Wine & Travel

Snooth User: Nina Syr

First time to Sonoma and Napa

Posted by Nina Syr, Mar 28, 2012.

In the end of the April me and my husband want to go to taste some wines. Also want to see SF.

I would appreciate any advice-where to go, what wineries to visit etc. Where to stay.

Thank you in advance!

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Reply by JonDerry, Mar 28, 2012.

Sounds great Nina, i'm sure you'll have a great time no matter where you go.

How much time do you have up there?

Reply by Nina Syr, Mar 28, 2012.

We are thinking 5 days or so.

Reply by JonDerry, Mar 28, 2012.

Napa Valley: These are my standards that I like to recommend

-Larkmead (Call ahead for reservation)

-Schramsberg (Call ahead for reservations/tour)


-Shafer - During the week only (Monday - Friday). Not sure if you need to be on their list to make a reservation, but it's worth the extra effort.

Food: Stop by Gott's Roadside for lunch


Others can direct you better, but Arrowood is a good standard for Cabernet, Chardonnay, etc.

Reply by Nina Syr, Mar 28, 2012.

That's great! Thank you very much!

Reply by EMark, Mar 28, 2012.


There are a lot of regular Forum participants, here, who will be happy to give advice.  Several of them live in Napa/Sonoma and can even probably give you weather advice.  I am going to make two suggestions.

First, if you look over to the right directly even with the title of you post ("First time to Sonoma and Napa"), you'll see a box that says "Search the Snooth Forum."  Type "Napa Valley Wineries" into the box and click on the "Search" button.  You will be presented with a list of previous Forum conversations regarding things like  favorite Napa wineries and travel advice (just like you're asking).  If you read through some of those threads you will see links to even other threads that you may find helpful.

Second, and this is my own personal prejudice, budget at least a day to just drive around.  If you see something that looks interesting, be it a winery, a restaurant, a gallery, a museum, stop and check it out.  My personal recommendation is to drive through the Russian River Valley to the ocean.  The Sonoma coastline is awesomely beautiful.  A tad south of the mouth of the river is the town of Bodega Bay.  Mrs. EMark loves to lunch at the restaurant and look out over the bay.  Another idea (although maybe a bit more ambitious) is to head to Tomales Bay (further south) and have some oysters.

I'm sure you're going to have a great time.  Afterwards, please come back here and give us a report.


Reply by Nina Syr, Mar 28, 2012.

Thank you so much! I will give report for sure!:0)

And thank you for the hint! it's just me, I so eager, so I ask first, search later!:0)

Reply by outthere, Mar 28, 2012.

So much to do here, so much to see. Wine related what type of wine do you enjoy? That would narrow down the list of places to visit. Napa and Sonoma are such different places. Napa tends to be geared more to the affluent so if you are budget mninded you may want to go west to Sonoma County. Just the two of you or are there any children going? I'll await your answer before I post any more.

Reply by Nina Syr, Mar 28, 2012.

It just two of us going. I'm interested in Russian river wines. My husband likes Cabs and we both like zins. Now I'm trying to figure out roots and places to stay. It's complicated!;0)

And of course we alway have  budget in our minds!;0)

Reply by outthere, Mar 28, 2012.

Others will try to steer you to Dry Creek Valley and that's all well and good but you mentioned RRV and since that's where I live that's where I am sedning you.

Russian River Cabs? This area isn't a hotbed for Cabernet as the waether does not support it well but there are a few estate vineyards that get it right. Most others use fruit from Alexander or Napa valleys. Try Dehlinger if you can get a tasting lined up as they are limited to appoinments but are well worth it. Family owned and operated with a great location on Vine Hill Rd that affords a stunning view. If they are not available you should contact Tara Bella. Another small, Mom and Pop, operation that grows and produces it's own wines out in the Olivet Rd area.

Neither of them do Zins though because this is predominantly Pinot Noir country but there are plenty of Zinfandel producers that have tasting rooms. Hartford Family Winery for instance has some stunning Zins and their location on Martinelli Rd is gorgeous. Speaking of Martinelli, they make some fair Zins as well such as their stellar Jack Ass Hill. Although their Pinots get a lot of the press Joseph Swan has some killer Zinfandels too done is a more restrained stye.

Places to stay? Splurge and spend a week night at the Farmhouse Inn or the Radford Inn B&B which are a stones throw from each other and wihin 5 miles of all the listed wineries here. Afterwards you can take that ride down River Rd to the coast but along the way stop at the historic Korbel Champagne Cellars for a tour of one of the gems of Sonoma County.

I got a million of em, try me... Oh and Dehlinger, Swan, Hartford and Martinelli also have some great Pinot Noir.

Reply by outthere, Mar 28, 2012.

Now if you want non wine related things to do up here there are lots of those too.

The Luther Burbank Home and Gardens is a horticulturists paradise in downtown Santa Rosa. Also in Santa Rosa is the Charles Shulz Museum. Yep, the Charles Shluz of Peanuts fame.

If you are into Wildlife then there is no better place to go than Safari West. Africa in wine country.

Adventurous? How about zip lining thorugh the redwood canopies in Occidental at Sonoma Canopy Tours.

Now you got me started...

Reply by JonDerry, Mar 28, 2012.

Outthere, does Bedrock do tastings?

Would be a great stop for Zins...

Reply by outthere, Mar 29, 2012.

Nope. Morgan sells out of his wines on release.  I have lots of great zin producers around here but the best ones are mailing list only and sell out in a matter of a week or two Bedrock, Carlisle. Or they don't have tasting rooms or tours, like Gamba.

But, if one were to stop at Bottle Barn one would find Bedrock's Sonoma Valley and Monte Rosso Old Vines zinfandels, and the Lachryma Montis Botrytized Late Harvest Monte Rosso Semillon as well as Carlisle's Papera and Carlisle Vineyard zinfandels on the shelf. I was just there today and picked up a Monte Rosso that I am enjoying as I type. Gotta love it!


Reply by napagirl68, Mar 29, 2012.

taft street winery, sebastapol

baker lane vineyards, sebastopol

flowers vineyards

Lioco wines  This is my fave pinot noir...

red car vineyards


marimar vineyards


Just a few I can think of at present... :-)

Reply by Nina Syr, Mar 29, 2012.

Thank you everyone so very much! That is great info!:0)

Reply by Bsberlin22, Mar 29, 2012.

you must take the schramsberg winery tour. Incredible sparkling wine. They have a wine called the Blanc d Blanc, which is the wine used at presidention inauguration dinners. You need to call ahead to schedule this tour, but it has been my favorite wine tasting and tour and i have been to Napa and the surrounding regions a few times. its a must see!

Reply by Matt Walker, Mar 30, 2012.

For great Cabs I'd hartily recommend St. Supery for the good wine and super friendly staff.  We paid for the basic tasting but they ended up pouring us all of the more premium wines as well.  They also make one of the best Sauv Blancs (Their Dollerhide SB) in CA.

Bell Wine Cellars not only has great wines (Cab, Merlot, Syrah, Chard) but they also have some more unique experience options including a blending seminer (you get to play winemaker for a day) and the one I did last time which was their clonal tasting.  You get to learn about the differences in Cabernet clones and taste different wines made from them (their flagship wine is a clone 6), you also get some nice appetizers along with it.

RRV is dominated by Pinot and Chardonnay being a bit too cool for cab though a few of the northern areas do have some zinfandel. 

Truett Hurst is a fun winery that makes great zins and petite sirahs some from RRV the others from Dry Creek.  You can a learn a lot about sustainable farming, organic grapes, and biodynamic winemaking there.

Foppiano is another quaint winery (and free tasting which is great).  Their tasting room is in a train.  They specialize in Petite Sirah from RRV and Dry Creek.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Mar 31, 2012.

Good to see Bell (yay, Anthony!) and Hartford (Zin, PN and Syrah--the latter two even better than the Zin) mentioned here.  But for zin, absolutely don't miss Talty (Snooth winery of the year) and Mauritson, which best represents Rockpile AVA--they own most of it.  Also Bella--outthere was right that someone (me) would recommend Dry Creek, but it is the home of the best Zin going, and those are, IMO, among the very best.  Search the forums as well. I did a post about my Presidents' Day ramble up there, and there are many more.  Papapietro Perry is getting a reputation as the "next Williams Selyem" for Pinot, but you can also call ahead and taste at Holdredge and Siduri, ultra premium producers of PN.  I agree with Dehlinger for a visitor because of the influence they've had on others, and because the wine is great; Unti is interesting for their Rhone varietals and because they supply those grapes to other wineries and have broad influence, IMO.  In all these cases, the owners are families and present on a day to day basis. But outthere is, to my mind, the deepest source here--he's in the business and on the ground in the RRV. DCV and RRV are a little more spread out, but with the crowds in Napa, you can taste as much there in the same amount of time. Also, the tasting room at J is elegant, and they pair food with their pinots and sparklers.  They're on the other side of Healdsburg, so a little less convenient if you are doing the River Road.

In general, I think RRV and Dry Creek are better bargains, and offer a wider variety of wines.  If you do go to Napa, have a meal at the bar at Tra Vigne and chances are pretty good that there will be a winemaker or winery owner there, too--ask the bartender/server who's around and they may tell you.  Gott's is fine--and it is owned by Joel Gott, who makes really good bargain wines with juice he buys from all over.  If it says "California," it's just because he source from three different AVAs to get what he wanted.  But Tra Vigne is my standby and a good place to people watch in the heart of the Napa Valley.  Hog Island Oysters at Oxbow Market (same block as Gott's) is also a good place to get fresh oysters, and I hear they have a special on Wednesdays.

Reply by napagirl68, Mar 31, 2012.

Foxall- another winemaker hangout, especially weekdays between lunch and dinner, at the bar, of course, is Bistro Don Giovanni.  I have had some very interesting, fabulous, and heated discussions there!

Reply by outthere, Apr 1, 2012.

The place to see or be seen in the RRV is the Underwood Bar and Bistro in Graton

Reply by D9sus4, Apr 11, 2012.

As a former resident of Santa Rosa, CA so I feel compelled to put in my 2 cents worth.

Definitely have dinner at least one night at John Ash's great restaurant The Vintners Inn:

My pick for Cab Sauvs is the Silverado Trail, Howell Mountain area. Regusci Winery is a lessor known favorite of mine. Nice place to have lunch as well:

For Zinfandels, the Dry Creek area is hard to beat, but the few Zins that are produced in the Russian River area are very good as well. They is a definite Terroir in all of the wines from that area. My favorite lessor know wineries there are:  and

Wherever you end up going, I'm sure you'll have a great time!

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