Napa Valley harvest gives way to budding holiday traditions
By ERIC RISBERG December 9, 2011 4:52PM
An old truck and Christmas tree are decorated with lights outside the V. Sattui Winery in St. Helena, Calif. Harvest has barely ended in Napa Valley, but already it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)
Updated: January 12, 2012 8:22AM
OAKVILLE, Calif. — Harvest has barely ended in Napa Valley, but on Highway 29, the late fall colors and darker days of early December are giving way to sparkling displays of holiday lights that bedeck the halls, rooftops and grounds of the valley’s already-picturesque wineries.
The most brilliant views begin in Yountville and continue through St. Helena.
From across vineyards in Oakville and the western hillside, the Far Niente winery looks a lot like a glowing gingerbread house. A row of nearly hundred-year-old olive trees below the stone gravity flow winery (which itself dates to 1885) are covered in colored lights, and more lights shine from a canopy atop the hillside behind the iconic winery. In a nod to modernity, all are solar powered, as is the winery.
The lighting tradition began with the winery’s restoration in 1979, when the late Gil Nickel turned a majestic 80-foot fir tree into a Christmas tree. Larry Maguire, an owner and the CEO of Far Niente, said, “To us, turning the lights on each year is as important as harvest. Those lights put a smile on all of our faces and bring us joy knowing that those that drive by are as uplifted by them as we are.”
Just beyond the pair of green beaming palm trees at the entrance of St. Supery Vineyards and Winery is the dramatic row of bright red swaying sycamore trees lining the driveway into Peju Province Winery in Rutherford. At the end of the driveway, the romantic French Provencal styled winery is decorated with white lights.
Ariana Peju, general manager, says they first started putting up the lights seven years ago, and with each passing year, more and more nearby wineries join suit. Adds Peju, “The lights have caused a stir in the valley and have provided excitement for people as they drive by.”
In St. Helena, an antique truck decked out in lights sits beside the road at V. Sattui Winery, and the Victorian Sutter Home Inn is surrounded by palm trees ablaze with light.
Near the end of St. Helena on Highway 29, a star shines brightly on the 1886 stone facade of Ehlers Estate.
Kevin Morrisey, winemaker at Ehlers, said they started putting up the lights two years ago. “This is the time of year when we go inside and shine our lights outward to the world,” he said.