Are you ready to see the vineyards in a hot air balloon Napa style?
There are few reasons I can think of that make getting up before the sun worth it. One of those reasons is a hot air balloon ride. And what better place to take a ride in a hot air balloon than in wine country? It is a peaceful, beautiful way to see the vineyards and offers a view that cannot be achieved except from above. Hot Air Balloon Ride companies can be found throughout Napa, Sonoma, Paso Robles, Santa Barbara, and Temecula. When you are looking for a company to go for a ride, customer safety is the number one priority. Be sure to look for a company that has current insurance, experienced pilots, and balloons that are maintained impeccably. You can also check the company’s safety record, which will most likely be on their website. Once you have picked a company and signed up, you will be in for an unforgettable experience.
My recent hot air balloon ride was in Napa Valley with Napa Valley Balloons, the oldest company in the Napa Valley. With FAA-certified pilots and aircraft and an outstanding safety record, Napa Valley Balloons has been flying over Napa Valley for 31 years.
Our meeting point was at 6:30 am in the morning at Domaine Chandon Winery in Yountville. We were greeted with some pre-flight coffee, tea, and pastries as we waited for everyone to arrive. I was dressed casually, with layers of clothing and tennis shoes. It can be rather chilly in Napa that early in the morning and most likely will not warm up until after the hot air balloon ride. A hat is also recommended because the heat from the balloon can get a bit hot on your head, especially if you are bald.
We were divided into smaller groups and put on vans to go to the launch location. It was still dark as we arrived and walked over to our balloons.
The baskets we would be climbing into were sitting on the ground and the hot air balloon was lying deflated. Big vents of hot air were being pumped into the balloons as slowly they came to life. As the balloons started to fill up, the sun began to rise. Twelve people to a basket, we climbed into our assigned hot air balloon, and off we went.
I had worried that we might not take off that morning as it had rained the day before. But the rain was gone, the sky was clear and the sun was out. The temperature was cool and the winds calm, the perfect conditions for flying. It was a perfect morning. We were above the treetops looking at the panoramic views. The ground was vibrant with color, thanks to the rain. It was possible to see the specific vineyards and denote where one began and the other ended. It was calm with the only sound the blast of the heat into the balloon.
My pilot, Bob Swanson has worked around the world as a hot air balloon pilot and he never gets tired of it. “You never know where you are going, and just when you think you do, Mother Nature shows you something else,” he explained to me as we got higher and higher.
Typically, the one-hour balloon right will travel a distance between one and three miles. On the morning I went, we traveled seven miles, all the way from Yountville to the town of Napa! We traveled up to ten miles per hour and got up to 2300 feet. It was magnificent.
When the ride was over, we landed and were taken back, via van, to Domaine Chandon for a post-flight brunch. It was still morning and the day was ahead of me.
As I drove down the road off to my first wine tasting for the day, I reflected on how different the vineyards looked from above then they did from the ground. If you can take a ride in a hot air balloon, take one in wine country. It is calming and peaceful and worth the early wake-up call to start the day.
Hot Air Balloon Napa Resources
Hot Air Balloon Companies:
Wine Country Balloons
397 Aviation Blvd, Santa Rosa CA
* Balloons available from Sonoma and Napa
Napa Valley Balloons
1 California Drive, Yountville CA
P: (800) 253-2224
Great Wineries to Visit In Napa Valley:
Top ten wineries for first-time visitors
Top ten wineries for Napa insiders
About the Author:
Allison is the owner of Please The Palate, a boutique agency specializing in marketing and event planning for the wine and spirits industry.
Allison has a Master's Degree in International Communications with a focus on cross-cultural training from the American University School of International Service. Allison is certified as an Italian Wine Specialist from the North American Sommelier Association and Level 2 WSET from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust. As a Freelance Writer, she spends her time eating and drinking her way around the world.
Allison also writes for the Napa Valley Register, WineTouristMagazine.com and other outlets, in addition to her blog at Please The Palate; Twitter and Instagram @plsthepalate; Facebook: Please The Palate
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