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WHEN TO GO


The area booms with tourists on weekends from early summer to late fall. To avoid bumper-to-bumper traffic and crowded tasting rooms, visit during the week. The autumn harvest is the most exciting time to visit, but in winter, the crowds diminish, vintners have more time to sit down and discuss their products, and the landscape is at its greenest. The climate is relatively mild most of the year, though it does get chilly from December through February. The area's less-celebrated crop gets its due from the end of January through March during the Napa Valley Mustard Festival (707-944-1133; www.mustardfestival.org). The first weekend in June, Auction Napa Valley, the largest charity event of its kind in the world, attracts wine connoisseurs willing to drop big bucks for that elusive vintage (707-963-3388; www.napavintners.com).

HOW TO GET THERE


Both Napa and Sonoma are approximately an hour's drive north of San Francisco International Airport; rent a car at the airport and head across the Golden Gate Bridge. (Alternatively, fly into the less-crowded Oakland International Airport and drive from there.) Evans Transportation offers regularly scheduled shuttles between both airports and Napa town (707-255-1559; www.evanstransportation.com).

GETTING AROUND


Appealing, pedestrian-friendly small towns are strung like pearls along the main highways in Sonoma (Route 12) and Napa (Route 29), but you'll need a car to get between them. Avoid the main thoroughfares between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., and again between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., when commuters jam the roads. If you've got the time, explore some of the winding country drives (particularly the picturesque Silverado Trail and Spring Mountain Road), which are slower but reward the patient motorist with views of rural farmland, rolling hills, and rhythmic rows of grapevines stretching as far as the eye can see.

TOURIST INFO


Napa Valley Conference and Visitors Bureau
1310 Napa Town Center
Napa, CA 94559
Tel: 707 226 7459

Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau
453 First Street East
Sonoma, CA 95476
Tel: 707 996 1090

Information may have changed since date of publication. Please confirm details with individual establishments before planning your trip.

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