Head out on a scavenger hunt – connect with locals, ponder with a bottle of wine — Photo courtesy of Erin Kunkel for Chateau St. Jean
Clues lead to places, sights and facts little known to tourists.
The prize? You're becoming a wine country connoisseur.
Ready, set, hunt
Clue #1 Magic trick
Head to Napa General Store to find out whether you can open wine without uncorking it — Photo courtesy of Napa General Store
This clue will either play you for a fool or set you sailing with Napa Valley know-how.
Your challenge: Find a tool that opens a wine bottle without uncorking it.
If such a thing exists, it solves the irksome problem of wine spoilage. White wine can go off within a day, oxidizing in an open bottle. Although red wine appreciates "breathing" in a decanter, time and oxidation take a toll, and red wine gets that vinegar taste.
Clue #2 Bitter quest
How sweet to find all these bottles of bitters in one place — Photo courtesy of Anne Chalfant
Your challenge: Where in Napa Valley can you buy "Hair of the Dog" bitters? Or "Bitter Bastard" bitters from London Cocktail Society?
Perhaps you be drawn instead to barrel-aged cocktails by the six-pack at this Napa Valley store.
Need a hint? The store is in the city of Napa. Query local bartenders. Stumped? You could scarf down oysters just footsteps away from the bitters boutique.
Clue #3 Golf interrupted
Golfers Arnold Palmer and Tiger Woods found a tasty reason to stop their golf game. — Photo courtesy of Anne Chalfant
Tiger Woods and Arnold Palmer put down their clubs at hole 10 to enjoy a tasty bite during the Frys.com PGA Tour held at Silverado Resort's North Golf Course in Napa.
Your challenge: What did Tiger Woods and Arnie Palmer find so tempting between 10th and 11th holes?
Need a hint? Ask at Silverado Resort and Spa.
Clue #4 Fear not
Winemakers have a passion for cultivating 'terroir' — Photo courtesy of G. Rose/California Wine Institute
Do you. . .
a) Run away as fast as you can
b) Call Homeland Security
c) Ask the quickest way to this Napa Valley winery
Need a hint? Head to the nearest tasting room and ask about terroir. (Be assured, nothing disturbing in this.)
Clue #5 Supper with spooks
Dine with the CIA – don't be shy, they'd love to join you — Photo courtesy of Anne Chalfant
The CIA has a visible presence in Napa Valley, especially in the town of St. Helena. In fact, the CIA will be delighted if you join them for dinner.
Your challenge: Find the CIA.
Need a hint? Ask anyone in Napa Valley.
Clue #6 Yountville's shy superstar
Bouchon Bakery in Yountville will point the way to a famous neighbor; hop in line for their divine goodies. — Photo courtesy of Anne Chalfant
The tiny Napa Valley town of Yountville is home to a three-Michelin star restaurant called by some critics "the best restaurant in the world." But the building is so low-key, you could walk right by.
Your challenge: Find this world-renowned Napa Valley restaurant
Need a hint? Ask at Bouchon Bakery in Yountville. Hop in line with locals buying delectable baked goods. You'll get an answer and can buy pain au chocolat, too.
Clue #7 Always working
This fellow is well-known to everyone in Napa Valley — Photo courtesy of Jason Tinacci
Your challenge: Who is this guy in the dusky photo? Where is he in Napa Valley ?
Need a hint? Ask anyone in Napa Valley.
Clue #8 Chuck's store
This redesigned version of Chuck's kitchen gives a hint to the famous mail-order catalog giant's identity. — Photo courtesy of Anne Chalfant
You've heard of Chuck's mail-order catalog – 25 million people drool over the cookware.
Chuck ventured into mail order in 1956. A newly opened Sonoma flagship store recreates that history.
At the rear of the store, visit the apartment where Chuck lived and licked stamps starting his mail-order business. Risky, yes– only a few big companies did mail order in 1956.
Yet Chuck's apartment was just blocks from the Sonoma Mission, an historic reminder that California's story had always been about vision and risk.
Your challenge: What Sonoma Valley business did Chuck launch to gastronomic fame?
Need a hint? Ask at any Sonoma store or restaurant.
Clue #9 Wine classic
This winery is a Napa Valley anchor and popular with wine tasters — Photo courtesy of Ray Marcinkowski/CBI
Your challenge: Find a long-established Napa Valley winery offering numerous tours and tastings, including cave tours plus a series of wine and food pairings. Wine and chocolate, anyone?
Need a hint? Ask Napa Valley wine purveyors.
Clue #10 Napa Valley rocks grapevine
The Judgment of Paris gave the world a window on Napa Valley wines. The rest is history. — Photo courtesy of Anne Chalfant
Earn top marks as Napa Valley expert with this
Prior to 1976, American wine was considered inferior to French wine.
Then–mon Dieu!–along came the Judgment of Paris. Shockwaves hit the grapevine with news that a Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon was judged superior to a French Bordeaux.
And qu'est-que c'est? A Napa Valley chardonnay topped a French chardonnay in the 1976 taste-off.
Since that big splash onto the wine map in '76, Napa Valley wine corks have never stopped popping.
Your challenge: Which Napa Valley wineries won for "Best Red Wine" and "Best Chardonnay" in the 1976 Judgment of Paris?
Need a hint? Ask anyone in Napa Valley wine hospitality.