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One-Tank Trip to the Silverado Trail

They call it the quiet side of Napa Valley. Although visitors will find no billboards along the 30-mile stretch of wineries, they may encounter locals with purple hands and teeth, smiling that special smile. Highway 29 is the road for heavy traffic, but the Silverado Trail heads into the foothills via the back roads. It's a trail of orchards, vines, views, farms, farm stands, charming inns and grand resorts, even a few stately homes and a world-class restaurant or two.
napa valley vineyard
NAPA, CA - NOVEMBER 14: Atmosphere at Miner Family Vineyard as part of Aloft Hotels Presents Live in the Vineyard on November 14, 2010 in Napa, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images for Aloft Hotels)

Getting There

Drive across the Bay Bridge from San Francisco and continue on I-80 east. Take exit 33 onto CA-37 west toward Napa until exit 19 to CA-29 (Sonoma Boulevard). Turn right on CA-221 which changes to CA-121 (Silverado Trail). The journey is 50 miles from the Bay Bridge.

What To Do

Silverado Trail Wine Studio
3105 Silverado Trail
Napa, CA 94558
(707) 226-8569

Price: tastings from $15 waived with purchase

Cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, merlot, pinot noir and syrah have this place in common. Here's a spot for those who would like to enjoy a picnic with a varied wine tasting in a beautiful setting. The studio is home to three boutique brands: Expression 44°, Bighorn Cellars and Tetra. Find picnic tables, parking, a patio and pet-friendly patrons and facilities. Tours are available by appointment.

solange calistoga

Spa Solage
755 Silverado Trail
Calistoga, CA 94515
(866) 942-7442
In addition to good grapes and orchards and silver prospecting in this area's once-plentiful rivers, the earth here hides something that has attracted people to this area throughout the ages. Deep in the earth, molten magna is heating waters mixed with ancient volcanic ash, creating the two dozen mineral spas in Calistoga. Take to the waters to have layers of stress peel away in the pool. Indulge in the geo-thermal mineral waters, try a mud bath and enjoy a rejuvenating facial.

Omi's Farm
4185 Silverado Trail
Napa, CA 94558
(707) 224-0954

Price: $5/person for tour

Bring the family for a visit to another family's working farm. Dig into a small farm experience to learn where the food comes from. Omi's Farm is diverse, boasting vegetables, grapes, flowers, bee hives, fruits and nuts in the fields while sheep, rabbits, chickens, turkeys and Australian cattle dogs rule the roost. Go behind the scenes to see what kind of work it takes to run a local farm.

Related: Best Bay Area Farmers' Markets By County

Castello di Amoroso
4045 North Saint Helena Highway
Calistoga, CA 94515
(707) 967-6272

Call for prices.

A fourth-generation local vintner built this elaborate temple as a tribute to the vine in the form of a medieval castle in Calistoga. With 107 rooms, frescoed walls, a tower, drawbridge and a moat, a dungeon with authentic torture chamber devices brought straight over from European auction houses. As the name suggests, it was a labor of love for owner, Dario Sattui, taking some 14 years to faithfully construct. It is a working winery hosting tours, tastings and walks through the vineyard.

napa valley balloons

Napa Valley Balloons, Inc. 
Domaine Chandon
1 California Drive
Yountville, CA 94599
(707) 944-0228 from $215 per person

To truly get away from it all, sail above it. Burners roar and you've got lift off, drifting quietly high above the treetops, looking down upon corridors of grapes in a heavenly valley. Your FAA-certified pilot is your guide, pointing out the landmarks and telling stories. It's an early start, so settle down afterward to a post-flight champagne breakfast and receive your certificate of ascension.

Where To Stay
Silverado Resort
1600 Atlas Peak Road
Napa, CA 94558
(707) 257-0200

At Silverado Resort, 1,200 acres surround an 1870 mansion, greens famous for their exceptional PGA golf. Two 18-hole championship courses designed by Robert Trent Jones, Jr. await golf enthusiasts. Others are spoilt for choice with 16 spa treatment rooms, 17 tennis courts and no fewer than 10 swimming pools. If you can be lured away, rent a bike or relax on a three-hour historic wine train tour with gourmet meals served onboard.

Related: Best First Date Spots In North Bay

Laurie JM Farr is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. A transplanted New Yorker, she has traveled throughout the world as the Big Apple's official tourism representative. She served as organizer for three Royal Visits to America. As an international relocation consultant, Laurie assisted more than 400 families with overseas moves and is a proud mother of two, thoroughly bi-cultural children. Her work can be found on

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