How to Visit Napa Valley in Winter

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    Napa Valley in Winter

    A Napa Vineyard in the Winter
    Nico Sanchez/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

    You might think this photo was taken in summer if you used the green grass as a hint, but the bare, severely-trimmed grapevines are a sure sign that it is winter in Napa Valley. In fact, Napa tends to look greener in winter (which is the rainy season) than it does in summer.

    Winter is Napa's quietest season, with the juices from the fall harvest laid away to become wine and the vineyards bare and waiting for spring.

    Napa Valley Weather in Winter

    Winter (November through January) is the rainiest and coolest time of year in Napa, but keep in mind that's California version of rainy and cool. That's still much more comfortable than the colder climates of other places. California weather varies: some years may be quite dry while others are very wet.

    Don't believe everything you read online about Napa's winter weather, either. Long-time residents of Northern California and frequent Napa visitor may laugh out loud when they see something like this at a well-regarded website: "from December through February, monsoon rains take place on almost a daily basis." Maybe that writer visited during a week of heavy daily rains, but in fact, the average chance of rain in Napa from January through March is 40% and more than half of those rainy days are just a drizzle.

    And if you read anything written by a California native, keep in mind that their definition of "cold and miserable" could be a bit skewed. Compared to 20 inches of snow and temperature below freezing, Napa at its most uncomfortable might seem like a warm summer day.

    Napa's winter high temperatures will be in the upper 50s °F and lows average around 40°F.

    In any particular year, the weather might be very different than the average. Check the forecast a few times before you go to get a better sense of what to expect during your visit.

    Pros and Cons of Going to Napa in Winter

     Winery tasting rooms are seldom crowded, and their staffs are eager to give each visitor as much attention as they can. A Napa Valley concierge posting on Tripadvisor suggests coming to Napa during the winter, but "Only if you can handle a little rain, and if you want to feel really special. You will be able to get into any winery, restaurant, or spa. You will also be treated like rock stars."

    A winter getaway in Napa or Sonoma can be a relaxing, laid-back affair. Pick a hotel or inn with an in-room fireplace, get a mud bath at a Calistoga spa, and take the time just to slow down.

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    Special Napa Valley Events in Winter

    Napa Valley Film Festival 2016
    Tim Mosenfelder / Getty Images

    In November, you can go to The Napa Valley Film Festival. It's a star-studded affair with lots of celebrities attending and a mix of mainstream film premieres and indie films.

    Calistoga, Napa Valley's northernmost town kicks off their holiday celebrations with a lighted tractor parade, usually held at the end of November. Get this year's schedule.

    The Napa Valley Truffle Festival happens in January. If you like those earthy fungi, tickets sell out fast. Mark your calendar to get them when they go on sale in October.

    Early winter is also time for the olive harvest, with new olive oil (olio nuovo) appearing as early as November. Round Pond Estate holds special olive mill tours, fresh olive oil days, and oil tastings in November and December.

    There's no special event for it, but you may see wild mustard plants blooming in the vineyards as early as February, creating a vibrant carpet of bright yellow flowers. 

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    More Seasons in Napa

    Bare Napa Vineyards in Winter
    Geri Lavrov / Getty Images

    Winter is a great time to go to Napa, but you might also want to visit Napa in Fall for the grape harvest —and the fall color in the vineyards. 

    Napa in Summer is the busiest time of the year (and the hottest). 

    Napa in Spring is newly green and the spring-blooming mustard can be spectacular.