Sunday, May 25, 2014

Napa Valley–Wine & Jelly Beans

After two long days at Yosemite, we spent our last couple of days at the Merced River RV Park cleaning up – Nicolas, Bryce and Tom washed the RV, truck and car and I did laundry.  By Friday, the pool had re-opened, so we spent a couple afternoons relaxing in the refreshing water.

Monday was moving day, but we just had a short day – 123 miles – and we had arrived at the Skyline Wilderness Park in Napa.  Looking at the site they gave us, I wasn’t too confident of fitting the RV on it . . . I was just glad that I wasn’t responsible for picking this RV Park!! Smile

Tom was determined, though, and the site was wide enough that we were finally able to park the RV diagonally and be out of the road.

Skyline Wilderness Park

We’re in!!  All set for the next 4 days!

Site 18










We've arrived!


We had a quick lunch, and the boys finished up some schoolwork, and then we made our way into nearby Fairfield for a factory tour.

Jelly Belly Factory

We had read about the Jelly Belly Factory when we were researching San Francisco, and the kids decided it would be almost as good as the gummy bear factory.     Going on the Jelly Belly Tour!









We walked in and were bombarded with Jelly Bellys!

Jelly Belly


Giant jelly beans

We had 15 minutes until the next tour, so we walked up to the sample bar to taste-test some jelly bellys.  Bryce even tried the barf flavored beans . . . he thought they were actually going to taste like something else, but they really did taste like barf!!  YUCK!!!

After we had sampled just about every flavor, we lined up for the tour, and walked upstairs through the gallery of beans.

John Wayne in jelly beans

Jelly Belly Wall of Fame











It was time to enter the factory, so we all donned our official tour hats and followed our guide!

Going on our tour

We weren’t allowed to take any photographs on the tour, but we were able to see the 3-step process of making Jelly Belly jelly beans. 

Jelly Belly beans are special because, unlike normal jelly beans which only have flavor in the candy coating, Jelly Bellys have flavor in both the soft center and the candy coating.  In the first step, the flavored centers are formed into the jelly belly shape in trays, and then coated in powdered sugar.  After curing for a couple of days, they go to step 2, where they are placed in large tumblers and coated with many layers of candy coating.

When they come out of the tumblers to cure for another couple days, they are still dull in color though.  They don’t have that shiny bright color until they go back into the tumbler one more time, and the candymaker adds glaze.  After a couple more days of cure time, they get imprinted with the jelly belly logo, and after a trip through quality control where any “belly flops” are filtered out, they go to packaging.

It was a really interesting tour, and I wish I could have taken a picture of the rows of bins, full of millions of colorful Jelly Belly jelly beans!

At the end of the tour we each got a little bag of Jelly Bellys, and were led to the gift shop where we could buy anything imaginable in Jelly Belly theme.     In the Jelly Belly Store











They make chocolates and fudge too, and the fudge was actually a pretty good deal, so we bought some, along with a few bags of Belly Flops – beans that didn’t quite make the cut for size or shape.  The Jelly Belly factory was definitely more expensive than the gummy bear factory, but at least we had a 20% off coupon from our Wine Country magazine that we got at the campground!

After one last look around, we headed back to the RV for dinner.

The Jelly Belly Bug

But we really didn’t just come to Napa for jelly beans . . .

Napa grape fields

As we drove into town, we could see grapes on almost every hillside,


Grapevines on the hill












and Wineries on every corner!


Tom and I decided to visit a few one afternoon, so we planned a small itinerary and set out on our “date afternoon”.


The wineries were beautiful, with their endless rows of grapes, and gorgeous blooming flowers everywhere.     DSC_0499




Grapes as far as you can see

We expected that many of the bigger wineries around here were going to charge tasting fees, but we thought that maybe some of the smaller, lesser-known ones might not.  Not true – the one small one we stopped at charged the highest fee.  They didn’t have any wines we were interested in either, so we continued on.




The standard rate seemed to be $10 for 4 or 5 different wines, so when we found one with several that we thought we might like we just split the fee between us . . . it was plenty!  After the first winery, I was already feeling woozy (I’m such a lightweight anymore!)

He's not staggering yet!

In between wineries, we explored some of the little towns in Sonoma Valley, and even found a place to sample some chocolate!

Old truck & tractor at the winery

Displays of old equipment











Our favorite of the wineries we visited was the Imagery Winery.  It was a small winery, with some very good wines, but my favorite thing about it was the friendliness of the guys in the tasting room.  They were really nice, and kept suggesting things that we might like, and offering more samples – even 2nds on several of the ones that we liked!  I think we were supposed to get 5 wines for our tasting fee, but we got about 7, and then 2nds on 2 or 3 of them!  I was feeling really good by the time we left there . . . and they gave us a card to get 2 free tastings at their “parent” winery – Benzinger. 

Another Winery

Benzinger was a much bigger Winery (we’ve seen their wine in Michigan even), with lots of property and displays on the “Biodynamic” method of farming they use – it’s another step above Organic farming.

Biodynamic Growing



It was a very busy place – with tours and a huge Tasting Room, and a facility for parties.  It looked like they were getting set up for a wedding that afternoon.

They had beautiful flowers, too!




A tour had just gotten dropped off at the Tasting Room before we got there, so it was pretty crowded, and we had to wait for awhile.

Winery Tour











To the Tasting Room

We walked through the gardens and enjoyed the view while we waited.

This was a very pretty Winery




















Homes for birds




We finally got our turn at the bar, and enjoyed our complimentary tastings, but still didn’t buy anything to take home.  I think if we were going to buy a bottle of wine from any of them it would have been from the Imagery Winery – they had the most that we liked, but they were closed by the time we left the last winery, so we went home without any.  But I had enough in that one afternoon to last me awhile!

We enjoyed our little tour of the Napa and Sonoma Valleys!

Rows of grapes


  1. Lovely nice you had a beautiful day also!!

  2. I'm sure Bryce was the most surprised trying that Puke flavored Jelly Belly Bean.
    Guess you could say that you had nothing to wine about (pun intended) after your last tour.
    Glad you all enjoyed your tours.
    Be Safe and Enjoy!

    It's about time.

  3. a barf flavoured jelly belly?..eww
    now as for a wine tour? you are talkin'

  4. We did that tour when we lived in Fairfield for 4 years. After being half lit, we were going back home and ended up on Paradise road. We had never been on switchback roads. We'll never forget that experience. It took 5 hours to get home. We were glad it was early when we started the wine tours.

    We love the jelly beans, we'll have to stop on our way thru next month. Great post!

  5. Napa Valley is supposed to be beautiful and it sure looks like it from your visit!


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