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San Francisco, Napa Valley, Sonoma

Weekend Trip through Napa Valley / Winelands from San Francisco

I am looking for some suggestions for a trip through Winelands / Napa Valley in early May. Will arrive in San Francisco on Friday and want to go there from late Friday to late Sunday. Will have rental car and don't mind driving and changing locations often to see more. Is no honeymoon, will be there with friends, focus should be really on wine, tastings, good food and tours through wine lands. 

Looking forward to your suggestions!

Thanks so much

12 Answers

top answer by
Debbie from San Francisco

Very nice.  Sounds like it's going to be a fun trip!  If you have any particular types of wine you prefer, let me know and I can suggest some places that are known for that wine, but for now, I'll suggest the ones that I like.  Just FYI, I'm prone to bubbly and pretty views :)

For vino...

  • Ram's Gate Winery
    This is a fairly new winery, opened in 2011.  It's gorgeous and in Sonoma, which is on the way to Napa from San Francisco.
  • Artesa Vineyards & Winery
    Beautiful, beautiful winery and art gallery. Great for all sorts of wine.
  • Del Dotto Estate Winery & Caves
    Gorgeous winery for all sorts of wine, and they also do cave tours as well.  Last I checked, the cave tour and tasting were about $50-$60 per person.

  • Domaine Carneros
    Probably the most beautiful place for sparkling wine in the valley.  Order bubbly flights or whole bottles to share among your friends and take in the view.

  • Domaine Chandon
    Another good place for bubbles that's in Yountville.

Now for food...

  • Since it's no honeymoon, I'm going to suggest my favorite spot that's great for lunch: Gott's Roadside! I love them! They have a location in St. Helena, too, if you're going up that way. Their seared ahi tuna burger with Asian slaw and wasabi aioli on egg bun is my favorite. They also serve beer and wine from local wineries. Order and pay inside, then grab a seat outside to take in the beautiful wine country sun.
  • For breakfast or brunch, Boon Fly Cafe is one of the most popular spots in Napa.

  • ad hoc: serves a great prix fixe brunch on weekends. If you're familiar with Thomas Keller or French Laundry, well, this is one of his spots!  Also great for prix fixe dinner.  You do have to make reservations for this spot
  • étoile Restaurant: This one's actually at the lovely Domaine Chandon not too far off Washington St. Great French restaurant if you want something nice. Do the tasting menu.

For fun...

  • Take a walk in downtown Yountville on Washington St. Search for The French Laundry in your GPS and go from there (this is also where Chandon and ad hoc that I had previously mentioned are). There's a beautiful garden/park adjacent to the restaurant and that's a good place stop off for a walk and take some pictures.

  • Old Faithful Geyser of California: Grab a picnic lunch and head here to see the geyser. Good spots to grab lunch to go are at Buster's Southern BBQ or Palisades Market close to the geyser in Calistoga, or if you're coming from Napa, go to Genova delicatessen for some sandwiches.

  • Downtown St Helena is also great to walk through for some shopping. Great boutiques and little specialty food stores.

  • And since you're coming from San Francisco and you do have a car, if you wanted to do something outdoorsy and active, you could hike Muir Woods.
  • And you could even hike to Stinson Beach, where you can surf.

Hope you and your friends have fun!  Let me know if you'd like any other suggestions! :)

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Ram's Gate Winery (attraction)
  2. Artesa Vineyards & Winery (attraction)
  3. Del Dotto Estate Winery & Caves (attraction)
  4. Domaine Chandon (restaurant)
  5. Gott's Roadside (restaurant)
  6. Boon Fly Cafe (restaurant)
  7. ad hoc (restaurant)
  8. étoile Restaurant (restaurant)
  9. Yountville (city)
  10. The French Laundry (restaurant)
  11. Old Faithful Geyser of California (attraction)
  12. Buster's Southern BBQ (restaurant)
  13. Palisades Market (restaurant)
  14. Genova delicatessen (attraction)
  15. St Helena (attraction)
  16. Stinson Beach (attraction)
  17. Muir Woods (attraction)
  18. Domaine Carneros (attraction)
11 thankscomments (2)

answered by
Dave from California

Philipp - Wanted to mention a few smaller Napa wineries with personalized visits - where the wines are generally affordable (by Napa standards). St Helena's David Fulton Winery (David Fulton)- Napa's 2nd oldest winery, small family owned
Tedeschi Family Winery (Tedeschi Family) in Calistoga - usually meet with a family member, started Maui's first winery back in 1974
If you don't mind spending $75/person on a tour - the nearly 3 hour 10am daily tour with Hendry Winery (George Hendry) in Napa is one of the best in the valley

I've visited, tasted and written reviews about nearly 750 Napa wineries/producers out of 1000 over the past 8 years - so I have a good perspective of the Napa Valley from a winery point of view :)

Let me know if you have any specific questions about the Napa winery scene.

Also wanted to mention the Kitchen Door LLC in the Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa - its very good value for the quality of food. You could just come to Napa, skip all wineries and eat your way through the valley!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. St Helena (attraction)
  2. Calistoga (city)
  3. Napa (city)
  4. Kitchen Door LLC (restaurant)
  5. Oxbow Public Market (attraction)
  6. David Fulton Winery (attraction)
  7. Tedeschi Family Winery (attraction)
  8. Hendry Winery (attraction)
9 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Steve from San Francisco

Hi Philipp,

I live in San Francisco and visit the winelands quite frequently.  My wife and I are foodlovers too.

My first suggestion is to consider Sonoma and Russian River Valley -- immediately adjacent to Napa -- for your wine tasting experience.  For us, Napa is a bit too discovered and commercial and touristy.  You might get a slightly more authentic experience over the hills to the west.

I am thinking, in particular, of Matanzas Creek Winery and St. Francis Winery & Vineyards and Arista Winery.

Sounds like you are traveling with friends.  We've rented a house for the weekend with VRBO, and that was a great experience.

Finally, if you do make it over to Napa, consider these two restaurants, Oenotri and Redd.  We had wonderful experiences there with fantastic food and wine.

Safe Travels,


Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Sonoma (city)
  2. Arista Winery (attraction)
  3. Oenotri (restaurant)
  4. Redd (restaurant)
  5. Russian River (region)
  6. Matanzas Creek Winery (attraction)
  7. St. Francis Winery & Vineyards (attraction)
8 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Carina from San Francisco

Because there is a plethora of wineries to choose from in beautiful wine country, it doesn't surprise me that the list just seems to go on and on! All of the suggestions are FANTASTIC and will surely have you tasting the greatest wine in the country, but I want to point out a unique ones that may offer a bit of a different scene! 

Darioush Winery. This is probably the most exotic-looking winery I've been to. It has an ancient Persian theme and is located on 22,000 square foot estate. From the moment that I pulled up to the fountains and towering columns in front, I knew I was in for quite the wine tasting experience. The interior is very lush and has a lot of rich textures- I honestly enjoyed looking around as much as I enjoyed the wine! This one is not to be missed. All the staff is VERY hospitable.

I hope this helps! 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Darioush Winery (attraction)
8 thanks

answered by
Amanda from Roswell, New Mexico

Here's an itinerary that worked great:

6:00 PM Dinner at Cook St. Helena - 707-963-7088, 


Saturday - Driver around St. Helena / Calistoga
10:30 Spring Mountain Vineyard
12:00 Gott's Roadside,
1:30 Von Strasser Winery
3:00 Fisher Vineyards 
7:00 Private Chef Eric Webster,

Sunday - Driver around Sonoma / Napa
10:30 Pride Mountain Vineyards -
12:00 ad hoc
3:00 Larkmead Winery
7:00 Bar Terra, St. Helena
(707) 963-8931

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Cook St. Helena (restaurant)
  2. Spring Mountain Vineyard (attraction)
  3. Gott's Roadside (restaurant)
  4. Von Strasser Winery (attraction)
  5. Fisher Vineyards (attraction)
  6. Private Chef Eric Webster (restaurant)
  7. Pride Mountain Vineyards (attraction)
  8. ad hoc (restaurant)
  9. Larkmead Winery (attraction)
  10. Bar Terra (restaurant)
5 thankscomments (2)

answered first by
Rick from Denver

Hi Philipp,

Two of my favorite wineries in Napa are Joseph Phelps Vineyards and Viader Vineyards. Both are a little off the usual route in the valley, but worth it. A little more accessible (financially and geographically) is Elizabeth Spencer Winery at the crossroads in Rutherford. If you're looking for a nice place to stay check out Solage Calistoga. Have fun!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Solage Calistoga (hotel)
  2. Joseph Phelps Vineyards (attraction)
  3. Viader Vineyards (attraction)
  4. Elizabeth Spencer Winery (attraction)
4 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Kevin from Waterford, Connecticut

Stay: Solage Calistoga- the have deals on Luxury Link and JetSetter often.  Very low key -  free bikes to rise into town, Bocce court, firepit and 5 star accomodation in cottages.  

Eat: Solbar right at Solage - get a package with breakfast included and you will not regret it.

Eat: Cook St. Helena - Small but amazing food. Dinner.

Eat: Gott's Roadside - Classic Burger joint. Lunch

Eat: Bouchon - Thomas Keller - just as good as French Laundry with out all the fancy and more affordable. Dinner

Eat: Rutherford Grill. Perfect Lunch Spot to build a base for wine tasting

Drink: Jarvis Winery - Most interesting tour.  Must call way ahead.

Drink: Del Dotto Estate Winery & Caves - make sure you have a designated driver - taste a ton of wine right out of the barrel.  

Drink: Alpha Omega Winery - beautiful deck and patio with really lake and fountain. Super Comfy seating - great for a big group.  

Drink: Schramsberg Vineyards - Very Cool tour of one of the oldest vineyards out there - see the caves dug by hand.

Drink:Frank Family Vineyards - Super fun with really funny hosts/pourers.  Great place to start the day of touring.

Drink:Duckhorn Vineyards - Make a reservation on Open Table - cool outdoor seating, good light food and firepits when it is chilly.

Drink:Vineyard 29 - Easy to find at 2929 Route 29.  Need a reservation, but amazing wine. If you like tech - you'll find it very cool.  Most modern wine makers there are.

Shop: (Not my forte) Downtown St Helena and Yountville have some cool stores.

Have fun!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Solage Calistoga (hotel)
  2. Solbar (restaurant)
  3. Cook St. Helena (restaurant)
  4. Gott's Roadside (restaurant)
  5. Bouchon (restaurant)
  6. Rutherford Grill (restaurant)
  7. Del Dotto Estate Winery & Caves (attraction)
  8. Alpha Omega Winery (restaurant)
  9. Schramsberg Vineyards (attraction)
  10. Duckhorn Vineyards (attraction)
  11. Jarvis Winery (attraction)
  12. Frank Family Vineyards (attraction)
  13. Vineyard 29 (attraction)
3 thanks

answered by
Laney from Charlotte

I would highly recommend signing up for the tour at Gundlach Bundschu.  It's fun and informative. You walk thru the vineyard, see the operations, taste wine, and have a tasting in the cellar.  Also, go up to Artesa Vineyards & Winery to at least check out the spectacular view.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Gundlach Bundschu (attraction)
  2. Artesa Vineyards & Winery (attraction)
2 thanks

answered by
Laura from Pleasanton, California

Truett Hurst Winery is a wonderful winery in Sonoma. I recommend stopping at the Sonoma General Store first to grab lunch and taking it to Truett to enjoy wine on their back patio.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Truett Hurst Winery (attraction)
2 thanks

answered by
Kartik from San Francisco

I would recommend a trip to Russian River valley (Healdsburg) over other place. RaffanelliZichichi Family Vineyard have good wines. Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves is nice too.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Healdsburg (attraction)
  2. Bella Vineyards and Wine Caves (attraction)
  3. Raffanelli (attraction)
  4. Zichichi Family Vineyard (attraction)
1 thanks

answered by
Janet from Emerald Hills, Ca

This is a fabulous area in which to bicycle with a picnic. Calistoga has hot springs: everything from Harbin Hot Springs (vegetarian/clothes optional) to high end. Just google.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Calistoga (city)
  2. Harbin Hot Springs (attraction)
1 thanks

answered by
Emi from San Francisco

I would suggest renting a car through Getaround, a great and inexpensive startup in San Francisco. Driving to Napa is easiest and it's gorgeous! xo


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