Thursday, October 31, 2013

Napa Valley on the Cheap

Neither of us had ever spent significant time in the Northern California wine country before, so Napa made a good place to stop for a few days as we migrate South to San Diego for the holidays. Now, we tend to gravitate to more frugal adventures and wine tourism tends to be fairly pricey, so we sought out some of the less expensive things to do in Napa Valley.

Halloween decoration seen on a stroll through downtown Napa.

Elaborate mosaic fountain in downtown Napa.

We stayed at Skyline Wilderness Park, probably the least expensive of the few RV parks in the valley, at $30/night. We learned from the Nealy's that the full hookup sites were very tight so we chose one of the back-in water/electric sites that are a little wider and were fortunate not to have any neighbors during our stay. We really enjoyed the miles of trails right at the park, though dog owners won't be so happy as they are not allowed on the trails.

Many of the Skyline trails take you through oak covered hillsides.

White Chanterelle on a log in the creek.

Mexican food tip: There is a small Mexican market on Imola Rd. on the way to the campground. They have excellent meat and produce as well as tacos, burritos and other typical Mexican fast food offerings. Four small tacos for $5 is probably the least expensive lunch you'll find in Napa, and tasty too!

One day we headed North for some hiking and wine tasting. Driving North through Napa Valley the smell of fermenting grapes was strong. The harvest had recently ended and wine production was in full force for the season. First we stopped at the Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park to see a water powered grist mill built in 1846.

Bale Grist Mill

Next we hiked about six miles through the Bothe-Napa Valley State Park. This lovely park preserves a second growth redwood forest; the redwoods grow from the roots of trees cut down in the 1850's.

Lush redwood forest in Bothe-Napa Valley State Park.

After all the gorgeous nature it was time for some over-the-top Napa Valley wine tourism! We'd decided to do one wine tasting during our stay and we chose one of the more extravagant properties just for the fun of it. Castello di Amorosa is a 141,000 square foot castle, the dream child of wine maker Dario Sattui.

Mr. Sattui spent 15 years visiting and studying castles in Europe and another 15 years building his dream. He made every effort and spared no expense to create a 13th century Tuscan castle that paid homage to the castles of that time. We took a tour that gave us entry to the wine caves and his collection of old wines, medieval armor and torture devices. We had a wonderful time exploring the castle and tasting the wines, but true to form we didn't buy a thing!

It's impossible to get a photo of the whole place close up, it's enormous!

There seemed to be miles of arched tunnels housing barrels of Italian-style wines.

In my last post I mentioned Rosie needed to visit the vet. During the entire four years she's been with us (we adopted her at 2.5 years old) she has had what we called a snaggle tooth. Her right canine stuck out of her mouth, very endearing actually. But that snaggle tooth turned out to be indicative of a was essentially a dead tooth and her body had begun to shed the tooth. So our stay in Napa included dental surgery at Alley Cat Small Animal Hospital.

We can highly recommend this animal hospital for their compassionate, professional care. We felt Rosie was in good hands during her long, hard day of surgery. They removed three teeth (the canine was a bear, with extensive bone damage underneath) and cleaned the rest of them. Now we have three weeks of antibiotic drops to administer twice a day (fun!) but she is doing very well.

Our sweet Rosie.

Tomorrow we are off to Santa Cruz where we'll spend a few nights at New Brighton State Beach. In fact, this will be the start of several weeks along the coast as we make our way to San Diego.


  1. Poor little Rosie. One of our previous cats, Quincy, had several teeth pulled and did well. She'll probably be like a new cat!

  2. the grist mill was I'm sure the wine was too. always wanted to "do" the wine country...
    Box Canyon Mark

  3. well done, my kind of Napa touring...

  4. Wow, what a castle. You don't see too many structures like that in the U.S. Glad to hear there's actually an affordable place to stay in Napa. Well wishes for Rosie....she'll probably feel better than ever!

  5. So sorry to hear that Rosie had teeth pulled. I hope she's feeling much better. That castle is just amazing.

  6. Hey, glad you guys had a nice open site. I really wish we had tried that mexican market. It looked great. Hope you guys are doing well. We are about to head south to Florida after doctors, vets etc.

  7. Good information for our next trip that way. I would have a hard time limiting myself to one winery, but I like the idea of going for a place that has such charm.

    What we won't do for our pets. It's good you found a place that you felt comfortable with as it doesn't always turn out that way.

    Happy coast travels.

  8. Hiking among the Redwoods sounds like great fun. The stream adds a nice touch!

    Great choice for your wine visit! What a beautiful castle! I would have enjoyed the tour even without being able to tasting.

    Good to hear Rosie made out all right at the dentist. Poor little thing. Hope this is the end to her troubles.

    Enjoy your beach travels.

  9. Hi guys
    We are in Santa Rosa, home for the holidays. We are working at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds Rv Park.
    Are you coming this way. Lots of great hikes around here.
    Would love to see you.
    Kathy and Steve

    1. Well darn, we've already headed South and are continuing South. We would have loved to see you guys too.