For a taste of Napa as it used to be, get off Highway 29 and drive the Silverado Trail instead. This country road runs from Napa to Calistoga directly east of 29, passing friendly, family-owned and-run wineries like Van Der Heyden Vineyards, which produces a very rare late-harvest cabernet; for $10 you’ll get five tastings, plus a guarantee you’ll leave laughing. For a special treat, drive 15 minutes off the Trail to sample the wines at RustRidge Ranch and Winery, where you can spread your picnic on the grassy grounds and enjoy the tennis courts for free (check out the horses in the back too). If you get sleepy — or just sip too many samples — you can stay overnight at their B&B, then wake up to a ranch-style buffet breakfast. (Rooms start at $150 per night.)
TIP: A dozen Silverado Trail wineries are offering a special Silver Pass Weekend November 11 and 12. You’ll get exclusive tastings of new wines, food pairings, and discounts on purchases. Buy tickets ($20 for one-day, $30 for two-day) and see participating wineries here.
Directions to the Silverado Trail: Drive north of Napa town on Highway 29. Turn right on Trancas St., then left to start up the Silverado Trail.
Van Der Heyden Vineyards, 4057 Silverado Trail, Napa (800-948-WINE)
RustRidge Ranch and Winery, 2910 Lower Chiles Valley Rd., St. Helena (707-965-9353) From Silverado Trail, take Highway 128 east to Chiles & Pope Valley Rd. and continue 3.5 miles. Turn right onto Lower Chiles Valley Rd. and go about 1 mile before turning left into RustRidge.