Winter is Napa's quietest season. After the busy fall harvest time, when the grape juice is laid away to become wine, and the grapevines drop their leaves to wait for spring, it can be the most enjoyable time of year to visit.
Winery tasting rooms are seldom crowded during the winter. Winery staffs are happy to see visitors, and you may feel like a VIP everywhere you, getting lots of attention. Wineries also do library tastings in the winter, giving you a chance to savor wines not available for tasting at other times of the year. You may also be able to get into many tasting rooms without a reservation. However, some have local restrictions that force you to call ahead, even if it's from the side of the road a few miles away.
A winter getaway in Napa or Sonoma can also be a relaxing, laid-back affair. Pick a hotel or an inn with an in-room fireplace, take the time to slow down. If a rainy day leaves you feeling chilled, you can always get a mud bath at a Calistoga spa.
Winter Weather in Napa Valley
Winter (November through January) is the rainiest and coolest time of year in Napa. But keep in mind that's a California version of rainy and cool and much more comfortable than the colder climates of other places. California weather varies—some years may be quite dry while others are very wet. But don't worry, it's not going to snow, and the roads are unlikely to become icy.
- Average High Temperature: upper 50s F
- Average Low Temperature: 40 F
- Rain: 2 inches per month
- Daylight: 10 to 11 hours
- Humidity: 77 %
In any 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.
What to Pack
Packing depends mostly on the weather. Instead of filling your suitcase with rain gear, pack a medium weight, waterproof jacket with a hood. It will be all you need most of the time, especially if all you'll be doing is dashing in and out of winery tasting rooms.
If you are flying to Napa and want to take some wine home with you, you won't be able to get any of it through the TSA check-in. You can put bottles of wine in your checked baggage, but pack lots of bubble wrap to prevent breakage — and some plastic bags and tape to contain the mess in case they do break.
Winter Events in Napa Valley
- Napa Valley Film Festival: This annual festival kicks off in November with lots of exciting films and guest artists to see.
- Fresh olive oil: It isn't exactly a formal event, but early winter is time for the olive harvest. New olive oil (olio nuovo) appears as early as November. Round Pond Estate holds seasonal olive mill tours, fresh olive oil days, and oil tastings in November and December.
- Holiday Tractor Parade: Calistoga (which is Napa Valley's northernmost town) kicks off their holiday celebrations with a lighted tractor parade, usually held at the end of November.
- Napa Valley Truffle Festival: If you like those earthy fungi, tickets for the January event sell out fast. Mark your calendar to get them when they go on sale in October.
- Napa Lighted Art Festival: Napa's iconic architecture becomes artwork in this unique lighted art walk.
- Napa Valley Restaurant Week: Lower-than-usual prices on lunches and dinners make January the time to try out the latest culinary hot-spots or revisit old favorites.
- There was once a Mustard Festival in Napa. It has been canceled, but that doesn't mean the wild mustard plants went away. They start blooming in the vineyards as early as February, creating a vibrant carpet of bright yellow flowers.
Winter Travel Tips
- If rain is forecasted or happened shortly before your trip, avoid winery tours that take you walking through the vineyards where it will be muddy.
- If you avoid the year-end holidays and Valentine's Day, you can find some of the best hotel prices of the year in the winter. Also, try to visit during the week if you can—room rates can drop by as much as 40 percent from Sunday through Thursday night.