Silverado Trail: The RIGHT Road
Jul. 1, 2016 | by Jim Beazley
When navigating the Napa Valley there’s a RIGHT road and a slow road.
The Silverado Trail is literally the right hand road when heading North from Napa up into the Napa Valley. It also happens to be the “road less traveled” and therefore the “RIGHT” road to take when going up and down this world famous wine country.
Because there are no villages or towns along it, just beautiful vineyards and wineries you’ll not find yourself in bumper to bumper traffic like you might on Highway 29 just west of “the Trail” as it’s known by locals.
Highway 29 shoots through Napa and Yountville as a freeway, but chokes down to two lanes just past there. Next comes Oakville and Rutherford, mere “wide spots in the road” until you come to St. Helena where traffic slows to a crawl, then to bumper to bumper until you leave that three light town.
Next stop, literally, is the three way choice you make when you finally get to Calistoga. There, highway 29 turns hard right becoming the Main Street of Calistoga.
Add to these mini road blocks affectionately known as villages and towns the majority of the most famous wineries on the planet and a two lane road with no passing and few turning lanes and you start to see how “slow road Hwy 29” got its reputation.
But, don’t fret…there’s a better WAY: The Silverado Trail. And don’t worry about not getting to see Mondavi, Opus One, Franciscan, St. Supéry, Cakebread, Sutter Home, Inglenook, or Beringer we know the way you can.
Connecting Silverado Trail to Highway 29 is a series of “cross roads”. Not the traditional Christian Cross road, but like rungs on a giant’s ladder which is what Napa Valley’s road system looks like on a map.
In fact they’re even called “Cross Roads” Yountville, Oakville, Rutherford Cross Road. And the rest of the “rungs of the ladder” are lanes and avenues clearly marked as going across the valley floor.
It’s simple, to travel North and South, use Silverado Trail then use the “cross roads” and lanes to go back and forth.
Where Your Trail Begins – The South End of the Trail
While Silverado Trail officially begins in the City of Napa for TOURING purposes think of it as having a Southern, Middle and Northern section. And where you choose to join it will depend on just how much time you plan on devoting to the wineries along this beautiful byway.
At the Southern stretch you’ll find family owned boutique wineries like Judd’s Hill, Reynold’s Family and Van Der Heyden. Here you’ll discover wines available only at the wineries and select local restaurants. Because they are small they require appointments to visit to taste and tour.
Also in the Southern reaches of the Trail you’ll find landmark wineries such as Darioush (a “Persian Palace” reminiscent of the ancient city of Persepolis), Clos du Val, Chimney Rock (Cape South African architecture) and Regusci perhaps the oldest family ranch winery on the Southern Trail. All of these wineries will require an appointment that the Beazley House staff would be happy to arrange.
The Middle Section
You can access the south end of the “Mid-Section“ of the Trail at Oak Knoll Avenue or from Yountville Cross Road. It is always SAFER to make a right-hand turn onto the Trail as locals and visitors alike are traveling at 60 mph or more, so Yountville Cross Road is best for this reason. Your right turn will give you access to Disney family owned Silverado winery with its panoramic views, Pine Ridge winery with their elaborate cave system, Stags Leap Winery, an exclusive appointments only vineyard.
Also in this exclusive neighborhood are the likes of Silver Oak (off of Oakville Cross Road), Paraduxx one of the flock of parent Duckhorn Vineyards further north, ZD known for its Zinfandel and Mumm Napa, a sparkling winery with fabulous views and a wonderful photo gallery of Ansel Adams prints and contemporary photographers. Also nearby is Frogs Leap Wine Cellars with its wonderful reds and gardens.
The North Section & Beyond
After Rutherford Cross Road comes Zinfandel Lane home to newly re-envisioned Raymond Vineyards. Here you’ll see what happens when Old French Wine nobility weds American Wine pioneers and turns wine making into high entertainment! Jean Charles Boisset married Gina Gallo and viola suddenly a new wine empire was created. Several wineries and children later a new dynasty is born and Raymond is the flagship.
Joseph Phelps Vineyards is up off the Trail on Taplin Road to the east and is a pilgrimage to wine lovers. Phelps was a pioneer of the early 1960s along with Robert Mondavi. The winery is tucked into its own mini valley and is absolutely magical. Visiting is by appointment, of course.
At the Northern terminus of the Silverado Trail a left turn takes you into Calistoga’s Main Street. The right turn spills you onto Highway 29 which has jogged through Calistoga and heads on up Mount St. Helena and on to Lake County. This would be the way you would proceed to Tubbs Lane where Chateau Montelena (home of the Chardonnay which won the Judgment of Paris), Tamber Bay (a thoroughbred horse ranch and winery) and Envy Wines (possibly the best Cabernet in Napa Valley) are located. All of these extra ordinary places would require an appointment to taste or tour, but are well worth your time.
This “wild west town” looks like something lifted from a Hollywood movie. Like St. Helena further south, their Main Street is Highway 29. But unlike St. Helena, the entire valley doesn’t have to squeeze through it because Calistoga is the LAST town in the Napa Valley. Established in the mid 1800’s, Calistoga was envisioned as a resort destination complete with natural hot springs, lodging and the first working railroad.
The railroad is long gone (the Napa Valley Wine Train turns around in St. Helena) but the hot springs, luxury lodging and trendy restaurants remain. The shops are interesting and the Calistoga Inn is a restaurant and brew pub. Nearby are the “Old Faithful Geyser” Napa Valley’s MUCH smaller version of Yellowstone’s namesake and a Petrified Forest.
For heading back to Napa we of course suggest you regain Silverado Trail.
And, do not let this summary of the “RIGHT” road overwhelm you. Your Beazley House Innkeeper will be happy to plan the perfect itinerary for you, including making all your wine tasting and tour reservations. You may request your complimentary itinerary before or during your stay.