When I heard about the fires in Napa and Sonoma this year I was petrified. My brother lives there with his family and there were days they were packed up and ready to evacuate. That didn’t happen but they had to suck up a good deal of smoke. I was also concerned because my daughter, sister and I were scheduled to spend Thanksgiving there.
I love going to Napa in autumn because we live in Southern California where autumn leaves are rare. The hillsides and vineyards of Napa are ablaze with orange, red, and yellow color after the harvest. It’s my favorite place to spend Thanksgiving and gives our spread-out family a chance to get together.
My sister, who lives in Southern Colorado, flew to Burbank from Phoenix and my daughter picked us up at my apartment for the trek up North. We only had 3 nights to spend in Napa, so we drove up the boring I-5 that passes by a huge stinky slaughterhouse. We call it Cowshwitz. It was a risk to travel on Wednesday because there’s usually horrendous traffic, but we managed to miss it by leaving at the crack of dawn.
We were worried that Napa would be a black sooty mess, but the I-29 looked beautiful when we arrived at my brother’s house 2 miles from Yountville. The hills on the opposite side of the valley by the Silverado Trail were black and devastated and we saw signs posted along the road thanking all the first responders.
My brother’s backyard looks out into a large vineyard that was bright with warm fall colors. About ¾ of the harvest had been picked before the fire. What remained suffered from the smoke and may affect the taste of the wine in the future.
I love that the hot air balloons pass over his house in the morning.
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Our 3-night stay was relaxing and mellow, but we did take several invigorating walks including a 5-miler down the Napa wine trail to Yountville from my brother’s house. The tree-lined trail was recently installed between each direction of Highway 29, to protect hikers and bikers from drunk drivers.
As we were strolling on the walking path, the Napa Valley Wine Train passed by.
We also did a photo walk with my cousin who is a Seattle photographer by the Napa River and Downtown.
No trip to Napa is complete without wine tasting. We spent Friday drinking champagne and appetizers at Domaine Chandon. My sister-in-law is a member there.
Afterward, we had a reservation to visit the Elyse Winery. It’s a small winery near my brother’s house. Sometimes family-run wineries are more fun and that was true of Elyse. We had our own table out on the patio and personal service from one of the family members.
My brother’s family had scheduled a photoshoot for their Christmas card at my sister-in-law’s Aunt’s house in the center of the valley, so we all went along to check out the scenery.
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At dusk, we drove through the Silverado Trail to see some of the fire damage. We drove into an affluent neighborhood and could see how randomly the flames destroyed some houses and left others next to it still standing. No one is immune from disaster and we were all thankful our family members were safe and sound.
My sister-in-law is a dentist in Sonoma and many of her patients lost their homes. Santa Rosa took the worst of the destruction with entire neighborhoods wiped out. Let’s hope after all the hurricanes, fires, volcanos, shootings, and riots, that next year will be disaster-free. We can only hope.
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Can’t make it to Napa?
What’s your favorite place to see fall colors? Please leave a comment below.