The Misty Forest Between the Vines

A misty landscape photograph of the woods between the Napa and Sonoma Valleys.

I say “Napa Valley”, you say…?

California’s Napa Valley is world-famous for its wine. Its sister Sonoma Valley is lesser known, but still flush with grapes that will one day travel the world by bottle. This photo gives a glimpse into the scant few miles of high country forest between the two valleys. There’s not a grapevine in sight.

My wife and I had come to Napa to celebrate her birthday, and our hope was to explore some areas we hadn’t been before. You see, when you live in Northern California, it doesn’t take much effort to drive to this valley for a day trip to visit one of the hundreds of wineries or walk through boutique towns. We had already been to many of the usual spots; it was time for something new.

I describe my desire to explore as this a sort of noble pilgrimage to see land untouched by human hands. My wife will likely tell you this pull usually just involves me driving out to where I don’t see street lights, so I can claim I’m not just another tourist. Whichever perspective you believe, it was this pull that took us up out of the Napa Valley into the hills.

I had no clue where I was going as I turned on to Oakville Grade Road. I simply figured that if we drove far enough east, we’d reach another valley. The grapevines shrank in the rear view mirror as we drove into the shade of the forest. The road narrowed into twists and turns that seemed to take us far away from Wine Country. But when we crossed over the top of the hills, I spotted something familiar: mist.

Napa Valley wine is special because of its hot sun and cool mist, according to the sharply dressed storytellers working the counter at local wineries. In the space of one day, Pacific Coastal mist will creep over the mountains to moisten the growing grapes and then the scorching sun will turn up the dry heat. I couldn’t tell you why that’s important. Evidently, that geographical phenomenon is a big enough deal that wine costs more ’round here.

And it was here — in the misty forest between valleys full of grapes — that the wet gray clouds had descended into the woods. As you can see, the mist was no stranger to this place. Moss covered the rocks on the forest floor as well as many of the tree trunks and branches. Fallen leaves had turned the ground into a beautiful red carpet. What a wonderful place to soak up a bit of peace and quiet, and to snap my wide-angle lens on the camera for a landscape shot.

Then it was back in the car and down the mountain to civilization. After all, I heard on Yelp that there was some good sushi nearby.

What do you mean I’m just another tourist?

Been to the Napa Valley yourself? What are some of your fondest memories?