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First trip to wine country - help please!

Denver, Colorado
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First trip to wine country - help please!

This will be my first trip to San Francisco and Napa/Sonoma, and I'm not really sure what I'm able to accomplish, so I was hoping for some feedback and help! We are looking at traveling in mid-October, and were considering spending Friday and Saturday in San Francisco, and then heading to Napa Sunday at some point, and spending the next couple of days in wine country so as to hopefully avoid weekend crowds. We'd like to hit one tasting Sunday afternoon if possible - are wineries typically open late enough on a Sunday to do this?

We'd then like to spend Monday visiting three different wineries in Napa if possible, with lunch as well. I've heard that we need to visit Schramsberg for sure, as I'm a huge fan of sparkling, but was hoping for some additional recommendations as well. We love pinots and cabs, and would love to visit some places with great wines and great grounds. Any suggestions? Also, are most wineries open 7 days a week, or are there days they typically close down?

We'd spend Monday night in Napa, and then Tuesday we'd like to head over to Sonoma and spend the day and night there, departing altogether Wednesday morning. Again, any recommendations on where to drink and eat?

Thanks in advance for any and all help! I'm a bit overwhelmed and want to make sure I don't try and cram too much in!

Napa, CA
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1. Re: First trip to wine country - help please!

Here's a great site to help you get started:


First of all, let's get the terminology down. Napa is a city in the Napa Valley. Schramsberg is located in the Napa Valley between the towns of St. Helena and Calistoga and not near the city of Napa.

So, you have basically four towns to choose from for lodging and dining - Napa, Yountville, St. Helena and Calistoga. For wineries, they are all over the place. In the Valley, in the hills and in between. That Napa Vintners site describes most of the wineries and lists their hours and tells you whether you need an appointment or not. Most wineries that have public tastings are open seven days a week. Many of the ones that require appointments are not. Use the maps located there.

For Sonoma, it's the same terminology as in Napa. There's the town of Sonoma, the Sonoma Valley and the County of Sonoma. Actually, most of the wineries in Sonoma County are nearer the towns of Healdsburg and Santa Rosa than the town of Sonoma although Sonoma has a bunch.

If it's the town of Sonoma you want to visit, you can easily do that after your Napa stay since the road to San Francisco goes right by Sonoma. In fact there are a number of wineries right along the road that you can visit and there's some right near the town as well.

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2. Re: First trip to wine country - help please!

First, here's a website that will give you hours, whether wineries require appointments, costs, and all sorts of other great info: www.winecountry.com. Most of the wineries should be open late enough for you to make at least one stop on Sunday unless you don't leave San Francisco until about 2:00 PM or later.

As far as pinot noir is concerned, Napa Valley's best are in the Carneros region, near the town of Napa at the southern end of the valley. Once you go upvalley, you're into cab country. There's a big difference between valley fruit and mountain fruit, so be sure to try both. A couple you'd really enjoy are Diamond Creek, which technically doesn't take visitors, but sometimes will allow them on written request ($75/person for vertical tasting of 3 outstanding cabs plus excellent hors d'oeuvres), and Viader. Both have outstanding views as well as great wines. (Both are mountain wineries.) On the valley floor, I can't remember one with great grounds, but there are a lot with great wines. Perhaps someone else can suggest one that has a great view, as well.

In Sonoma, you'll find many great pinots, particularly in the Russian River area. Our favorites include Hartford Winery and Merry Edwards, but we're not as familiar with Sonoma Valley as we are with Napa Valley.

If you have enough time, the grounds at Ferrari-Carrano are beautiful, even if their wines are only slightly above average. (Upper part of Sonoma Valley)

Have fun, and if at all possible, spend at least one more day there--you're really not allowing enough time to see both valleys.

3. Re: First trip to wine country - help please!

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Vancouver, Canada
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4. Re: First trip to wine country - help please!

The place that I would recommend to eat in Sonoma is the Hot Box Grill. Awesome spot...


5. Re: First trip to wine country - help please!

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