In Napa, take the road less traveled

November 14, 2012 

Robert Frost is one of the true icons of American poetry and one of his best poems begins with a stanza that is very telling, not only of life, but also of a visit to Napa Valley, Calif., if you only have one day to spend.

"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth"

So which road do you choose? Will it be Highway 29 or the Silverado Trail? In reality, Robert Frost answers the question in the last stanza of the poem: "I took the road less traveled."

The Silverado Trail runs north/south on the eastern side of Napa Valley and parallels the more travelled Highway 29 that is home to many well known wineries that put Napa on the map. Driving south on the Silverado Trail, the Vaca Mountains loom large to your left. The wineries on this side of the valley are more spread out than those on Highway 29 and better yet -- there is less traffic on this roadway. The stops include Silverado Vineyards, Pine Ridge Winery, and Regusci Winery just to name a few. These wineries do not require advance reservations as they are open to the public, so it makes for an easy day visit.

Silverado Vineyards, which was opened by Diane and Ron Miller in 1981, is situated on a hill overlooking the southern end of Napa Valley and the view from the terrace is quite magical (to steal a play on words), especially in the late summer and early fall when the vines are full of ripe grapes. My

favorite purchase at this stop is always the chocolates filled with Merlot. It is amazing how well their Merlot pairs with chocolate.

Pine Ridge Winery sits on a hillside just below Silverado Vineyards and their grounds contain some of the more beautiful gardens in the area. Pine Ridge produces a number of different varietals, but they are most well known for their Cabernet Sauvignons and, historically, I enjoy the one with the Stag's Leap designation the best, which usually contain the flavors of dark cherries and black currants that are characteristic of the Stag's leap appellation.

Almost across the street from Pine Ridge lies Regusci Winery -- one of the few "Ghost Wineries" remaining in use in the Valley. In the late 1800s a large number of wineries went out of business due in part due to a pest named phylloxera that feeds on the roots of grapevines, eventually killing the entire vine. The tasting room staff makes this a fun stop with their light hearted humor echoing off the walls.

Next time you visit Napa Valley, remember that the Silverado Trail is the road less travelled in Napa Valley and like the famous Robert Frost poem suggests, sometimes it makes all the difference to take a different route.

Jim Rawe, a family attorney in Bradenton, is an avid collector of fine wines. His column appears weekly. He can be reached at jimrawe@gmail.com.

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