4 miles northwest of Oakville.
Downtown St. Helena is a symbol of how well life can be lived in the Wine Country. Sycamore trees arch over Main Street (Highway 29), where chic-looking visitors flit between boutiques, cafés, and storefront tasting rooms housed in sun-faded redbrick buildings. Genteel St. Helena pulls in rafts of Wine Country tourists during the day, though like most Wine Country towns it more or less rolls up the sidewalks after dark.
Many visitors never get away from the Main Street magnets—dozens of great restaurants and boutiques selling women's clothing, food and wine, and housewares—but you should explore a bit farther and stroll through the quiet residential neighborhoods. A few blocks west of Main Street you'll be surrounded by vineyards, merging into the ragged wilderness edge of the Mayacamas Mountains. Several blocks east of Main Street, off Pope Street, is the Napa River, which separates St. Helena from the Silverado Trail and Howell Mountain.
Around St. Helena the valley floor narrows between the Mayacamas and Vaca mountains. These slopes reflect heat onto the 9,000 or so acres below, and since there's less fog and wind, things get pretty toasty. In fact, this is one of the hottest AVAs in Napa Valley, with midsummer temperatures often reaching the mid-90s. Bordeaux varietals are the most popular grapes grown here—especially Cabernet Sauvignon but also Merlot. You'll also find Chardonnay, Petite Sirah, and Pinot Noir in the vineyards.