California's Wine History Awaits in St. Helena With a history dating back to the mid-1800s, St. Helena is a must stop for Napa Valley travelers. BY TOURING & TASTING
Photos courtesy of St. Helena
A view of the historic downtown in St. Helena.
“ Today, St. Helena is a cozy, yet vibrant and upbeat community dedicated to wine country hospitality; in fact, it is often referred to as the Napa Valley’s Main Street.”
A delightful blend of old town charm and chic vitality, St. Helena in California is nestled in the heart of the Napa Valley, about 90 minutes northeast of San Francisco.
The first thing to know about St. Helena (Heh-LEE-nah) is: it’s a real, genuine town with a rich and interesting modern day history that dates back to the early 1840s. The town was incorporated in 1886, a full 25 years after Charles Krug founded the valley’s first commercial winery here. It was home to many Napa Valley pioneers, including Jacob and Frederick Beringer, and is considered to be the birthplace of the valley’s wine industry. Today, St. Helena is a cozy, yet vibrant and upbeat community dedicated to wine country hospitality; in fact, it is often referred to as the Napa Valley’s Main Street. Although this charming little town doesn’t cover many square miles, it covers all the bases, with an endearing history, refined shopping, highly acclaimed restaurants, and an unrivaled proximity to the nation’s most revered wine appellations.
The town is nestled in the St. Helena Appellation, known throughout the world for its superior quality wines. Although the St. Helena AVA is part of the valley floor, it is slightly elevated and has less fog and wind incursions, so its winegrapes tend to ripen a bit more slowly, with deep, jammy flavors and firm tannins. It is flanked by more star AVAs, so you’ll find world-class wine in every direction.
Downtown St. Helena is a shopper’s dream with lots of intriguing boutiques, coffee shops, and galleries to discover. Whether you have 15 minutes or 5 days, the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) is a must visit, with a full calendar of learning opportunities from professional programs to enthusiast courses to broaden one’s appreciation of all things culinary. There are many historic landmarks in St. Helena, including three wineries and the Elmshaven National Historic Landmark. The Robert Louis Stevenson Silverado Museum houses one of the world’s most distinguished collections of Stevensonia. Even the Cameo Cinema movie theater on Main Street has a 100-year-old history!
From world-class accommodations to no-frill hotels to cottage inns and quaint bed and breakfasts, St. Helena has the ideal place for you to stay. Recently, the town passed a law permitting vacation home rentals! No matter what you’re looking for, when you plan your visit to St. Helena, plan to settle in and stay awhile. Immerse yourself and fully experience the joys of wine country living in the heart of it all.