Are you planning a trip to Napa/Sonoma Valley and trying to decide what wineries to visit? I have put together some information based on my experiences visiting Napa and Sonoma Valley to help you plan an unforgettable trip, well, as long as you don’t drink too much wine. Lol.
Where to Stay
Deciding where you will stay depends on several things:
- What is your budget?
- Are you spending all of your time in Napa/Sonoma?
- Do you prefer a hotel or a homey local rental?
If you plan to stay the length of your entire trip in Napa/Sonoma, I would suggest staying somewhere close to the wineries/vineyards you plan to visit. Hotels in the area can be pricey, since it’s all about the location. Air BNB and Vacation Rentals by Owner are also other options when looking for places to stay, whether it’s for 2 or a group. It is important that you book your stay well in advance, especially during busy season (Summer).
Some choose to visit Napa/Sonoma Valley for the day, while in the San Francisco area. I personally have done this option once and it worked out great. We stayed at the Marriott in Downtown San Francisco.
Once you have planned out where you are staying then it’s time to hire your Chauffeur!
The most important piece of information I can give you is DO NOT DRINK AND DRIVE. During your visit to Napa and/or Sonoma you will be enjoying plenty of wine so having transportation is vital. On my first visit to Napa/Sonoma Valley, I rented a private car service and on my second visit I scheduled a semi-private tour. Both were completely different experiences, however equally as great. With the car service you have the ability to explore as you wish since you are renting your own private vehicle for the day. You can stop at any local restaurants for lunch. This is a good option whether you are with one other person or a group. Local car rental services typically offer a 5 hour private rental. You can also look on Groupon for deals.
On my second trip, I stayed in San Francisco, however wanted to visit wine country for a day. I scheduled a tour with Incredible Adventures. I recommend this option to individuals or a group who want a care free experience, yet educational. We were picked up at our hotel and guided from San Francisco to the Napa/Sonoma area with an experienced tour guide. Our tour group included a total of 8 people and was 10 hours long. During the tour we were able to see the Golden Gate Bridge and have lunch at a local Sonoma Deli. We gave suggestions on wineries we wanted to visit and they were incorporated into the tour. The guide did a great job in planning our stops at each winery depending on their hours of operations. The wineries that were open until 5-6PM we visited later in the day. Typically, you can see about 4-6 wineries in the day depending on how much time is spent at each location. We stopped at 5 wineries that day. The tour guide did a great job in directing people on the tour to make sure everyone remained on schedule. Our tour ended around 6:30pm and we were dropped off at our hotel. The cost was about $125 per person. All the wine tastings were included. Another benefit to a wine tour is the tour companies usually work with the wineries and will include free tastings so you don’t have to pay anything additional, unless you chose to purchase bottles of wine. Overall, it was a great experience.
What Wineries to Visit
Napa Valley has over 400 wineries, so don’t go in thinking you will see them all on your first visit. Heck, you may never even visit 5% of them in your lifetime. Lol. You clearly need to be somewhat selective. When making your list on what wineries to visit keep in mind a few things:
- What type of wine do you prefer to drink? Red, White, Sparkling?
- What type of experience are you looking for? Quick tasting, sit-down with pairings?
- Specific ambiance? Breathtaking views, historical, small family-owned vineyard?
With that being said, I have provided wineries that offer gorgeous views, food pairings, history, tours and of course, amazing vino! Make sure you check the wineries’ websites; many require booking in advance for both tastings and tours.
MY TOP 6 WINERIES
Chimney Rock – 5350 Silverado Trail, Napa CA 94558
A beautiful place to visit. Small winery with only 103 acres. It has a beautiful courtyard with a waterfall. Great selection of wines. Really enjoyed the Cabernet Savignon that had a blackberry flavor and was very smooth. Tasting costs about $35 per person.
Chateau Montelena Winery – 1429 Tubbs Lane Caslistoga, CA 94515
Chateau Montelena was designed to resemble an English Gothic castle gatehouse. It has a beautiful Chinese garden that over looks a beautiful lake. This winery is known for its Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Wine Tastings start at $25 per person.
Benziger – 1883 London Ranch Road Glen Ellen, CA 95442
I had the opportunity to visit the Benziger Winery on my second visit with my husband. It was included as one of the wineries in the Incredible Adventures tour. Our first thought was “Oh, it’s included with the tour, so it probably won’t be that great”. Well, we were SO wrong. It ended up being one of our favorite wineries. We learned so much about the history of the winery, grape growing and wine process. We did the tram tour, which takes you throughout the beautiful grounds. We were even able to enter the caves where they store all of the wine. This winery has biodynamic gardens. They provide integrated pest management which means no pesticides in their wines. Our tasting was included with our tour, however typically it runs about $25 per person.
V.Sattui – 1111 White Lane St. Helena, CA 94574
V. Sattui is known for it’s amazing deli which includes sandwiches, meats, cheeses and breads. This is one of the best wineries in Napa. There is nothing like doing a tasting ($25), buying your favorite bottle of wine, pairing it with a cheese from the cheese shop and taking it outside to enjoy. This is a great place to end the day and I highly recommend it.
Domaine Chandon – 1 California Drive Yonteville, CA 94599
Domaine Chandon, was the first French established winery in the U.S. It is known for it’s top glass sparkling wine and beautiful grounds. We did the étoile prestige tour and tasting ($40), which gives a behind the scenes tour of the making of Chandon’s sparkling wine. I loved the Chandon Rosé. It was absolutely divine and refreshing. I would definitely recommend visiting here, as there aren’t many sparkling wineries in Napa. Nothing better than a Champagne toast to end the trip!
I hope these tips can help you while planning your trip to Napa and/or Sonoma Valley. While this is by no means a complete list, it’s a good starting point.
What’s your favorite California Winery? I would love to hear your recommendations for my next visit!
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