Wine & Travel

Snooth User: jamessulis

San Francisco

Posted by jamessulis, Feb 13, 2013.

My wife and I will be visiting San Francisco in April for a weeks vacation. We're staying at the Executive Hotel Vintage Court who's theme is wine. They have  nightly wine tastings and wine gatherings. Also scheduled in the trip is a days excursion to the Napa Valley via bus stopping at 5 different vineyards. I have always loved Napa Valley Cabernets and am looking forward to taking my checkbook and shipping some of my tastings back home. We will also visit the famous Millenium Vegan restaurant and ride the SF trolley system. At Fisherman's Warf we will tour Boudin bakery for some of the finest sourdough bread our country has to offer. I welcome comments on things to do and places to visit while in San Francisco...................we are both very excited.


Reply by outthere, Feb 13, 2013.

A week in April? You have to go to AT&T Park and take in a Giants game. Most beautiful ball park in existence. Even if you are not a Baseball fan it is still worth it.

Rent a car and take a trip up to Healdsburg so you can have some good Zinfandel. On the way back for. Healdsburg drive out River Rd to Guerneville and stop at Armstrong Woods State Park and see the giant redwoods. Afterwards you can keep west on River Rd right out to the Coast and drive Hwy 1 back to the City.

Reply by amour, Feb 14, 2013.

I rate the Sour Dough highly myself!

I used to love Grotto Number 9 at FWharf....soft shelled crabs especially!

How about the electric tram ride and the good old China Town!

And arty Sausalito.

Redwood Forest...drinking great wine from your own bottle at the look-out overlooking Alcatraz Island!!!

Ferry to Alcatraz close to Pier 33....just South East of it.


Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 14, 2013.

Go to Slanted Door at the Ferry Building if you like Vietnamese food.  Put yourself in the hands of the sommelier and see how well they pair wine with food. If you want to try Charles Phan's food on a more casual scale, there's Out the Door located at Westfield Mall at the foot of Powell Street on Market and in Pacific Heights, an upscale neighborhood west of the area you are staying in.  If that's not your thing, there's Hog Island Oysters at the Ferry Building, where, if the weather is good, you can eat outside (still going to want a warm outer layer) and look at the water while you eat the freshest oysters imaginable... except you live in a pretty good place for oysters.  They have good and interesting wines, too, albeit on a short list.  I could go on recommending places to eat, but that gets you started in the Ferry Building, which is very much worth a trip.

There's tons of food and wine things to do in and around San Francisco, but you have only so much time.  Avoid Grotto Number 9--tourist trap, only worth going to if you have kids who don't have very diverse palates.  Now that the Ferry Building is renovated with great food and wine, the Fisherman's Wharf area is pointless and kitschy.  (BTW, SF is dungeness crab territory.  Soft shell crabs were Chesapeake Bay produce until they started farming them elsewhere.)

Not sure I could handle Rte 1 back to SF after wine tasting all day, but OT's idea for a drive is spectacular.  One idea is to take 1 back as far as Point Reyes Station, then come across on Sir Francis Drake, so you can skip Stinson Beach and Bolinas and the extra winding around in there.  Only a little faster, but you aren't hanging onto the edge of the cliff the whole way back that way.  Or you could actually make it a trip within the trip and stay in Healdsburg over night, then day trip back, stopping for Pinot along the way.  (There's a winery called Gracianna on River Road you have to try... right, OT?) Or even go part way back, stay in Guerneville (the Farmhouse used to be a good restaurant down that way--it's pretty close to OT's home, too)  or Bodega Bay. 

Okay, there are electric trolleys, but what SF is known for is the cable cars, which are mechanical--no electrical power or motor on the cable car at all, it works by grabbing a moving cable under the ground.  Different things, and I hate to be picky, but calling the cable cars trolleys marks you as an outsider.  The lines actually cross a couple blocks from your hotel. (California Street to Van Ness; Powell Street to Market--it has two terminuses at the other end by Fisherman's Wharf.) 

The markets that the Chinese actually shop at are on Stockton, not Grant--almost everything on Grant is suspect as a tourist ripoff--but the real action for SF's Chinese community is on Clement Street in the Richmond.  Some excellent restaurants out there.  Dim Sum for breakfast/brunch is a tradition, just look for the place with the longest lines of people of Asian ancestry. 

On Tuesday, I wandered through North Beach and realized how washed out our Italian community had become, but a stop at City Lights books, Vesuvio Cafe (really a bar), Specs Adler Alley Museum and Bar, or the original Caffe Trieste are nostalgic visits to the birthplace of America's indigenous literary form, given to us by the Beats.  Paul Kantner, former leader of the Jefferson Airplane in their psychedelic heyday, can often be spotted drinking espresso at Trieste.  He used to be very prickly about being recognized (then why hang out there, you ask) but I heard he's mellowed.  Probably happy anyone remembers.  I didn't see him Tuesday, which was surprising to me.  There's a triangular building at the corner of Columbus Ave and Kearney with green patina that houses Zoetrope Cafe and the offices of Francis Ford Coppola.  Oddly, although he and I used to share a barber, I have never seen him, but maybe you will get lucky.  (Or he could be making movies in Eastern Europe, running his resort in Belize, or at the wine estates in Napa and the Alexander Valley--he's a renaissance man indeed.)

Many other great restaurants--Spruce, RN74, Farallon, Kokkari, Boulevard (one I need to get back to), but these days I eat and drink on my side of the bay, so I won't go much farther on those recommendations.

But definitely go see the MLB champion Giants.  OT is right: No better place to watch a game, and great even if you don't care about the game.

Reply by EMark, Feb 14, 2013.

James, you have certainly received some good advice from our N. Calif. Snoothers, and as a S. Calif, guy there is nothing that I can add to their advice.

So, I am going to, briefly I hope, hijack your conversation.  Fox and OT, you seemed to be on sabatical a few weeks ago when this request for guidance came from the UK.  If you would check it out, I'm sure that Toby would appreciate any advice you may have.

We now return you to your thread.

Reply by jamessulis, Feb 15, 2013.

With the plans and information I have here from Snooth members, I promise I will have myself a wonderful memorable vacation in SF., thanks all

Reply by outthere, Feb 15, 2013.

Or you could actually make it a trip within the trip and stay in Healdsburg over night, then day trip back, stopping for Pinot along the way.  (There's a winery called Gracianna on River Road you have to try... right, OT?) Or even go part way back, stay in Guerneville (the Farmhouse used to be a good restaurant down that way--it's pretty close to OT's home, too)  or Bodega Bay. 

I was going to suggest that, staying in Hbrg overnight...

The Farmhouse Inn and Restaurant is right here in lovely Forestville. Michelin Star! Very elegant, very $$$.

Gracianna tasting room, on Westside Rd between Hbrg and Forestville, will open up in April after the winter layoff. Weekends only.

Along the coast heading south is the fishing port of Bodega Bay, famous for Alfred Hitchcocks "The Brids" and a little further south is the Point Reyes National Seashore where the Elk roam free in herds. Just a spectacular place to visit.

Reply by JonDerry, Feb 15, 2013.

Thanks for the Bodega Bay shout out, always loved that movie...gotta make it there someday.

Reply by amour, Feb 15, 2013.

I mentioned the Soft-shell crab precisely because it is such a delicacy and appears around early April until September, sometimes through November, around Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Florida. I actually prefer it to the big, sweet Dungeness crab!!!

By the way, in Virginia, the soft-shell season is marked by the First Full Moon in May!  How romantic is that!!!!

Ferry Building also serves soft-shell (San Francisco Fish Co.), as a sandwhich, the famous Po'Boy! But you need to phone and ask about Dungeness, due to availability problems. ( The season was recently postponed, in some areas because of the low weight of the crabs.)  And on Clement, soft-shell is around as well, whether from Chesapeake or East Coast.

For those not into crab as yet.......soft shell crab is blue crab at molting stage.....having molted their exoskeleton....and usually they are flown in fresh during the season.....these San Francisco restaurants sell fresh sea-food.

Of course I pair soft shell crab with Champagne! And will soon be trying them with Cava!!!!

By the way, all Snoothers are INSIDERS!!!!  Inside the wine!!!!

Enough said!

Have a great trip James and Lady!  Let us know what wines you paired your sea-food with, at least!!!

Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 15, 2013.

Seeing the Tule Elk is a little hit or miss, but they are really cool and impressive.

We ate at the Farmhouse when it was fairly new, so probably ten years ago.  Really good.  I don't know why I referred to it in the past tense, since I have driven past it on the way to OT's neighborhood twice in the last six to eight months.  Michelin starred, wow.

Reply by jamessulis, Feb 15, 2013.
  1. Start at: The Ferry Building
  2. Shuttle to Napa Valley (over the Golden Gate Bridge)
  3. Robert Mondavi Winery - Napa Valley
  4. Picnic Lunch in Napa Valley*
  5. Andretti Winery - Napa Valley
  6. Folie a Deux Winery - Napa Valley
  7. Franciscan Winery - Napa Valley
  8. Ferry/Bay Cruise to San Francisco (50 mins)
  9. End at: The Ferry Building

* Wine tastings at Robert Mondavi Winery included
* Picnic lunch is inculded in the price of the tour.

Alternate Wineries: Rutherford Ranch, Andretti Winery & Whitehall Lane
*on rare occasions, the other non-Mondavi wineries are subject to change.

@ OUTTHERE, Thanks for the tips, we'll be in Frisco 6 days and the wine tour is already booked, it's an all day affair, see above wine tour info.. I'm not much into Pinot's at all so I won't visit for that kind of wine. If time permits, I'll consider the places you mentioned. We're staying in the financial district and may or may not rent a car. We love to walk or take the Cable cars. Also on our itinerary is all day trip to Alkatraz, boat ride, picnic and dinner. Fishermans Warf, Millinium for Vegan food, Boudin bakery for Sourdough tour, a day shopping and general sight seeing. The hotel promises to be different, it's the Executive Hotel Vintage Court which I mentioned in an earlier post with daily wine tasting.

Reply by GregT, Feb 15, 2013.

James - stay home. Nobody goes to San Francisco. Nothing to do there.

Reply by jamessulis, Feb 15, 2013.

GREGT, Thanks, I cancelled and am going to Peoria, Illinois

Reply by Lucha Vino, Feb 15, 2013.


If you do go to San Francisco you should try to catch a Giants game.  The stadium is cool, but I wouldn't rate it the best ever like Out There does.  If you do go to Peoria Illinois you need to go to a Cubs game at Wrigley field.  It is a classic.  And, since you live in Washington I hope that you have been to Safeco field.  I think the ball park here in Seattle beats the Giants and Cubs ball parks.  Call me a homer if you like, but there it is.

Have fun on your excursion to California!

Reply by outthere, Feb 15, 2013.

Homer ;)

Reply by napagirl68, Feb 16, 2013.

I second Foxall's recommendation of the Slanted Door for Vietnamese, but you MUST, MUST go here:

Amazing wine list, amazing food, amazing service.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Feb 16, 2013.

Please don't call it Frisco.  Even the non-SF locals and a few of the downscale SFers sometimes use it now, but it really grates.  There is a Frisco and it's in Colorado or Texas, not California.  But have a great time in Peoria--which is a good 2 and 1/2 hours from Chicago.  Long way to go for a ball game.

If you don't like Pinot, then do the DCV tasting, then just make the afternoon or evening a drive out to Bodega Bay.  Assuming you have time for that, which seems kind of doubtful.  You really should head out that way, because the Napa itinerary is pretty corporate, and DCV is very much the opposite.  It's more like the California I grew up in.

Shopping in SF is not really very exciting anymore, IMO.  Back in the day there were distinctive merchants, like the Magnins and Gumps, who brought their own style to the City.  Gumps was one of the first stores to feature goods from Asia.  Alas, we now have the same stores you find anywhere, whether it's the Gap (neither of the original two stores still exist, BTW, although it started here) or Bloomingdales.  Overrun by upscale but commonplace retailers.  However, there are a handful of interesting businesses.  Jack's Record Cellar is still the best place I have ever bought records.  It's at Page and Scott right off Alamo Square, so if you go to see the "Seven Sisters" Victorians with the downtown skyline in the background, you are very close--just go to the other side of the square and then one block south.  Apparently it's now only open on Saturdays to the public, otherwise by appointment.  I'm going there right now because... well, it's been too long.

Reply by daralyn, Mar 23, 2013.

Would love to hear what you order and what Wines they have at Millenium Vegan.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Mar 24, 2013.

So I noticed the thread is live again.  Jack's was closed when I stopped by.  It was not too out of the way since I was headed to K&L to pick up a few bottles.  Please let us know what you did besides the pre-planned itinerary.

Reply by Vinogger, Apr 4, 2013.

I am a native San Franciscan so would like to add a few things (won't repeat what was already suggested)

1. In the Ferry building check out Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant they have some great wines and you can buy some food from many of the unique local vendors for a nice lunch there  I suggest Cow Gril Creamery for amazing local cheeses definitely try Humbolt Fog goat with ash

2. Conside a trip to Muir Woods just across the Golden Gate Bridge to see the famous CA old growth Redwoods

3.  Consider another day trip to Sonoma its less commerical than Napa and has great wineries.  If you have a visa signature care you can get 2 free tastings per card

Finally you did not mention the dates you are here in April but there are some amazing wine events in August right here in SF check out the events page of for details, dates and a link for ticket purchase

Happy Travels! 

Reply by amour, Apr 4, 2013.

I am able to get the Cow Girl Creamery products here; they are absolutely delicious.

For any Snoothers in Miami, please note that they are available from THE CHEESE COURSE at Aventura Mall.

Back to Categories

Popular Topics

  • posts

Top Contributors This Month

847804 Snooth User: EMark
5 posts
472290 Snooth User: jackwerickson
3 posts
324443 Snooth User: outthere
3 posts


View All

Snooth Media Network