Postcard from Napa, California.
I started the day with a final farewell to the redwoods, driving along the Avenue of Giants, a 32-mile-long empty road: roof open, jazz on, and trees on both sides giving me their own version of a guard of honor. I didn’t get streamers and confetti at the end, but that’s ok.
California State Route 1 towards wine country was nerve-wracking, foggy and curvy at first. It became relaxing, sunny and smooth the further south I went: the more yellow the vegetation, the bluer the sky, the smaller the pines.
Once on the Sonoma Coast, I took a slight detour back north to get to the top of the Silverado Trail and from there all the way down south through Napa Valley’s wineries. Another bucket list drive crossed off my list.
3 nights in Napa final score: 1 rosé, 4 white, 24 different red wines shared among 4 wine tasting experiences – one of which was a 10am, 90-minute mind-blowing masterclass in a beautiful winery in the heart of the valley -, 12 more oysters and all the cheese.
Today marks my 50th birthday on planet Earth. Feat:
Playing “bocce” with the old folks as a kid, studying at the art institute, struggling to get through uni. The nights in the bookshop and the dj sets at Bloom with all its magical creatures. Becoming Takeshi. Buying an apartment I never lived in. That roller-coaster of coincidences that made me leave and everything that has happened since: my sis that doesn’t know it but she started it all, the encounters, all the travels, my niece who is now a teenager, the regular Skype calls with my parents. Heaps of live music, a pandemic, one fucking Brexit, a green card. Countless deadly, wonderful hangovers. A job I still love, 3 companies I am grateful for, 3 cities I adore. Beautiful people who left my everyday life, beautiful people who keep appearing in my everyday life. A few tears, way more laughter, tons of bloody emotions.
Raising another glass of cab: and happy fucking birthday to me, kids.
Driving from Fortuna to Napa Cheat Sheet
Accommodation in Napa:
- Napa Discovery Inn, 500 Silverado Trail, Napa, CA 94559. Right on the Silverado trail, you can easily walk downtown to enjoy a glass of wine (or five) and walk back without worrying about driving.
Where to eat and what to see between Fortuna CA and Napa
- Avenue of the Giants, Easily the most scenic drive among the redwoods. An incredible 30+ miles with majestic trees on both sides of the road. I did it early in the morning and there was little to no traffic. Superb.
- Gualala Seafood Shack, 38820 S, CA-1 Unit 104, Gualala, CA 95445 hidden on the side of the main road, in a cul de sac. Worth stopping for some fried oyster or fish n chips.
- Silverado Trail the main road that goes trough Napa Valley. It is worth leaving it sometimes to get lost in the beautiful side roads that go trough all the wineries.
- Compline Restaurant, 1300 1st St #312, Napa, CA 94559 I had a decent steak – I live in Chicago, I have high standards lol – and a magnificent (my first this trip) glass of cab.
- Vermeil Wines, 1018 1st St, Napa, CA 94559
- JaM Cellars, 1460 1st St, Napa, CA 94559 a bit different from the other wine bars: laid back, unpretentious, with live music most nights.
- WALT Wines, 605 1st St, Napa, CA 94558 I bumped into this place by chance and I loved it. The landlady was super nice, very knowledgeable and passionate about wine and such. One of my favorite wine tasting.
- Hog Island Oyster Co, Oxbow Public Market, 610 1st St, Napa, CA 94559, amazing oysters. I went there twice in two days to make sure to try all the oysters varieties.
- Far Niente Winery, 1350 Acacia Dr, Oakville, CA 94562 ain’t cheap but it was a mind-blowing wine tasting experience for my birthday in a beautiful mansion in the middle of Napa Valley.
- Gustavo Wine, 1021 McKinstry St, Napa, CA 94559 good wine and a very nice landlady explaining everything about what I was drinking
- The Wine Thief, 708 1st St, Napa, CA 94559 super friendly place where I chatted the day away talking to the bartender and the owner and I got offered a couple of glasses of cab cause well: it was my birthday!
(Yes I had some wine in Napa, so what?)
Driving from Fortuna to Napa FAQ
From Fortuna to Napa there are about 240 miles taking the shortest and quickest route. I wanted to drive along the coast till Sonoma then turn inland to reach the northmost possible point of the Silverado Trail: I ended up driving for 300+ miles.
Following the faster option it will take about 4 hours. My route was longer, I stopped along the way a few time hence it took me way more than 8 hours to reach my destination.
The landscape you see are magnificent although very different. The first part driving trough the Avenue of Giants has probably been my favorite part.
The Avenue of Giants, about 20 miles past Fortuna. And Napa Valley with all the wineries goes without saying.
Said that a convertible would be the ideal car to drive in Napa Valley, the first part of the trip leaving Fortuna might be pretty misty, almost cold hence and a midsize would probably be a safer bet.