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Friday Fishwrap: Random Jottings at Week's End
Three Favorite Roads Less Traveled

By Charles Olken

Roads in wine country tend to be quite heavily traveled. You can’t travel up Highway 29 or the Silverado Trail in the Napa Valley without running into car after car after car and even tourist buses. The same is true of Highway 12 that runs up the middle of the neighboring Sonoma Valley and other roads that are lined with wineries, restaurants and other tourist attractions.

But, there are less overloaded roads in lots of busy places, and many of them have become real favorites. The attractions include such prosaic things like old barns, land masses that are not all filled with grapes and a look at a quieter way of life. Here are three roads less traveled that attract me when I am in wine country.

Finnell Road, Yountville to Yountville Cross Road to Silverado Trail

I have written about Yountville before and will certainly do so again. It is a place with great restaurants, great wineries, great hotels and great shops. What’s not to like. But, for a fifteen-minute quiet treat. head out of Yountville east and then north on Finnell Road past houses where real people live, old barns and a different look. Eventually, you connect to the Yountville Cross Road heading to the Silverado Trail and you are back in familiar territory.






Highway 128 from Calistoga Through Knights Valley to Jimtown

Calistoga, at the northern end of the Napa Valley, is the perfect bookend to Yountville at the southern end. Its collection of restaurants, wineries, glider rides (worth doing for a soaring look at hillside vineyards and an amazing vista over the northern end of the Valley), mud baths and the usual assortment of attractions for visitors makes it one of the most visited communities in California wine country.

There are actually three fascinating drives out of Calistoga: (a) to the northeast over Mount St. Helena to Lake County; (b) to the west towards Santa Rosa across Petrified Forest Road; and (c) and north along Highway 128 past wineries of note including Storybook Mountain and into the Knights Valley past Peter Michael and White Oak to Jimtown with its quaint, now somewhat touristy but still likeable General Store. This is the way of my choosing, and it is worth taking whenever you are transiting from the upper Napa Valley to anyplace north of Santa Rosa in Sonoma County.


Chalk Hill Road from Windsor to the Knights Valley

Very few people take this road because it winds around, goes past but a few wineries and winds up somewhere that requires you to take another road to get back to the center of civilization. Yet, when the wineries along the way are Chalk Hill, Verité and Lancaster, each of which has earned two and three-star honors, and the road is rustic and peaceful, it is worth the drive when you have the time. Besides, in order to get back, you will almost certainly pass the Jimtown General Store and I cannot remember a time when I have traveled past that emporium without stopping in and wandering around.

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