Harvest begins in the Napa Valley in mid-August, when the first grapes are picked in the southernmost region of Carneros. As September and October roll around, the vines begin to turn shades of brilliant yellow, orange, red and burgundy, and vintners, winemakers and interns alike begin the rigorous hustle and bustle of harvest throughout the Napa Valley and Calistoga.
For visitors, harvest season is an excellent time to experience a glimpse into the winemaking process and see Calistoga at the peak of activity, as grapes are harvested, crushed and prepared for a new vintage of legendary Napa Valley wine. Though California may not be the first state that comes to mind when planning your fall foliage adventures, you’ll be amazed by the showy foliage of the vineyards during the autumn season. Here are five ways you can get outside in Calistoga and experience the fall foliage at its finest:
- Experience the fall colors in the vineyards as you bicycle down the Vine Trail.
The Vine Trail will one day be a 47-mile bicycle and walking path from Calistoga to Vallejo, but for now, the trail consists of small sections of path that will be joined together. The section of the Vine Trail in Calistoga conveniently begins at the end of Washington Street and traverses the 1.5 miles down to Dunaweal Lane, where you’ll find Sterling Vineyards, Clos Pegase Winery, Girard Winery and Twomey Cellars. Rent a bicycle from Calistoga Bikeshop or borrow a bike from your resort or hotel and you can bike to each winery without ever having to worry about riding along the busy highway or Silverado Trail.
Plus, perhaps the best part of your experience will be the section of trail that takes you right past vineyards in the peak of veraison, as the grapes ripen and prepare to be harvested.
- Check out the views from Castello di Amorosa and Sterling Vineyards.
Noted as two of the best wineries in Calistoga to visit for sprawling views of the Napa Valley, Castello di Amorosa and Sterling Vineyards boast hilltop locations, perfect for getting an eyeful of the Valley’s famous fall foliage. You can take tours at either property, ride the aerial tram at Sterling and compare notes on the vistas you see at each – and don’t forget to enjoy the wine while you’re there too!
- Hike Oat Hill Mine Trail where you’ll find fall foliage vistas for days.
The trailhead for Oat Hill Mine Trail begins within easy walking distance of downtown Calistoga. This former stagecoach route is now a favorite hiking and biking trail for adventure enthusiasts. The trail is an out-and-back unless you prefer to hook up with the Palisades Trail for a much longer and more rigorous hike, so you can really set your own pace and return back down the mountain whenever you’re ready. The views from this trail provide spectacular vistas of Calistoga as the crown jewel of the Napa Valley, and during harvest season, when the vines are displayed in brilliant fall colors, these views simply can’t be beat.
- Soar above Calistoga in an early morning hot air balloon ride and get a whole new perspective on the fall colors.
Your visit to the Napa Valley won’t be complete without a hot air balloon ride with Calistoga Balloons. You’ll take off early in the morning when the Valley is still peaceful and quiet and drift above Calistoga’s vines in full, showy fall colors. If you’re lucky, you may even glimpse people far down below beginning work in the vineyards for the day, harvesting grapes for the new vintage.
- Take a thrilling Polaris ride through the steep, hillside vines at Jericho Canyon Vineyard.
If you’re seeking a true outdoor adventure in Calistoga, look no further than Jericho Canyon Vineyard. This winery’s vines grow on the steep hillsides of Jericho Canyon and Mount St. Helena and they offer an incredible tour that includes a rocky Polaris ride through the vineyards. Though availability is limited, especially during the busy harvest season, the vistas, crisp fall air and exquisite wine, (once you’re back in the wine cave), will make for an experience you’ll never forget.
Harvest season in Calistoga is a time of celebration, bounty and abundance. At its heart, Calistoga still is and always will be an agricultural community and celebrating another successful harvest season is something every local looks forward to each year. What better way to celebrate than to get out and experience the season for yourself?