Azaleas bloom each spring at Far Niente winery in Oakville, Calif.
Although Oakville began as a water stop in the 1860s for a steam train that ran the length of Napa Valley, today this unincorporated community of about 300 has the region’s greatest concentration of cabernet sauvignon producers. You won’t find a real town here, just a crossroads with a popular country market, but with its 60-plus growers and wineries, Oakville is a great spot for delving deep into the wine culture that made the valley what it is today. 226-5813, oakvillewinegrowers.com. Area code is 707 except as noted.
For one of the sweetest views of the Napa Valley, head into the Mayacamas foothills by taking Oakville Grade west from Highway 29 for a mile or so; the bird’s-eye panorama embraces a patchwork of verdant vineyards stretching east to the Vaca Mountains. One of the surprise pleasures at Robert Mondavi Winery is the permanent art collection, which includes sculptor Beniamino Bufano’s large bronze and mosaic glass St. Francis (1929); there are also rotating exhibits by local and emerging photographers, painters, and other visual artists. 7801 St. Helena Hwy., (888) 766-6328, robertmondavi.com. Some Oakville wineries charge a tasting fee, though at Far Niente the price also covers a seasonal cheese pairing and visits to the working winery, aging caves, extensive gardens (including thousands of southern azaleas that bloom each spring), and classic car collection; by appointment. 1350 Acacia Dr., 944-2861, farniente.com.
Local winery and Oakville Grocery Company owner Leslie Rudd can often be spotted at this beloved community hub. Stop at Oakville Grocery for a to-go grilled breakfast sandwiches or for lunchtime picnic fare such as a roasted chicken and Gruyère panino or a spinach strawberry salad. 7856 St. Helena Hwy., 944-8802, oakvillegrocery.com.
Deep in the vineyards next to the Napa River, at the end of a country road, Oakville Vineyard Bed & Breakfast occupies an old ranch house. There are three rooms with private baths, a living room with fireplace, and an outdoor pool surrounded by sycamores and redwoods; rates include continental breakfast. From $200. 7960 Money Rd., (877) 765-4546, oakvillevineyardbandb.com.
Photography by Adrian Gregorutti
This article was first published in April 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.
Check out the rest of our Napa Valley package:
Calistoga: Old West meets Old Faithful
Napa: budget restaurants and a bustling new riverside
Rutherford: acclaimed wineries and exceptional natural attractions
St. Helena: upscale yet folksy Main Street
Yountville: the Valley's fine-dining capital