Visiting Napa/Noma in July

Let’s face it: it’s hot in Napa/Noma in July.  Of course, it’s hot everywhere and if you like it that way then it’s no problem.  We are split on the matter, so while we have been there in the height of the summer, we don’t go at that time very often.  The afternoon temperatures are generally in the 90s and it’s scant consolation that in other grape growing areas further south the 100s are regularly reached.

There are other drawbacks as well.  July 4 weekend brings crowds and at this time of the year, the crowds often mean tourists with children.  The roads are jammed and in many cases so are the tasting rooms.  So why go in July?

Because the days are long.  Even though the wineries are closed by 5:00 or earlier, you still have time to laze by the pool at your hotel, visit a state park or just enjoy strolling in the pretty towns. Some wineries, especially those with a view, take advantage of the lengthy daylight and stay open later for special events.  We well remember evenings at William Hill Winery (, sitting in comfortable Adirondack chairs with a bottle of Chardonnay admiring the view in the approaching dusk.  (Of course, you have to buy their wine to take advantage of their grounds).

William Hill Estate Winery

There are some pleasures only available in the summer months.  For example, the Santa Rosa Wednesday Night Market is open from May to August and the fruits and vegetables reach their peak in July.  There’s music, barbecue and a chance to meet the locals.  July also brings music festivals in the parks in St. Helena, Calistoga and Santa Rosa. 

Santa Rosa’s Wednesday Night Market.  Photo courtesy of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat.

July can lay claim to being the month when the vineyards are at their most beautiful.  It is the month in which veraison begins, when the red wine grapes attain color.  It can be quite stunning to see the clusters of grapes – some green, some purple – giving promise of the harvest to come.  Each month has its own beauty, to be sure, but there is nothing quite like seeing the vines heavy with fruit.  Earlier in the year, there are only tiny berries.  Later, the fruit is dropped or picked.

If the temperatures are your bugaboo, take advantage in July to go wine tasting in the cooler, higher elevations.  A case can be made for the quality of mountain wines over those made from fruit grown in the valleys, so taste up there and avoid the highest temperatures.  We remember a summer tasting at Storybook Mountain Vineyards (, in the very north of Napa Valley, when we were positively shivering in their caves.

If you do visit Napa/Noma in July, you’ll enjoy wine tasting most if you go on weekdays and make appointments for tastings on the weekends.  You’ll also get a better price in some hotels on weekdays, but prices will still be high compared with those in winter months.  Heat notwithstanding, there are many pleasures to be had in Napa/Noma in July.

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