If you're frustrated by the weekend traffic on the Napa Valley's Highway 29, take a deep breath and think of history. Back in the 1800s, when the only way into the valley was via the Napa River, traffic could still get pretty intense. One day in 1880, some 50 ships clogged the channel. (Hey, at least your car has a radio.)
Today, travelers come to the Napa Valley for its wineries--or at least that's why a lot of them do. Often the oenophile brings along a companion who doesn't care much about wine but who may be tempted to buy a lovely tablecloth or an exceptional bottle of olive oil. Enter the winery gift shop. The following five places can please visitors of all predilections.
Niebaum-Coppola Estate Vineyards and Winery Owned by the movie director Francis Ford Coppola, Niebaum-Coppola is known for Rubicon, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. It's also known for its gift shop. Grappa di Coppola ($35 for 375 milliliters), made at Clear Creek Distillery in Portland, comes in a wonderfully minimalist glass bottle with a Thirties-style postage stamp on it. Then there's Francis's favorite pencil ($1), Francis's favorite pen ($18) and Francis's favorite pasta bowl ($12). Francis is a man who knows what he likes. Apparently Francis also likes Italian glue ($6 for 125 grams). Who can blame him? It comes in a beautifully designed donut-shaped tin with a neat little brush in the center. A sign alongside the display reads, "We had a young visitor from Rome recently who, upon espying these charm- ing Coccoina paste tins, exclaimed, 'That's the paste we used to eat in school!'" Ah, youth.