafted gifts in the boutique shops or catching an independent film in the quaint Cameo Cinema.

If you’re looking to spend the evening in St. Helena, we recommend the Wine Country Inn, located less than one mile north of Markham Vineyards on Lodi Lane. Markham Merit Society Members receive special rates; simply mention your wine club membership and you’ll receive the exclusive rate when booking by phone at 888.465.4608.

And don’t forget to take a bottle home of the District Series St. Helena Petite Sirah 2017 to remember your time with us in our home district!

Grapes grown in St. Helena ripen beautifully with the consistently warm temperatures during the growing season, due to protection and heat reflection off the region’s hillsides. This Petite Sirah delivers on the district’s classic big tannins and juicy fruit flavors of plum and blackberry.

Calistoga

After a restful night’s sleep in St. Helena, head north to Calistoga for the day. 

Start your day with a savory breakfast treat and coffee at the Calistoga Farmers’ Market, open Saturdays, year-round. Browse their locally grown seasonal produce, gourmet food, creative crafts and gift items, and enjoy live music! It is truly a community experience; the relaxed atmosphere allows you to strike up a conversation with friendly Napa locals and farmers.

Take a load off and sort through all your goodies at the Calistoga Motor Lodge & Spa. Palm Springs meets Napa Valley at this 1940s roadside motel that beckons you to unplug and simply chill.

Designed as a tribute to the great American road trip, each room is outfitted with camper-style banquette seating. It’s the perfect spot to hunker down and play a competitive round of Life or Sorry (available for checkout in the lobby). Book yourself a spa treatment to unwind, then ease into the evening with s’mores and Jiffy Pop next to the poolside fire pit, or challenge your friends and fellow guests to a game of cornhole.

For dinner, either enjoy a hearty Italian and Mediterranean wood-fired cuisine at the hotel’s Fleetwood Restaurant or wander over to Buster’s BBQ, where open-air grills fill the streets with the aromas of Louisiana-style barbeque from tri-tip to pulled pork, to hot links and ribs.

Buster’s Southern Barbecue has been serving up southern-style BBQ in Calistoga since 1965 and is a staple in the little tight-knit community.

Markham’s approachable wines and BBQ are a match made in foodie heaven. We recommend bringing along a bottle of our District Series Calistoga Cabernet Sauvignon 2017.

Calistoga is also home to our Rockerbox Vineyard, named for the mining tool used to separate gold from sand and gravel, and a nod to our original owner, Jean Laurent, who journeyed from Bordeaux to California in search of gold. This 60-acre vineyard, set at the foot of Mount Saint Helena and the headwaters of the Napa River, is cradled in a natural canyon, surrounded by bay laurel, wild fennel, and oak woodlands. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Petit Verdot root deeply in rocky, gravelly soils to produce intense blueberry and blackberry jam characteristics. You’ll taste all these notes in our District Series Calistoga Cabernet Sauvignon 2017

Yountville

Once you’re rested and rejuvenated from your time up north, it’s time to head south to Yountville, where our rich and storied history began.

Yountville Ranch is Markham’s original and oldest vineyard, purchased by Bruce Markham in 1975. The vineyard’s lineage stretches back to 1879 when our stone cellar winery was built a few miles north of this historic Yountville site. This legendary 78-acre vineyard sits along the southern edge of the Rutherford Bench in the Yountville District, the “beating heart” of Napa Valley, and offers exceptional terroir for classic Bordeaux varieties: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec.

Adjacent to the Yountville Ranch is our 15-acre Hopper House, a charming craftsman-style bungalow nestled in the Hopper House Vineyard along Hopper Creek that Bruce and Kate Markham once called home. Hopper House Merlot offers classic Napa Valley notes of dense ripe cherry and briary blackberry, which is expressed in our District Series Yountville Merlot 2018

At the end of January, the valley’s landscape transforms as it begins to bloom with mustard flowers. As you drive along the historic Highway 29, you’ll be awed by the radiant green of the valley floor and blankets of lush yellow mustard between the vines of Yountville.

Be sure to charge up your phone to capture the stunning scenery and breathtaking views!

To further your inevitable inspiration and artistic creativity, Yountville also offers a rich art scene rooted with the Napa Valley Museum and Yountville Arts presenting the Gallery “Flowers from Monet’s Garden” by Local Artist Sam Chapman – a series of oil paintings inspired by Claude Monet’s house and garden in Giverny, France. 

Wrap up your stay with a night at Hotel Yountville. Rooted in Yountville history, guests are welcome to experience a luxury spa resort inspired by a quintessential wine country home and anchored by a Heritage Valley Oak. Hotel Yountville beckons guests with buildings constructed of stacked Napa river rocks, heavy timber beams, and copper accents. With charming service and genuine comfort, Hotel Yountville creates the perfect escape for the adventurous traveler and wine country lovers.

Downtown Napa

While Downtown Napa is technically not an AVA, a trip to wine country is not complete without a stop here. A must-visit attraction is the Oxbow Public Market, a sprawling indoor marketplace featuring a riverside deck, artisan food stalls, local produce, and more.

Napa is home to world-class music, which can be experienced at Blue Note Napa, the jazz club occupying the first floor of the impressive Napa Valley Opera House. Or at the historic Uptown Theatre, downtown Napa’s ultimate destination for live entertainment nestled in the famed West End district. The stunningly restored art deco masterpiece built in 1937 offers a phenomenal, intimate live show experience with only a 98-foot distance from the last row to the stage, making every seat truly great! 

A trip to wine country in the winter months culminates in the heart of a wonderfully walkable downtown. Take advantage of the reduced crowds and make a reservation at one of Napa’s highly coveted fine dining restaurants. Whether you’re looking for a Michelin-starred spot for dinner or a hidden bistro to chill, downtown’s restaurant scene will delight the senses of every foodie.

With this full list of activities and sights to see, now is the time to open a bottle of our 91-Point Napa Valley Merlot 2018 and pour yourself a glass while you start planning your trip to wine country this winter. Cheers!

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