Sure, he has 23 acres of prime Napa Valley real estate but you won’t find wine grapes growing on John Hoffman’s land. Since the early 1980s John, 93, and his wife, Margaret, have pioneered a successful u-pick operation out of their spacious backyard which extends to the banks of the Napa River. The pick of the bunch? Walnuts. Oh, they also grow apples, pears, and persimmons, but at Hoffman Ranch it’s all about the walnuts. The secret to the success of the walnut groves is the alluvial soil found in the Napa region. It’s rich in nutrients and minerals and has great drainage—perfect for walnuts (or wine grapes). John’s still hard at work on his farm, and still manages to find time to nurse a stellar collection of bonsi trees (if you ask, he may show you). He greets guests at the ranch and points them toward the best walnut trees. Grab a white bucket and start picking. At $1 per pound, this might be the best deal in the valley.
Hoffman Ranch, 2125 Silverado Trail, Napa; 707-226-8938. Here is a map to the ranch.The ranch is usually open seven days a week from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Walnuts will be ready to pick around the beginning of October.