WINE COUNTRY GUIDE BY AREA

September 29, 2016

There are few places near home that I love more than the Northern California wine country. Growing up in a wine loving family, trips to Napa and the surrounding regions were common, even in my pre drinking days. Today, whenever I get a free day or couple of days I head up with friends or family for some good wine, gourmet foods, and lovely views. 

 

There isn't really a wrong way to do wine country, so feel free to pick and choose from the following list and create your own itinerary. 

 

 

NAPA & YOUNTVILLE

 

 

Where to Stay 

  • Bardessono - Eco minded modern spa hotel located in the heart of Yountville. 

  • The Carneros Inn - Barn inspired cottages clustered on 27 acres of scenic countryside. 3 restaurants, a spa, two pools, bocce ball courts, and a general store make up this wine country escape.

  • Andaz Napa - Conveniently located in downtown Napa, the Andaz mixes modern conveniences with wine country flare and finishes. 

  • Senza Hotel - Boutique hotel with vineyard views just off Highway 29. Walking distance to Bistro Don Giovanni (below).

 

What to Eat 

  • Ad Hoc - A family favorite and one of the best deals in the Bay. This casual Thomas Keller eatery features a generous and always delicous 4-course set menu that changes daily for $52/person. I have had some of my best meals here over the years. 

  • Bistro Don Giovanni - If you are a pasta lover you absolutely must come here. Famous for the pesto mandili (handkerchief pasta), they also whip up 6-8 different pastas on any given night. I have yet to taste one I didn't like...

  • Oxbow Public Market - Gourmet food stalls and culinary shops. What more do you need?

  • La Taberna - A lively modern spot in Downtown Napa serving Spanish pintxos (small plates)

  • The French Laundry (splurge) - One of those places worth trying once in your life purely for the experience of it all. Be sure to make a reservation well in advance. If fine dining isn't your scene, the same team backs Ad Hoc (above), where you'll get more bang for your buck. 

 

Where to Taste 

  • Domaine Carneros - An impressive French style Chateau known primarily for their sparkling wines. Tastings start at $30.

  • Stag's Leap - Visit one of the oldest wineries in the region and taste their flag ship Cask 23 wine.  Tastings start at $40.

  • Darioush - Ignore the somewhat sad attempt to recreate Persepolis on the exterior (I can say this because I'm part Persian), the interior of the winery is modern and well designed. Darioush pumps out some really incredible cabernets. Tastings start at $40.

 

 

 

SONOMA

 

 

Where to Stay

  • The Ledson Hotel - Overlooking the historic Sonoma Plaza, this boutique hotel has old town charm in the heart of downtown.

  • Sonoma Mission Inn - Elegant Spanish style hotel, centrally located in Sonoma. 

  • AirBnB - Sonoma and the whole wine region in general has a wealth of cute cottages and small homes, perfect for a weekend in wine country at a more affordable price. Shop around on AirBnB and pick places with lots of good reviews or that are central to where you plan to go.

 

What to Eat

  • The Fremont Diner - This roadside diner serving up yummy comfort food has a cult-like following in Sonoma. With the rusted up truck out front and the low wooden building reminiscent of days gone by, you will feel like you're stepping back in time. That is, until you taste some of the modern interpretations of comfort food. 

  • Juanita Juanita - Totally authentic and casual Mexican food plus wine/beer and margaritas. 

  • El Molino Central - Great food and atmosphere in this centrally located Mexican spot. I love love the colorful building. Can't go wrong with fish tacos or any of the tostadas. 

 

Where to Taste 

  • Chateau San Jean - Inspired by French Chateaus, this sprawling winery has several areas around the grounds to do both formal and informal tastings. They also have a shop where you can purchase wine (they will give you cups), breads, cheeses, and other snacks to enjoy out on the lawns or at a picnic table. 

  • Benziger Family Winery - A quaint family winery with a delicious variety of wines, all made with green farming practices. Tastings start at $20.

  • Jacuzzi - A great place if you're doing wine country on a budget. They offer FREE wine tastings and olive oil tastings. Spend time perusing their shop or hanging out in the grassy courtyard in the back. 

 

 

 

CALISTOGA & ST HELENA

 

 

Where to Stay 

  • Solage - Upscale and modern wooden cottages, a large pool and outdoor patio, a Michelin starred restaurant (Solbar), and a spa with a mineral pool make up this Calistoga oasis.

  • Auberge du Soleil (splurge) - Nestled up in the hills overlooking the valley below, this luxury hotel features a variety of bungalows perfect for a weekend getaway.

  • Indian Springs - A quirky collection of white washed cottages and low-rise buildings amidst palm trees. This Spanish style hotel features a high quality spa and the best and largest mineral pool in the area. 

  • Calistoga Ranch (splurge) - Relaxing, serene, private, and probably romantic if you're in good company, this luxury 5-star hotel is in a league of it's own. Most definitely a splurge, but sometimes you just have to treat yourself. 

 

 

What to Eat

  • Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch - Airy space with an extensive local and seasonal menu. Be sure to get the artichoke appetizer.

  • The Model Bakery - Terrific breads, pastries, sweets, and sandwiches.

  • Buster's BBQ - Impossible to miss on the side of the road, this BBQ house doles out Southern style meats and sides.

  • Solbar - Californian cuisine. The menu splits both the starters and the entrees into lighter/healthier options and heartier choices.

 

Where to Taste 

  • Frog's Leap - Taste out on the terrace then stroll the grounds. Tastings start at $20, be sure to make a reservation.

  • Charles Krug - Lofty, yet still warm and inviting, the Redwood Cellar Tasting room at Charles Krug is a great place for a quick tasting or a more leisurely one. If you're around on a Saturday or Sunday in the warmer months, enjoy pizza on the lawn. Tastings start at $20.

  • Mumm - My favorite stop for bubbles in the valley. Order a flight or a glass of bubbles and enjoy the views. Tastings start at $20.

 

 

 

HEALDSBURG

 

 

Where to Stay 

  • Hotel Healdsburg - Upscale hotel located right on Healdsburg Plaza. 

  • H2 Hotel Healdsburg - Same team as the above, but what I consider the trendier more youthful of the two.

 

What to Eat

  • Chalkboard - Ever changing seasonal menu featuring sharing plates. Dishes span veggies, pastas, meats, and more. 

  • Dry Creek General Store - Rustic and charming general store selling a variety of groceries, deli items, tasty sandwiches, coffee and epicurean gifts and souvenirs. There is a covered porch area with several tables as well as a bar area in the back to have a glass of wine or craft beer. The perfect afternoon pit stop. 

  • The SHED - A gourmet grocery meets coffee shop meets deli meets cafe all housed in an airy and modern architectural "shed."

 

 

Where to Taste

  • Ridge Lytton Springs - One of the oldest vineyards in the area and arguably my favorite winery. Famous for their variety of zinfandels (my loves) and their estate cabernet known as Montebello. Tastings start at $5.

  • Arista - Small family run winery focusing on pinot noirs. The winery has Asian flare with a cute surrounding garden. Tastings start at $20.

  • Medlock Ames - Cute & cozy tasting room with an outdoor patio and yard. Try a tasting with a cheese pairing. Tastings start at $15.

 

 

 

 WINE COUNTRY PACKING ESSENTIALS

 

 

 

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