Ahhh, Napa — the land of the grape and home of the wine. First inhabited by the Wappo Native Americans and later settled and cultivated by homesteaders like George C. Yount, the rich, fertile region has grown into one of the country's premiere winemaking regions, on par with Italy, France and Spain.
Sommeliers and wine lovers from around the globe flock to Napa to pay homage to the breathtaking vineyards and powerful cabernets that brought the area international acclaim back in the 1980s. More recently, Napa has blossomed into a hotbed for sustainable agriculture, land preservation and that sunny, effortlessly eco-friendly lifestyle that Californians do so well.
In (very) nearby Yountville, world-renowned chef Thomas Keller launched his celebrated restaurant French Laundry in 1994. The menu, consistently hailed as one of the world's best, features highly conceptualized, seasonal and intricately designed dishes often featuring vegetables from the gardens across the street. Now that's local.
A program called Napa Valley Grapegrowers also enables local landowners (the majority of whom are winemakers) to work together to preserve the area's habitats and watersheds.
Napa isn't just about the grapes — it (not surprisingly) produces grapeseed oil as well. Made from the seeds leftover after grapes are pressed for wine, grapeseed oil has a neutral flavor that makes it incredibly versatile for cooking, marinades and baking. A local company called Food & Vine produces non-GMO oils under the name Salute Sante. The company also offers an alcohol-free grape juice called Vin Jus.
Meanwhile, Napa's eco-friendly pets can get pampered with special dog and cat products — like the organic, handcrafted Woofie Treats — made by the Napa Farm House 1885. The Farm House also makes environmentally friendly and repurposed gifts, housewares, and natural bath and beauty products.
Meanwhile, Napa River Adventures and the Napa Valley Wine Train are no better at curbing the wine consumption. While both companies offer unique, environmentally friendly ways to tour vineyard country (by boat and vintage rail car, respectively) the wine flows liberally throughout.
After the massage coma has worn off, it's time for some music. Napa plays host to the annual Think Green World Music Festival, which features globally inspired musical acts performing on a solar-powered stage, along with organic food vendors, workshops on sustainable living and a green businesses fair.
Nearby in Santa Rosa, the Harmony Festival rocks out for its 31st year with world-famous musical acts (e.g. India.Arie, Cake) and presentations from leaders of the environmental movement (e.g. Julia Butterfly Hill, Starhawk).
MNN homepage photo: star5112/Flickr