Tell Me About Your Trip to Wine Country

I consulted with Twitter and now I will ask you.napa_valley_vineyard1

My husband and I are thinking about taking a trip to wine country (the one in California, I didn’t realize that needed to be clarified until I spoke with Twitter) for our 10th anniversary that is coming up in October.

If you have been recommend restaurants, vineyards, hotels and whatever you loved.

I mean, obviously we will try to do The French Laundry, but what else do we need to do?

What can we not miss?

What was your favorite part?

Where should we stay?

Did you hire a driver?

Give me some insider tips.


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  1. Cakebread. Make an appointment.

  2. Greenpixie says:

    make sure you include Sonoma County in your trip! that time of year will be just gorgeous in Napa and Sonoma, you really can’t go wrong!

  3. Greenpixie says:

    oh and PS yeah, hire a driver…

  4. I’m assuming I don’t need to reiterate mine here.

  5. Miner Family Vineyards… simple tasting room, excellent wine (I would go there every trip, we order wine from there by the case, no one carries it locally)
    Merryvale… the wine was good, the place was gorgeous, and the cask room was impressive
    Domaine Chandon… sparkling wine, very good
    Beringer… was extremely informative and you could see more of a large-scale process

  6. If money is no object – stay at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn. You won’t be sorry… and you’ll be so pampered you won’t want to go home!

  7. This is one of my favorite places ever.
    I second the Miner Family recommendation. Fantastic. We belong to their wine club. Also: Robert Sinskey, Hess Collection (art collection as well), Frank Family–awesome (free) tasting. Avoid the super-crowded tourist traps like V. Sattui and Beringer. There’s too many other excellent choices.
    Restaurants: Press for steak, Bottega for Italian, and Taylor’s Automatic Refresher for burgers. Better make your French Laundry reservations now!

  8. The Saint Helena Highway (I think that’s what it’s called) is fine – go to Grgich Hills, get the Violeta – but the Sonoma Trail is better. Stags Leap, Duckhorn, Mumm. Getting into Cakebread is hard but like someone said, make a reservation.

    We stayed at the Milliken Creek Inn in Napa on our honeymoon and it was lovely. And that’s not a word I use lightly.

    And for the love of Pete, get a driver for at least one day. And then don’t plan on going out anywhere special that evening because you won’t want to do anything but sleep all that tasting off. Trust me.

  9. Oh yeah, ditto the Hess Collection. It’s off the beaten path but worth the drive. And double ditto for Taylor’s Automatic Refresher. I still have dreams of that place.

  10. When I was 18 my boyfriend and I went to California to visit his mom and her boyfriend. We went to the Robert Mondavi winery. Somehow she convinced the people that we were 22 and we. got. trashed. I assume the wine was fantastic, given that I drank mass quantities of it. So much so that when we returned to the hotel (via a sober driver), I walked into a glass door and knocked myself out for a good hour or so. Go there!

  11. The wife and I were married on a vineyard in Napa. I’ll email you.

  12. Meredith says:

    We love Healdsburg in Sonoma County. It has a great quaint downtown plaza with restaurants, shopping, and tasting rooms within walking distance. Stay at Hotel Healdsburg, eat at Cyrus for dinner one night (yes, over the French Laundry, and it has a great bar that locals hang out at), Bear Republic Brewing another, picnic lunches from Oakville Grocery (the best sandwiches!!). Wineries- our favorite is Lancaster (appt only). Others I recommend- Chalk Hill, Ridge, Williamson (wine comes with cheese tastes), Preston (great place for a picnic), Sbragia, A Rafanelli (appt only), Rosenblum. These are in the Chalk Hill and Dry Creek Valleys and specialize in Cabs and Zins. Most wineries here do not have a tasting fee, and will be less crowded than the traditional Sonoma or Napa wineries, but you will not miss out on great wines!! Great that you can go in Oct, the weather will be gorgeous and less people! Please do not even give Merryvale a first look. It is classic Napa disneyland.

  13. Cyrus! That’s the name of the place in Healdsburg I couldn’t remember. My wife and one of our best friends were both in SF on business about 3 years ago, and went north and had what they both described as one of the best meals of their lives there.

    Anyhow: yes — Russian River/Dry Creek is the bomb. (And if you’re there, take the time to jog a bit north and visit Suncé. We’ve been enjoying the fruits of their wine club for several years now… gooood stuff.)

  14. Aunt Bob says:

    I also love Sonoma. We tend to do that rather than Napa because it seems less popular and crowded but the wine’s just as good. Particular favorites are Acacia and Beaucheine. Domaine Carneros is beautiful but expensive.

    Enjoyed J — when we were there (Little Guy was still in a baby carrier and I may have gone outside to nurse) they were emphasizing the paring of their food with wine, so you bought a flight of snacks and got the wine to drink with it.

    Love Trentadue — beautiful for a picnic, as is Chateau St. Jean. Kunde and Gundlach-Buncheau (sp) were fun, the latter is small and interesting. Like Schug, too.

    We usually go to the market in Healdsburg and get a picnic to enjoy at one of the wineries.

    I’m thirsty.

  15. I vote for Sonoma. We have been a few times including once when I had a race in the area when we stayed a week. Russian River/Dry Creek is great. We usually stay at the Hilton because that’s what my husband likes. would like to try some of the local places. We have belonged to a few of their wine clubs over the years.

    Sonoma is much more laid back and only 1-2 places charge a cover. So many places in Napa charge a cover. What if you don’t like the wine or the atmosphere??? Really prefer Russian River/Dry Creek as you actually speak to the owners.

    If you do the French Laundry better make a reservation now. I think you can do just as well in Sonoma.

  16. We went to Monterey to do our anniversary wine jaunt a few years ago, and it was outstanding. We drove into Carmel Valley to do a vineyard/winery tour at Chateau Julien, and there was this little village with a ton of tasting rooms, so we just parked at the top and walked to all the tastings. We stayed at a B&B a couple blocks from Cannery Row, and went to a few tasting rooms near where we were staying (our favorite is Baywood Cellars, but Silver Mountain was also wonderful).

  17. merseydotes says:

    We honeymooned in Napa Valley some eight years ago this month. I don’t know if the B&B is still around, but it was called Hotel d’Amici, and it was wonderful. I recommend having a meal at the Culinary Institute of America. Domaine Chandon has a beautiful tasting room.

  18. I’ve never been, but my husband and I talk about making this trip ALL the time! Would love to hear about it when you get back!

  19. On the day before reservations open for your desired date at the Fr Laundry, do a dry run so you can see what #s you have to press on the menu for the reservation.

    On the actual day, enlist several people to call with you, preferably in several time zones, esp if you’re trying to go for a weekend night.

    We got in for our 10th anniversary using this method.

    My gay friends had a particular TABLE they recommended, but I assure you that if you’re there, you won’t care what table you;re at.

    Be sure and walk around the restaurant and peek in the back windows at the kitchen where it’s pristine and there are tons of chefs, each doing one tiny thing to a plate.

    To atone for the cost of that meal, we bought water, pate, bread, cheese and fruit and had picnics for the next couple of days as we visited the vineyards!

    If you’ll be in SF/Berkely, Chez Panisse has a cafe upstairs that rocks.

  20. When my brother was teaching at Berkley, my wife and I made a trip and the time we spent in Napa/Sonoma was great.

    First, Meredith is 100% on the money. Oakville grocery is an absolute MUST ( for a picnic. Their dolmas with Feta are incredible.

    Silver Oak is a Muniz family favorite, they call my Dad up every 6 months asking if he wants to place an order, and he does, and we’ve never been disappointed. St. Supéry isn’t bad either…but be sure to check out some of the smaller vineyards. There was one where my brother bought a painting from the owner’s daughter, the wine was absolutely incredible. I’ll get the name and email it to you.

  21. There is actually a brewery or two in Napa Valley. It ain’t all about the wine.

  22. I disagree with Kelly; the grounds at V. Sattui are lovely, and if you go in the off season it’s not crowded. I’ll chime in with several of the other commenters that the Oakville Grocery is a must-see.

    There’s also the Hakusan sake brewery in Napa, which is kind of neat. And the Sterling winery is reached via funicular and has a spectacular view of the valley.

  23. If you want to tour a winery, Schramsberg is wonderful. They make the Champagne that the White House offers to foreign dignitaries. They store the bottles in caves, so the tour is pretty neat, and the grounds are beautiful. It’s on a little dirt side road, though, so make sure you have a map or a driver so you don’t get lost trying to find it. I’m not sure whether you need a reservation.

  24. I highly recommend visiting Sebastiani vineyards ( in Sonoma. The wood carvings are just extraordinary. Some old bean counter (accountant type of dude) retired from a big firm in San Francisco and moved to the wine country. He like to carve designs into wood as a hobby and asked the Sebastiani family if he could carve designs into the wood on their property. Over a couple of decades, he carved just about everything in sight. I mean, any stationary piece of wood more than a square foot has some fantastic design carved into it.

    The wine is also very good. They have a grape that was genetically engineered by some students at one of the Univ. of California campuses that they use to make a wine called Symphony, and it’s really good.

  25. Just to clarify (responding to Cobwebs)–I don’t think V. Sattui is bad, but every time I have been by there, it has been so crowded and overrun that we got trapped looking for parking and just felt mobbed. If you can catch it when it’s not crowded, I’m sure it’s fine… and it’s popular for a reason. I’ve just never been there when it hasn’t been crowded and I prefer places where I’m not with throngs of people.

  26. Hire a driver and tour all the vineyards in Sonoma-
    it makes an excellent day- !!!!
    We just did the day thing- but I’ll never forget it-
    it was awesome !!!!!!!

  27. My advice: take me with you!

  28. No suggestions on wine country but I do hope you have a fabulous trip!

    Thanks so much for visiting my blog. I look forward to reading more of yours.

  29. Oh, one of my favorite topics and I’ll be checking your replies b/c we’re thinking of doing another trip this fall. Here are a few tips:

    We’ve probably been to Napa 4-5 times, but the most recent trip we went to Sonoma and fell in love. If we went back we’d go to Healdsburg and stay there the entire time. Great restaurants (The Girl and the Fig), great wine (Ledson, J Vineyards and Chateau St. Jean are 3 we visited and we joined all of their wine clubs), and not nearly as crowded as Napa.

    Definitely hire a drive for at least one day, it was worth the $$ to not worry about drinking and driving.

    Finally, forget French Laundry you MUST go to Cyrus in Healdsburg. It was by far one of the best meals I’ve ever had and comparable to our visit to FL at the height of its popularity. Started with champagne and caviar and went up from there. The best was that they have a wine pairing that has top tier wines and if I hadn’t been so drunk when we arrived I might have enjoyed it a lot more. LOL!

    So much more I could share, but this is already turning into a novel. I’ll email you if I think of any other tidbits.

  30. I mean, why would you go to California when you could come to Missouri instead? Really? I’ll drive you. I’ll probably be pregnant then, so I’ll be sober.

  31. We have an awesome winery down the road.

    Wanna come and stay?


  32. i’ve never been to wine country, but I’d say don’t miss the wine. or the drunken sex.

  33. Frog’s Leap Winery – not to be missed. Plus the website is really cute:

  34. Michelle says:

    Just take us with you. Our 10th is on the 24th and so far we are driving with the kids to Charleston. uggggg

  35. First of all, if you spit a lot, drink water and snack along the way, you can drive yourself easily. Just don’t drive below the speed limit or you’ll annoy the locals.

    Forget Napa and stick with Sonoma County.

    One new winery you must check out is Copain, off Eastside Road in the Russian River Valley. Their pinots and syrahs are exquisite.

    Happy tasting!

  36. i have no advice. i just want to say…sooooo jealous! i’ve been dying to get drunk…er…visit the california wine country. the closest i’ve come is the wine country near niagra falls. come to think of it…that is not even close. i’ll talk to my friend who was there last year. i’ll come back and stalk…er…leave another helpful comment later.

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