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article imageOp-Ed: Napa Valley tastes good Special

By Larry Clifton     Apr 19, 2009 in Travel
Our last official stop in California was Napa Valley, America’s lush valley of vines and wines. We were in the area two days and still lacked the time to visit all of Napa’s most historic wineries.
We visited Mondavi, Andretti and Rocca wineries and also stopped at 25 Brix Wine Shop at 7377 St. Helena Highway, Napa where we purchased some bottles for a few family members.
Racing connection
Legendary 1969 Indy 500 winner and famous race car driver Mario Andretti, born in Montona, Istria, may have retired from racing, but he operates a fine vineyard and winery on Branch Road in Napa Valley. My wife Leigh and to a lesser extent myself, have a family connection to Andretti. The Navigator's father, Lee Wallard, won the Indy 500 once in 1951.
We traveled to Indianapolis in 1996 when Lee Wallad was posthumously inducted into the Racing Hall of Fame and wound up dining at the table next to the Andretti family at the Adam Mark Hotel event. The quaint tasting hall of Andretti’s winery is aged like the wine that is served and of classic Italian design. Vines grow up the walls, and the vineyard Barn is just across and in sight of the main building.
Tasting presentations
Most of the vineyards offer tasting rooms in tasteful buildings of quaint, old world architecture and settings. Many do not require an appointment, some do. The individual vines, tens of thousands of them as far as the eye can see, receive individual attention from vineyard masters, and there is approximately one dedicated irrigation head for every four vines.
The leafless vines basked in the California sun on a warm February day as cattle and horses grazed in the lush hills far above us. It is incredible to see the large animals grazing on the crest of 500-foot hills overlooking Napa Valley. I was in awe of their footing as most of the vivid green foothills fall steeply to the valley floor. A million Yellow wildflowers swayed in the breeze among the vines, no weeds allowed, only pretty wildflowers to dance for a golden sun.
The most rewarding part of our Napa Valley tour was the scenery. The vineyards are sandwiched between rolling hills filled with blooming yellow wildflowers and countless acres of grape vines in neat rows that grow narrow in perspective as each row catches the eye. Highway 29 is a busy road, and I suggest touring some of the vineyards on Big Ranch and Silverado Trail so the traffic doesn’t taint your mood for exploring Napa Valley, California’s pallet-pleasing wine belt. This leg of our trip was worth dealing with Oakland traffic and the bridge on Hwy 680 that the Navigator named the $8 Bridge in mock of its inflated toll fee.
Walmart and gypsies
When you keep an RV and towed car on the road for weeks, certain maintenance must be performed. At the same time, RVers must bring in food; do their banking; renew prescriptions; replace wiper blades shredded by ice and snow; and eat lunch. While I’m sensitive to small businesses, I don’t have time to drive around and hunt for individual stores when I’m thousands of miles from my hometown. This is why I am a fan and faithful patron of that great American retail icon, Wal-Mart - especially the super stores. I don’t give a hang about the brash political movement against Wal-Mart and its ilk. When on the move, Leigh and I refer to a trip to a Wal-Mart superstore as going to City Wal-Mart. When traveling, often a lot of chores and errands need attending to in a short time in order for us to stay on schedule and budget. To this end, we honed in on the nearest City Wal-Mart with our GPS and arrived within ten minutes.
We accomplished every chore and errand in one stop. I had the oil changed and wipers replaced on the towed car while Leigh shopped for groceries. I picked up some shop towels and electrical tape, and we had lunch together at the Wal-Mart Subway. We also got our prescriptions filled for the month and did our banking inside the store. My car was finished just in time to pick Leigh up around front and load the groceries, and their gas was cheaper. Some Wal-Mart are known in RV circles to allow boon docking in their parking lots overnight when RVers are caught in a snow storm or other malady, no questions asked. They do all of this and with consistently lower prices. I think it is important to honor the people and companies who are pro RV and help keep us road-gypsies safe, on budget, and on schedule, even if they are the most successful retailer in America.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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