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Joanne
Florida

Napa, Sonoma, Napa Valley, San Francisco

Napa/Sonoma in one day

I will be in San Francisco next week and would like to take a drive to Napa and Sonoma only for the day.   Any suggestions on the best wine tasting, views, lunch?   A suggested itinerary would be extremely helpful?  Thanks much.


13 Answers

top answer by
Sarah

If you're only going for a day (a shame!), definitely get a driver.  This isn't a customized answer, but we got married in Sonoma and enjoyed many weekends in Napa and Sonoma wedding planning.  I get asked so much that I have a prepared email with our favorite spots so thought I'd share.  See below and have a great time!!!

Wine Country

I really recommend doing a wine tour or renting a limo. Here are some of my favorites- they are in order of location from the southern part of the valleys to the northern part:

Napa: 

  •  Del Dotto Estate Winery & Caves- really cool cave tour but go here last- they serve so much wine you'll be very drunk
  •  Darioush Winery- amazing cabs, really interesting/posh inside
  •  Clos Du Val Winery
  • Monticello Vineyards - designed to look like Thomas Jefferson's house
  • Jarvis Winery- great cave tour, amazing wines (I am a member of the wine club here), need to make an appointment in advance!
  • Opus One Winery- its beautiful here.  they basically just give you a full glass of their amazing wine (~$30/glass!) and let you hang out on the property
  • Cakebread Cellers- gives a good tour for new wine drinkers, also a good place to go if you like white wines.  
  • Peju Province Winery- entertaining wine tasting, learned a lot, wine is average
  • Z D Wines- just love their wine
  • V. Sattui Winery-  this is one of the best places to stop in for lunch.  it is a winery and you can do a tasting but they also cook warm food and have picnic tables out for you to grab a seat for lunch.
  • Clos Pegase Winery- my parents have been here and think its cool, it has a greek theme
  • Frank Family Vineyards- i havent been here yet but I love their wines

Sonoma

 

I've also heard about tours where you rent bikes and bicycle to a few vineyards for the tour, which could be fun as well.  Here is a link to a company that does that: Napa Valley Bike Tours & Rentals  http://napavalleybiketours.com/

 

You can also do a cooking class at Ramekins Culinary School (they have different classes every day and you go around dinner time or lunch time and cook the dish and then get to eat it).  https://www.ramekins.com/

 

 If you get a chance to eat dinner in Napa, my favorite restaurants are: 

There are a couple really good spots in Sonoma as well:

  • The Girl and the Fig
  • Carneros Bistro & Wine Bar- at the Lodge at Sonoma
  • El Dorado Kitchen
  • Fremont Diner-  this is the best diner ive ever been too.  it looks like a little shack from the outside but is really cute inside and the food is FANTASTIC.  it's on highway 121 between Napa and Sonoma so you could stop there for brunch or lunch if you head to Sonoma one day or are in Carneros


Also in Napa (Yountville) there is the famous restaurant The French Laundry.  I think it is consistently rated the best restaurant in the United States.  It is very pricey and you need to make advance reservations, we've been once and it's great if you're looking for white glove service.  BUT, Ad Hoc (listed above) and another restaurant called Bouchon are by the same owner as French Laundry and are great. 


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Del Dotto Estate Winery & Caves (attraction)
  2. Darioush Winery (attraction)
  3. Jarvis Winery (attraction)
  4. Opus One Winery (attraction)
  5. Cakebread Cellers (restaurant)
  6. Peju Province Winery (attraction)
  7. V. Sattui Winery (attraction)
  8. Frank Family Vineyards (attraction)
  9. Étude Wines (attraction)
  10. Domaine Carneros (attraction)
  11. Gundlach Bundschu (attraction)
  12. Kunde Family Estate (attraction)
  13. Ledson Winery & Vineyards (attraction)
  14. ad hoc (restaurant)
  15. Mustards Grill (restaurant)
  16. Hurley's (restaurant)
  17. Celadon (restaurant)
  18. Brix Restaurant (restaurant)
  19. Oakville Grocery (attraction)
  20. The Girl and the Fig (restaurant)
  21. El Dorado Kitchen (restaurant)
  22. Fremont Diner (restaurant)
  23. The French Laundry (restaurant)
  24. Bouchon (restaurant)
  25. Clos Du Val Winery (attraction)
  26. Monticello Vineyards (attraction)
  27. Z D Wines (attraction)
  28. Clos Pegase Winery (attraction)
  29. Cline Cellars (attraction)
  30. Sonoma Plaza (attraction)
  31. B.R. Cohn Winery (attraction)
  32. Napa Valley Bike Tours & Rentals (attraction)
  33. Ramekins Culinary School (restaurant)
  34. Carneros Bistro & Wine Bar (attraction)
13 thankscomments (2)


answered by
Amy from Kansas City (Missouri)

if you just have one day, I would start on the southern end.  For views in Napa, my favorite spots are Artesa Vineyards & Winery and Domaine Carneros , both in Carneros.  Those two are always among our first stops, and the views are what you imagine 'Napa' to be.  

in Sonoma, we like Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards for views (like Domaine Carneros, a good spot for bubbles).  I have to say, though, if you're up for something a little daring, one of my favorite things in wine country, maybe in my lifetime, is an open cockpit bi-wing plane ride from Vintage Aircraft Co......awesome!

have fun!


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Artesa Vineyards & Winery (attraction)
  2. Domaine Carneros (attraction)
  3. Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards (attraction)
  4. Vintage Aircraft Co. (attraction)
6 thankscomments (2)


answered by
Jeanne from Sonoma

Sonoma  is much less crowded than the Napa Valley, both highway traffic and tasting rooms.  Ram's Gate Winery is a great first stop for architecture and views.  The Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards for champagne and views.  Lunch at The Girl and the Fig on the Plaza in Sonoma.  Then up highway 12, aka The Valley of the Moon for a stop Kunde Family Estate.  Make a reservation for their mountain top tasting for even more views.  If you're up for 4 wineries top it off Chateau St Jean Winery for beautiful grounds and architecture.  Backtrack on highway 12 and stop for a historic winery Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery.  Watch the drinking and driving!  It's feasible to order 1 tasting and split it, less expensive as well.






Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Sonoma (city)
  2. Ram's Gate Winery (attraction)
  3. Gloria Ferrer Caves and Vineyards (attraction)
  4. The Girl and the Fig (restaurant)
  5. Kunde Family Estate (attraction)
  6. Chateau St Jean Winery (attraction)
  7. Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery (attraction)
6 thankscomments (1)


answered by
Russell from San Francisco

My preferred wine country visit style is casual, rural and dog-friendly, so keep that in mind with this recommendation.  Wineries range from super-laid back in Sonoma to potentially high-brow and snobby in Napa.  Sorry, Napa, just not my style.

Gundlach Bundschu (http://www.gunbun.com/index.cfm) is my favorite overall winery/vineyard, with reasonably-priced, delicious tastings, a cool cave tour, and amazing grounds for a nice walk and quintessential wine country views.  My fiancee and I are wine club members, but the folks there are equally welcoming of all guests.  Great picnic area to enjoy a bottle of your favorite wine with sandwiches from Carneros Deli (corner of 116 and 121).

Larson Family Winery is another great family-owned winery with a nice courtyard with some lawn games (bocce, ladder golf, cornhole) for afternoon relaxing and fun.

I'm not saying that Napa isn't worthwhile, but the wineries there tend to be fancier and most of the wines they make don't come from grapes grown on the estate.  No matter what you do, enjoy the wine, food and views, but be careful on the roads!


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Gundlach Bundschu (attraction)
  2. Carneros Deli (restaurant)
  3. Larson Family Winery (attraction)
5 thankscomments (1)


answered by
Kaitlyn from Danville, California

Raymond Vineyards is quirky / different. You can even make your own wine and get it bottled with a custom label.

Kelly Fleming Wines is off the beaten path, and intimate - highly recommend.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Raymond Vineyards (attraction)
  2. Kelly Fleming Wines (attraction)
4 thankscomments (1)


answered by
Kristina from Los Angeles

A great place to eat is The French Laundry in Yountville (reservation recommended). Its in a great neighborhood also, so I would recommend walking throughout the town after! If you can squeeze it in, I would also recommend Silver Oak Cellars. And if you really want to live on the edge, take a Hot Air Balloon tour-its an amazing experience! 


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. The French Laundry (restaurant)
  2. Silver Oak Cellars (attraction)
4 thankscomments (2)


answered by
Richard from Northern California

The Girl and the Fig - hard to beat for Wonderful food and the town square just outside the door is a very nice post meal stroll.

El Molino Central is just a bit out of the downtown area. Stunningly great, locally sourced Mexican food. They grind their own masa daily and make tortilla's to each order. Stunning Tomales, brilliant Mole. Very wonderful, Oaxca - California cuisine.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. The Girl and the Fig (restaurant)
  2. El Molino Central (restaurant)
3 thanks


answered by
Andy from San Francisco

One of my favorite places for lunch on the way to Sonoma is Lagunitas Brewing Company . They have a great outdoor beer garden and pretty solid food. They also have great beer flight options. 

Another place I'd stop by is downtown Sonoma. There are lots of restaurants, cafes, and wine tasting places. There is also a nice park in the middle of downtown to relax and to enjoy the weather. 


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Lagunitas Brewing Company (attraction)
2 thanks


answered by
Peter from Bloomington (Indiana)

Since no one's mentioned it, try Luna Vineyards for Italian varietals -- try the Reserve Sangiovese.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Luna Vineyards (restaurant)
2 thanks


answered by
Jackson from Washington, DC

Don't do both, much too large and wine country - like good wine - should be savored! Try Scribe Winery, smaller and very friendly, in Sonoma, or Spring Mountain Vineyard in Napa - don't be scared by the $50 if you enjoy wine you will love it. If it's your first trip go to Sterling Vineyards for the views and Frogs Leap Vineyard for the experience.  

We just got married there last weekend. You'll have a blast.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Scribe Winery (attraction)
  2. Spring Mountain Vineyard (attraction)
  3. Sterling Vineyards (attraction)
  4. Frogs Leap Vineyard (attraction)
2 thankscomments (2)


answered first by
Maria

Well, Napa & Sonoma are two very different areas, up to an hour distance apart. I would choose either one or the other. Its hard to do both in one day. I'm partial to Sonoma as I've lived and worked in the food/wine biz there for more than 20 years.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Napa (city)
  2. Sonoma (city)
2 thankscomments (1)


answered by
Renee from Quincy, California

Try out the Sonoma Food and Wine Tour by Gourmet Food and Wine Tours to try out the town's top restaurants, including the girl & the fig.  This walking tour pairs each gourmet plate with a half a glass of wine and combines history, architecture and is the tastiest way to get to know the heart of the wine country in just 3+ hours.  8 different businesses participate in Sonoma.  Tours are also offered in Yountville, Sausalito and Tiburon. Go to gourmetfoodandwinetours.com for more information and to book.




answered by
Dan from Ipswich (Massachusetts)

I love the Porter Bass Winery on the banks of the Russian River in Guerneville -- it is the most casual and friendliest tasting room I've ever been in and the setting is lovely. Just up the road is the Armstrong Preserve and a beautiful grove of redwoods, if you want to mix it up a bit. Lucas filmed  some of the Ewok scenes in the Star Wars movies here -- visit it and see why.


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Porter Bass Winery (restaurant)
  2. Guerneville (city)




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