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If Ottornio Respighi had lived in the 21st century in Napa Valley instead of in the 19th century in Rome, his masterpiece tone poem might have been titled “The Fountains of Napa Valley” instead of “The Fountains of Rome.” More than a dozen beautiful fountains grace the properties of Napa Valley wineries.  Servin as an animated welcome to visitors, they are another facet of  Napa Valley’s charm.  

Why have so many wineries chosen a fountain to greet guests? It may because of the commonalties that water and wines share. Robert Louis Stevenson described wine as “bottled poetry,” and the English writer Robert Morton, described fountains as “poetry of water.” Water has been described as the “giver of life,” and wine, “the giver of pleasure.”  

The waters of ancient fountains of Greece were said to have healing properties, and modern medicine has recognized the benefits of the moderate wine consumption. Some fountains murmur quietly like a mellow merlot that whispers its charms softly to the palate. Other fountains are bold and vigorous, like a gutsy zinfandel that stalks across the palate in army boots.  

In Greek mythology, the fountain at Napulia had the reputation for restoring lost virginity. No winemaker has  found the secret for making such a wine. If one does, certainly a fortune would be assured.

A tour of the fountains of Napa Valley wineries is an enchanting experience, with the added pleasures of tasting lovely wines along the way. Traveling from south to north, the following is a suggested itinerary.

The first stop is in Carneros at Artesa Winery, where water plays a central role in accenting the stunning architecture. An imposing fountain in a reflection pool is the first that meets the eye as one approaches the winery. A stone staircase  bordered by cascading waters leads to the terrace and the winery’s entrance.

After Artesa head north on Highway 29 to Domaine Chandon in Yountville, where a single jet in a pond of native water grasses and lilies sends a spout of water high into the air. Is it meant to remind us that there is a wrong way to open a bottle of sparkling wine?

Continuing north, at the Robert Mondavi Winery, a handsome, circular 10-jet fountain stands at the end of  the olive tree-bordered lane that leads to the winery. The fountain adds drama to the view through the winery archway of lush vineyards, set against the Mayacamas mountains.

About a mile farther on Highway 29 is Peju Province. Here, the centerpiece of a sculpture garden is Sausalito artist Welton Rotz’s fountain “Harvest Dance.” Sculpted from  white Carrara marble, male and female forms dance together in celebration of the harvest.

The stately Neibaum Coppola Winery has, perhaps, Napa Valley’s most famous fountain, which, for 20 years, was the centerpiece of the Inglenook Winery courtyard. Its cool rim was a favorite seat for lovers to sip wine.When movie mogul Francis Ford Coppola purchased the property, he had the fountain moved  to the winery’s upper terrace. The winery courtyard has been re-designed. Now its centerpiece is a two-tiered,  reflection pool with six water jets.

Across the highway is the Beaulieu Winery where the fountain is a contemporary design, a stone wall out of which spouts of water flow into a pool.

Another mile to the north is Franciscan Vineyards. At its front entrance is one of two classically designed single fountains in the valley.

It’s graceful, flower-like form gushes 300 gallons per minute into the 20-foot circular bowl. The other classic fountain, huge shallow bowl set on a tall pedestal, is at Merryvale Vineyards also on Highway 29.

Lyman Park on Main Street in St. Helena contains Napa Valley’s oldest fountain. Its original location was at the intersection of Main and Oak streets where the Humane Society placed the two-tiered fountain in1909.

The upper bowl provided water for horses, and the lower for the city’s canine population. The location proved unwise as the fountain was continuously being knocked over by horse-drawn wagons.

After several other sites in the city, it was moved in 1978 to its present location. It was modified so that its upper bowl could provide water for  humans, and its lower bowl, cool water for thirsty dogs.   

 Continue north through St. Helena to the Beringer Winery. There, a six-foot bronze amphora stands at the north face of the majestic Beringer Rhine House. Water trickles from its brim over scenes of the history of winemaking in Napa Valley cast in bas relief.

Next on Highway 29 is Markham Vineyards. Fountains set in reflection pools on either side of a walkway guide the visitor to the massive winery doors.

The fountains are impressive by day, and magical at night when the waters frolic in colored lighting.

After Markham Winery, continue north past  the intersection with Calistoga’s Main Street. After about two miles you will come to Tubbs Lane. Turn east to our final stop and view Napa Valley’s  grandest fountain, the Old Faithful geyser. Every 20 minutes or so, depending upon how faithful Old Faithful decides to be,  a shimmering pillar of super–heated water and steam jets 60 feet into the air — a spectacle that dramatically  underscores that nature is Napa Valley’s  greatest designer.

George Starke may be reached at wineroads@yahoo.com, or at 707-942-0733.

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