Wine & Travel

Snooth User: Philip James

Napa / Sonoma Trip Report

Posted by Philip James, May 10, 2008.

Saturday April 26th Mark and I had an epic day in Napa and Sonoma, running around tasting wines and meeting new people while catching up with others.

Wineries visited:
Frogs Leap
Round Pond

We started out at Larkmead Vineyards in Calistoga, where Dan Petroski was kind enough to show us around despite it being his day off. Dan is one of Snooth's guest bloggers so it was great to catch up with him.

Larkmead is a sleeper winery. Tucked up far North in Napa, far from the tourist masses, its really a beautiful tranquil place. The winery has around 100 acres of vines under management and is set, I believe, next to a wetland nature reserve.

For those that have traipsed the lower reaches of Route 29 / Silverado Trail its really worth getting further North, the valley narrows and feels much more intimate as the hills crowd you in up here.

For a full list of Larkmead wines tasted that day and their reviews the link is here:

Second stop was Duckhorn. Located about 10 minutes south of Larkmead, the Duckhorn winery, like Larkmead, is a beautiful wooden estate house style building. Duckhorn is of course much bigger. Thank you to Bill Nancarrow (proper Cornish name by the way!) the winemaker for setting us up with Abi Thompson who led an excellent cheese and wine pairing tasting.

Duckhorn Winery pic:

We toured both the Larkmead and Duckhorn vineyards extensively - barrel and tank rooms are always great to see, and its really interesting to taste the stuff thats still in tank. I'd not been to a vineyard in spring so seeing the grape buds was probably the best part for me.

Tiny grape buds pic:

To see all my Duckhorn wines visit this link:

We didnt have appointments for either Frogs Leap or Round Pond, so thank you to the staff for hosting us at such short notice. Round Pond, in particular, has a beautiful airy loft style building with giant wooden beams and 25 feet ceilings. They have 400 acres of vineyards, but most of their grapes are sold to other wineries. They began making wines themselves in 2002 and have just three vintages released. I presume they keep the best fruit for themselves.

Our final stop of the day was Loxton, which is where HondaJohn works. We took some ultra windy road across the mountains to Sonoma. Which is Dan or John or someone could name the road I'd be grateful as its well worth taking.

Loxton is a much smaller, family, winery. The tasting room IS the barrel room. Founded by Chris Loxton, an Australian transplant with generations of winemakers in his blood, it was nice for me to be able to share some British style jokes with someone for a change.

Honda gave us a good tour, and it was nice to see how Sonoma has a different style to the ultra-chic of Napa. Sonoma's much more down to earth, the wines are more affordable and there really are few crowds outside of Healdsburg.

Loxton wines here:

We finished this all off with dinner with John Andrews (aka HondaJohn) and Patrick Llerena of Iridesse wines.

Thanks again to everyone who made our day possible. We staggered back to our hotel hovel late that night and we were up at 3am to catch an early morning flight. I'm pretty sure I could still taste the cabernet when I rolled off the plane the next afternoon.


Reply by Mark Angelillo, May 12, 2008.

The road we took was the Oakville Grade, I believe. It was so hilly that all the gas in our tank shifted around and we thought we were going to run out.

Fortunately we were able to fill the tank with wine and soldier on (kidding).

Reply by Rodolphe Boulanger, May 12, 2008.

Great summary - where did you guys stay?

Reply by Philip James, May 13, 2008.

some economically priced adobe structure on the wrong side of the tracks in Napa. let me go look up the name

Reply by Philip James, May 13, 2008.

Its pretty cheap, and perfectly suited for Mark and my business trip. The honeymoon suite at some fancy spa didnt seem right for a business trip

Reply by John Andrews, May 13, 2008.

Very happy to meet up with you guys and look forward to your next trip out this way.

Also, if any other Snoothers get out this way, let me know ... be great to meet up for glass of wine or three. :-)

Reply by Rodolphe Boulanger, May 13, 2008.

Philip - good choice. My favorite base camp for Sonoma (and northern Napa) is the Geyserville Inn (

John - my annual summer pilgrimage to CA doesn't look like its going to happen this year. Maybe I can get out to Loxton in the fall.

Reply by John Andrews, May 13, 2008.

@RBoulanger ... let me know when you are going to be here and I'll do my best to be available. I do expect that when I get to Italy you can hook me up with some great wineries! ;-) j/k.

Reply by oceank8, May 14, 2008.

Geyserville Inn is where I stayed last month! It was perfect, not too pricey and plenty well taken care of. Also, just a short drive to tons of wineries.

Reply by Rodolphe Boulanger, May 14, 2008.

No problem. I'll make sure you are well taken care of.

Since they don't take $$$s anymore, however, I would suggest holding off on any trip to Europe until the exchange rate is better.

Reply by bootlegger, May 22, 2008.

I am trying to find out if Big Fat Frog Winery is still open. ???

Reply by John Andrews, May 22, 2008.

Can't seem to find Big Fat Frog Winery anywhere. I did find some reviews of the 2003 cab. I'm wondering if it was a 'second' label of another winery or is now a label of winery conglomerate.

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