One of the unexpected pleasures of a visit to wine country is how much art there is to see, and these pleasures include the Grape Crusher Statue, a landmark monument at Vista Point in Napa Valley.
Since its erection in the 1980s millions of cars have driven by it and hundreds of thousands of people have stopped to see it. In this sense it is like the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign—a place to meet up and shoot pictures to show the folks back home that you were there, you really were in the land of wine.
“I’m not from around here,” a woman visitor told this reporter as she was trying to find the right angle to take a picture of the Grape Crusher. “But I saw it driving by the other night when I was going to a concert, and I had to come back and see it.”
Those who do that—who get out of their cars for a moment to visit the Grape Crusher—are rewarded by postcard views of the surrounding hills, Napa River and the wetlands of San Francisco Bay. It is not called Vista Point for nothing.
As for the Grape Crusher himself, he is more impressive up close than when you buzz by him on the highway. Reports sometimes peg him at 20 feet high; in fact he is considerably bigger than that because of the base that lifts him high above ground, out of reach of any kids who might be tempted to climb him. In bare feet, with his cuffs rolled up, wearing a hat but with his face turned down and mostly hidden from the curious eyes of visitors staring up at him, the Grape Crusher uses muscle power and both his hands to turn the crank on an old school (very old school) grape press.
The statue was conceived in part as a way to publicize what is called the “Grape Crusher District,” the wineries and businesses in this section of Napa near the junction of Highways 29 and 12 where he stands. But the artist turned it into something more—an honest, non-kitschy tribute to the men and women whose work in the industry provides such idle pleasures for the rest of us.
The Grape Crusher Statue is a short drive north from downtown Napa on Soscol Avenue. After passing the college and golf course you’ll see it on a grassy hilltop to your right. Turn right into Napa Valley Corporate Way and then left at the stop. There is a small parking lot, benches and a walk of a few steps to its base.
Should you venture up there when your stomach is in a restless mood, one place worth investigating is the Siena Restaurant at the Meritage Resort and Spa, which sits right below the statue. The crispy oven-roasted duck confit is, they say, to die for.