Square One tasting room is located inside the Napa Tourist Information Center in downtown Napa. The center was founded by Ron and Susan Altamura, their last name synonymous with the city of Napa, its development and wine industry. Ron’s cousin George Altamura is a local developer and was one of the owners of the old Napa Town Center (since sold and completely remodeled) and George’s son Frank and his wife Karen own Altamura winery in the eastern part of the county and the excellent Ciccio Restaurant in Yountville.
The Altamura family settled in the Napa Valley in 1855 – today Frank and Karen still own 400 acres of what is called the Altamura Ranch.
Unfortunately Ron passed away in early 2019 – during his career he founded a number of businesses in various industries – but founded Square One with Susan after they moved to the Napa Valley in 2010/2011.
Square One opened early in the modern day renaissance of downtown Napa. At the time there were only a handful of tasting rooms in downtown Napa. Today there are more then 40 tasting rooms in downtown Napa alone, most walk-in but some require appointments.
Part of this renaissance can be directly attributed to a major flood control project which was completed in 2016. The Napa River has seen some 20+ serious floods since 1865, the most recent being in the winter season of 2005/2006 in which a decent sized portion of downtown was flooded including north of downtown in businesses located near the river. At one point people were using boats to rescue people in the Walmart parking lot off of Trancas Avenue.
And when the economic downturn happened starting in 2008, downtown Napa at times felt like a ghost town with stores closed and few tourists. Then the 6.1 earthquake in August 2014 hit in the wee hours of the morning – the epicenter just south of town. Numerous businesses downtown were damaged and had to close for some time while repairs were made. Some damage was fairly major – a few buildings never were repaired, IE the primary United States Post Office building on Second Street.
Once the flood control project was completed in 2015 (and it has so far worked during subsequent very rainy seasons), businesses now had confidence in locating in downtown Napa. New hotels opened including the Andaz and the Archer. More beds downtown spurred growth on the culinary scene. Today the city of Napa (and Yountville) are arguably the culinary capitals of the valley. Numerous excellent restaurants are all located within walking distance of each other.
Downtown Napa has never been located on a major highway – visitors to the valley must exit Highway 29 and meander through residential or businesses sections of town to reach downtown. And without infrastructure tourists long bypassed the city for the vineyards and wineries up valley. Once all of this fairly recent infrastructure was in place, the Downtown Napa Association has done an excellent job of marketing itself – and once visitors discovered all there is to do downtown, word has quickly spread. Today downtown Napa is a happening and exciting place to visit or stay.
And this brings us back to Square One, ideally positioned to capture the increase in tourism – this tasting room and visitor center is located within easy walking distance of the major hotels downtown, excellent restaurants and numerous tasting rooms.
There are actually two visitor centers in town (sometimes a source for confusion), the official Napa Valley Welcome Center is located on the river front, operated by Visit Napa Valley and this one – but this one is the only visitor center in Napa to also offer daily wine tasting. Many visitor’s stop in to find out about the area’s wineries; as a result it certainly makes sense to offer wine tasting on site.
Susan does not own her own winery but rather features a number of wines from some of Napa Valley’s larger, more prominent and often historic wineries including Beringer, Etude, Stags’ Leap Winery and Raymond Vineyards. Other than here, the only way to taste these particular wines in the valley is visit each of these respective wineries.
The Napa Tourist Information Center is part education, part concierge, part gift shop and part wine or beer tasting. Staff are trained to provide information about wineries, tours, hotels, restaurants and a number of Napa Valley experiences. They can help setup your wine tasting itinerary, provide maps and directions, personal knowledge about specific wineries and or arrange tours.
Conveniently, the Altamura’s own their own tour and Limousine company, Alta Transportation Services – founded by Ron’s son Graham Altamura. The company will arrange winery appointments and provide a personal driver and guide for the day. They also provide regional airport pickup and drop off service. For more information, visit: www.altats.com
The tasting bar is separated from the rest of the center (more privacy) and features the bar as well as chairs and small tables. Along with wine, they also serve craft beer.
In addition the center offers a wide variety of Napa Valley merchandise including wine souvenirs and plenty of books on wine and about the Napa Valley. Also complimentary Napa related magazines and a map of downtown Napa.
Tasting flights include four samples or a reserve tasting. Wines are also available for purchase by the glass or bottle. And wines can be paired with small bites including cheeses, nuts and various chocolates.
A few stand alone wine tasting rooms in and around Napa are starting to also pour beer. Ron and Susan’s son Graham is passionate about beer and he has setup their beer tastings to focus on small regional and local hand crafted brews. The beer tastings are complemented nicely be several TV screens often playing various sporting events.
Also note the St. Helena Olive Oil company takes up the large back portion of this visitor’s center – this is the same company that started in St. Helena – this is their outlet for the city of Napa. Lots of their olive oil is for sale here and you can also taste samples.
This center also holds a number of events including special wine and beer tastings. Visit their website for the latest: www.napatouristinfo.com