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Young couple needs advice in Napa/Sonoma for 5 days in August

by silverspark7 Online Now Jan 1, 2011 at 10:18 AM

I am in the midst of planning a 2 week vacation in CA for my boyfriend and I in August. Our first stop is for five days in San Fran (See post—VT Forum temporarily unavailable and then we head to the Napa/Sonoma region for another five days/four nights. We have booked four nights at Churchill Manor but I am considering shorting that to two so that we can have two days in Sonoma—is this a good idea? Is Sonoma worth a stop over, or should we remain based in Napa and simply drive over for a day's visit in Sonoma?

We plan to visit Robert Mondavi winery and possibly La Crema—other suggestions are welcome. We would also like to do the Napa Valley Wine Train. Other than that, we have no official plans in the area and would love some advice. Maybe a spa, some shopping, and just general relaxation. The two of us are also foodies and hope to eat at some great restaurants in the area. I know that there are some "celebrity chef" restaurants in the area and think that might be cool to try one night. We also love to take pictures, so if you recommend any picturesque locations, we would love that. We wouldn't mind going on a light hike in the area if there are good places to do so. Finally, for the drive to and from Napa/Sonoma and San Fran, we would like to know of any places worth a stop.

Thank you in advance to those who post suggestions—I've supported California wine country in the comfort of my South Louisiana home for some time now and am excited for my first trip to the area!

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5 Answers
  • riorich55's Profile Photo

    Re: Young couple needs advice in Napa/Sonoma for 5 days in August

    by riorich55 Online Now Jan 1, 2011 at 10:30 AM

    My wife and I visited the Napa/Sonoma area for the very first time at the end of October. We spent 3 nights in the area at 2 different hotels. Based upon my brief experience here are some quick suggestions.

    1) The Napa/Sonoma area are both very close to each other, so unless you really want to go to the far north end of Sonoma or into the counties north of both of them, I think you should just stay put in the one place you've picked out.

    2) Get a good detailed map of the area before you go and plot out your daily adventures. If you are staying over a weekend plan for more time to get to different places. If you go on weekdays, even during the vacation month of August you will run into less crowds then on the weekend.

    3) Don't try to get everywhere to see everything. We visited a couple of wineries each day and only did tastings at the last one during the day. At smaller wineries you will get more individual attention.

    4) Have at least one really nice dinner while you are there.

    5) I have written a number of tips on the area broken down by all the different small towns in the area that we at least did something in. Check my pages along with other VT member pages to get our true impressions on a number of different activities, wineries, tours, etc.

    6) Any other specific questions, don't be afraid to ask.

    Enjoy, it is a fun area.

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  • Agraichen's Profile Photo

    Re: Young couple needs advice in Napa/Sonoma for 5 days in August

    by Agraichen Online Now Jan 1, 2011 at 11:43 AM

    We'll have to organize a VT mini-meet as there are a lot of VTers in the area. As Rich as said, Napa and Sonoma are quite close and day trips are very easy. However wandering around Sonoma for a couple of days is defitinely worth the time.

    I personally would skip Mondavi and La Crema and visit Clos Pegase, Quintessa, Rombauer (which I do multiple times a year); others I like are like are Plumpjack, Silver Oak, Sterling (for the view), Miner, Frank Family. Most of the wineries on the Silverado Trail, for that matter. I don't think I've been to one on Hwy 29 in years.

    Restaurants in Yontville are quite good. For Spa's head to Calistoga. Dr. Wilkenson's is quite good.

    Driving to/from SF is 1.5 or so hours depending on traffic. Summers in Napa and Sonoma tend to get lots of day visitors on the weekends so traffic is much worse typically. Consider taking the "long way" back to SF by way of Marin County and stopping in Sausalito before crossing the Golden Gate to SF.

    There's lots of area in the hills around there for hiking. Muir Woods, Mt. Tam are just a couple examples of picturesque hikes. A drive up Mt. Diablo in Danville on the way to / from Napa is also a picturesqe location. It's said that on a clear day you can see more land mass from the top (only 3849 ft)than anywhere else in the world except from the top of Kilimanjaro.

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  • travelgourmet's Profile Photo

    Re: Young couple needs advice in Napa/Sonoma for 5 days in August

    by travelgourmet Online Now Jan 1, 2011 at 1:04 PM

    Both areas have great hotels and it depends on how much driving you plan to do to see the wineries. Just the connection drive from Napa to Sonoma is about 25 minutes. The Napa Valley from Napa to Calistoga round trip is close to two hours and the Sonoma Valley from Sonoma to Geyserville one way is over an one hour drive. Try these two pages for a start on what there is to see, do, stay, dine in the Napa or Sonoma areas. Then after reading all those tips, try to pinpoint the exact towns in both the Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley you would like to visit. Most Vters have many tips about this and that is the reason for the great VT Travel Guides. See Napa Travel Guide: Napa Travel Guide

    Sonoma Travel Guide: Sonoma Travel Guide

    As for the celebrity chefs, none is more well known than Thomas Keller with the French Laundry and Bouchon in Yountville. Reservations a must and perhaps three months in advance for the French Laundry.

    Two of the most picturesque wineries, in my opinion, are Sterling Vineyards and Castello di Amorosa Castle and Winery, both in Calistoga at the northern end of Napa Valley off Hwy 29.

    If you would like to see my take on Napa, then see: "THE CALIFORNIA WINE COUNTRY" - Napa by travelgourmet

    The places that I recommend between San Francisco and the wine country is one for a picturesque town in the bay, Sausalito: http://www.sausalito.org/ and nearby the hiking area of Muir Woods with the beautiful redwoods. See: http://www.nps.gov/muwo/index.htm

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  • silverspark7's Profile Photo

    Re: Young couple needs advice in Napa/Sonoma for 5 days in August

    by silverspark7 Online Now Jan 2, 2011 at 8:52 AM

    Thank you all so much for your advice and help! I think I'll stay with my current booking and we will plan on hitting Sonoma for a day instead of staying there for a night or two. I will most definitely check out some of the restaurants you have named—we look forward to some good eats in Napa. And thank you also for the tips on places to stop in between. We will plan to take the long way back to SF. Yall are great! Thanks!!

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  • travelgourmet's Profile Photo

    Re: Young couple needs advice in Napa/Sonoma for 5 days in August

    by travelgourmet Online Now Jan 2, 2011 at 12:24 PM

    You're welcome. Happy New Year and also welcome to VT. :-)

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