If you love food, wine and travel, you must visit California’s Northern Coast for a tour of Wine Country. The world-class wines of Napa Valley and Sonoma County, CA will satisfy the most discerning pallets and even if wine isn’t your thing, there is still plenty to do, see and experience during your visit.
The first Napa Valley vineyards were planted as far back as 1836 and since then the region’s wine growing popularity has steadily climbed, surviving the roughest of conditions, including prohibition, disease and vine killing pests. However, in 1976, Napa Valley became an overnight sensation when a Napa Valley Cabernet dominated a French Bordeaux in a blind tasting at an international wine competition on Paris, France. Today, there are over 300 wineries in the region, plenty to visit during your trip beyond city limits.
Although most known for full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignons, the award-winning wineries in the Napa Valley produce a range of grapes including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Riesling, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, among others.
One of my personal favorites, Sonoma County is just north of Napa and far less commercialized. This region boasts over 370 wineries – from wine castles and the winery resort of Francis Ford Coppola, one of Hollywood’s most famed directors, to simple and rustic tasting rooms, according to Sonomacounty.com.
The region also offers incredible farm-to-table dining and more than 50 miles of stunning Pacific Coast, replete with world-renowned spas (compliments of its abundant natural mineral springs) and lots of open country air. Sonoma County is a bit more sprawling than Napa, so it is recommended that you map out your trip ahead of time to optimize your time.
With so many wineries and restaurants to choose from in both Napa and Sonoma, I sat down with local wine expert, Kevin Hart, part of WineCRAFT and on-site sommelier at Cork n’ Bottle, to get his list of personal favorites. Here is Kevin’s abbreviated insider’s guide to Wine Country.
Napa Valley Wineries:
(Note: the information below is sourced from each winery’s and restaurant’s website.)
“#1 Wine of the Year” – Wine Enthusiast Top 100 Wines for 2008. Tours and Tastings available by appointment. Phone: 707.963.0530, web: www.faillawines.com
Dunn Vineyards produces two labels, Howell Mountain and Napa Valley. Both wines are one hundred percent cabernet sauvignon. Phone- 707-965-3642, web: www.dunnvineyards.com
SCHRAMSBERG VINEYARDS (Sparkling)
Located in Calistoga, Calif., Schramsberg Vineyards offers five tours daily between 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. The tour, which usually takes about an hour and 15 minutes, costs $45 per adult (visitors younger than 21 and pets are not allowed). For more information, check out the vineyard’s website – www.schramsberg.com/
Napa Valley Wines, cont.
DOMAINE CARNEROS (Sparkling Wines)
The Art of Sparkling Wine Tour – $30* Offered Daily at 11:00 a.m., 1:00 & 3:00 p.m. On their signature experience, you’ll be guided through the process of creating fine sparkling wines in the traditional method. This journey begins in the vineyards and continues through the Chateau while you enjoy a tasting of our classic sparkling wines. At the completion of the tour, you will also enjoy a seated tasting of a red wine selection. Allow approximately 90 minutes for the tour and tasting.
For reservations within 24 hours, please contact the Tour Coordinator at (707) 257-0101, ext. 161.
PRIDE MOUNTAIN VINEYARDS
Pride Mountain Vineyards sits high atop the Mayacamas Mountains straddling the Napa/Sonoma county line. Located at the site of historic Summit Ranch, where wine grapes have been grown since 1869, this beautiful setting includes wine caves dug deep into the mountains and the haunting ruins of an old stone winery dating to 1890.
Hours: by appointment, from 10:00 AM until 3:00 PM. Closed Tuesdays.
4026 Spring Mountain Road, Saint Helena CA 94574.
One of the Napa Valley’s Best Winery Tours. A visit to Jarvis Estate is an extraordinary journey like no other into the world of exceptional winemaking. The country’s first winery built entirely underground offers an intimate glimpse into the meticulous steps that go into producing lush Chardonnays, rich Cabernet Sauvignons and velvety Merlots among others.Tastings, daily by appointment. $60 per person. To book a tour, please contact the winery at 1-800-255-5280 ext. 150
They host a very small number of tastings each month. Please email firstname.lastname@example.org
call 707-255-1294 for availability.
Best known for Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc.
4281 Dale Drive, Napa, CA 94558
Cimarossa ‘Red Hilltop’ is one of Howell Mountain’s most scenic estates, with terraced vineyards and olive groves climbing the hillsides.
1185 Friesen Road, Angwin CA 94508
For tastings, please call: 707-307-3130
Tasting at Neyers Vineyards – Open by appointment for private tours and tastings seven days a week. $10 per person fee, waived with purchase. Maximum 6 people per party.
2153 Sage Canyon Road, St. Helena, CA 94574
Napa Valley Restaurants:
Redd Wood is a superbly stylish Italian-inspired eatery. Reddington, of Michelin-starred Redd, brings a new sensibility to this laid-back wine country destination: a polished, chic restaurant with a voguish vibe and hip playlist coupled with an osteria-styled menu and Napa/Sonoma favored wine list. 6755 Washington St. Yountville, CA, 94599, (707) 299 5030, web: www.redd-wood.com
A one-of-a-kind social gathering place located in the Oxbow Public Market in downtown Napa, serving ingredient driven menu of handmade multi-ethnic comfort food created with local and seasonal products selected to complement wine regions and meant for sharing. 610 1st Street, Napa, California. Call: (707) 226-1560, web: www.kitchendoornapa.com/
THE FRENCH LAUNDRY ($$$$)
The French Laundry is a perennial awardee in the annual Restaurant Magazine list of the Top 50 Restaurants of the World (having been named “Best Restaurant in the World” in ’03 and ’04), and since 2006, it has been awarded three stars in the Michelin Guide to San Francisco. It has also been called “the best restaurant in the world, period” by Anthony Bourdain. Every day, the French Laundry serves two different nine-course tasting menus, none of which uses the same ingredient more than once. The most-current menu has priced their meals at $270 per person, including gratuity for the base meal. The food is mainly French with contemporary American influences. Yountville, CA 94599, phone:(707) 945-1050, web: www.frenchlaundry.com
Fine dining at the Meadowood Resort. The Restaurant at Meadowood offers a casually elegant dining experience featuring a modern approach to Napa Valley cuisine by Chef Christopher Kostow. Approachable, dynamic, evocative and playful. *Michelin 3 star rating
900 Meadowood Lane, St. Helena, CA 94574
Tel (877) 963-3646
GOTTS ROADSIDE (breakfast & burgers)
Great for breakfast and burgers.
Breakfast Menu: Served 7-11 a.m. Main Menu: Served 10:30-close
933 Main St., Saint Helena, CA 94574
French Bistro and Bakery near French Laundry
534 Washington Street, Yountville, CA, 94599
Cook specializes in simple but elegant Northern Italian cuisine made from local and seasonal ingredients.
1310 Main Street; Saint Helena, CA 94574
Sonoma County Wineries:
(Note: wineries in Sonoma are much more spread out, so plan your day accordingly for an optimum experience. – Also, Sonoma is known for having some of the best spas, compliments of its natural hot springs, so take advantage after a long day of sipping and swirling.)
Hirsch Vineyards is recognized as one of the premier sites for pinot noir in the new world. David Hirsch planted his vineyard overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the extreme Sonoma Coast in 1980. By appointment only. Web: www.hirschvineyards.com<p>
Wines: Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Chardonnay. Peay is the northernmost winery in Sonoma County. Using sustainable farming practices, they produce 8,000 gallons of Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Chardonnay each year, as well as small batches of Viognier, Roussanne, and Marsanne. 207A N. Cloverdale Blvd. #201 Cloverdale, CA 95425, email: email@example.com, web: http://peayvineyards.com
The focus is on vineyard-designate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as an old-vine blend of “under-dog” California varietals (including Carignan and Petite Sirah). To schedule your appointment, email Jim Kuhner at firstname.lastname@example.org with your desired tasting date, time and number of people in your party. www.liocowine.com
What to Buy:
•’10 Chardonnay – $35
•’08 RED – $32
•’08 Cabernet Sauvignon – $52
3487 Alexander Valley Rd, Healdsburg, CA 95448
1700 Moon Mountain Road, Sonoma, CA 95476
9000 Hwy 128, Philo, CA 95466
Sonoma County Restaurants
THE GIRL & THE FIG
The girl & the fig features a wonderful antique bar with French aperitifs, unique and traditional cocktails, an award-winning Rhone-Alone wine list, a seasonal menu, cheese & charcuterie platters, and outdoor garden patio seating. 110 West Spain Street – Sonoma, CA, phone 707.938.3634, web:www.thegirlandthefig.com
A very romantic destination with inventive cuisine, a stunning backdrop and impeccable service. Upon entering the restaurant, guests are enveloped by the elegant, yet lively atmosphere. Attention to detail, superb wine and good cheer is woven throughout every culinary experience. Madrona Manor captures the rich culture of wine, food and nature inherent to the region. A stellar wine list expresses the varied bounty of the local vintners as well as global sources. Reservations: 800-258-4003, web: www.madronamanor.com
Barndiva is a celebration of all things local. Their food is sourced from farmers, ranchers and small batch purveyors who live and work in the area.
231 Center St., Healdsburg, CA 95448
More casual than its sister restaurant Scopa, Campo Fina is serving up Italian staples such as pizzas and wood-fired meats. The focus of the menu is on simple Italian dishes.
330 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg, CA
BIG BOTTOM MARKET (for lunch)
Artisanal food, wine and micro brews to inspirational retail items. From jams, honey, coffee table books, vintage style picnic and camp gear and an amazing cup of pour over single origin coffee to locally sourced cheeses, breads, meats and prepared foods.
Guerneville, CA, 95446
(707) 604 7295 |
Italian tratorria, Favorites: Sauces, confits, and ragùs stand out, including the wild-boar Bolognese served with house-made tagliatelle.
109A Plaza St. Healdsburg, CA, 95448
TEL: (707) 433-5282
Share some of your favorite places to visit in Wine Country with our readers.