The wife and I and 2 of our good friends recently went to Napa and Sonoma for a quick weekend. This is a brief review of just a few things and what we are glad we did, and what we would have done differently.
I still had some of my $9k Delta Voucher, so we knew we had to fly Delta and connect through SLC. The big decision was do we fly into San Francisco, or fly into Sacramento? Sacramento was about $50 cheaper per person so we decided to fly into there. They are both about the same distance from most wine activities. Of course that also depends on where you are staying or going. We took a late flight and got into Sacramento around 11pm, so it was an easy drive after that. Leaving though we had a 5pm flight. We were able to find plenty of activities in Wine Country to do, but if we would have been flying out of San Francisco, we would have done something in the city for a few hours. We were perfectly happy with flying into Sacramento.
Where to Stay
This is something I changed my mind on several times. Central Napa and Sonoma are ridiculous prices. I originally booked a VRBO in Glen Allen. Then I ended up cancelling it as I said to myself, well we still have to Uber everywhere, so might as well stay somewhere cheaper. We ended up getting 2 hotel rooms in Fairfield. We got a great rate at the Hilton Garden Inn for $93 a night. An Uber ride to Napa was about $30 and 30-40 minutes. This location was right off the highway, and lots of chain restaurants and a mall within walking distance.
There are several major hotel chains in Napa and Sonoma. They can actually be a very good deal on points, because they are quite expensive. I didn’t want to use points for me, and then have our friends spend $700 a night for a hotel room so that’s why we didn’t stay there.
What I didn’t realize before going to Napa Valley, is there are numerous little towns all over. I originally thought you had to stay in central Napa or Sonoma or else you would be out in the middle of nowhere. Next time I would do a google earth view of some of the VRBO’s to see what close by. There are lots of little fairly inexpensive cottages that are walking distance to a winery or a small little restaurant throughout wine country. Central Napa and Sonoma have a ton of bars and nice restaurants, and a lot of tours start there.
The $93 a night rate is hard to beat. Next time I will definitely look harder to see what VRBOs are off the beaten bath, but still walking distance to a winery or a restaurant.
On Friday we did the Napa Trolley Tour. We originally wanted to do this tour on a Saturday, but they were sold out about 2 weeks beforehand when we tried to book. There was about 25 people on this tour total and it takes you to 4 Wineries. It was about 6.5 hours long, and also included lunch and water. It was a great first tour to see multiple wineries. The Trolley was fun and comfortable. (although cold and a lil windy in the morning, but they did have a small inside section.) We didn’t get to pick the Wineries and I don’t even remember all the names. They were all nice though and provided different inputs on wines. Each winery had a tasting fee of $25 per person, for 4 wines. 4 wines tastings equaled about one glass of wine. Some places you had to pay the tasting no matter what, some places you could split it between 2 people, and the last place I know was Andretti Winery and they didn’t care as long as you bought something. So we bought a $30 bottle and split it between 4 people. Another place also waived the tasting fee as long as you bought a bottle of wine. So most people bought a $35 bottle of wine and got the $25 tasting for free.
This was a great introduction to wine country and very glad we did it. I would recommend one organized day of winery tours like this, and then the rest of the days on your own.
The end of the Trolley tour drops you off in downtown Napa at like 430PM. About 12 of the people including us were still thirsty and all headed out to a local pub and had a great time.
The next day we decided we wanted to see Sonoma. We drove there and found a local bike shop. There are several to choose from. We got there at about 930am and were able to rent 4 bikes for the day at about $40 a bike. While there are several bike routes where you can easily get to wineries, we ended up just making our own bike route. We first went to Ravenshead or something like that and bought a bottle wine and sat outside. It was very nice and relaxing. Then we were on our way to another winery and found a nice park where we stopped at before we got to the winery and drank a bottle we brought with us. We rode around little bit more and found a few other places to stop. Packing some snacks, a few bottle of wine, and just biking through the countryside was a great way to see some sights in a relaxing manner. While they are some organized bike tours, we were glad to just take our time and be on our own schedule.
There is also a square in Downtown Sonoma that seemed to have something going on just about every weekend. The weekend we were there was some kind of wine and arts festival. It was as great place to have another bottle of wine, some food, enjoy some music and people watch.
On Sunday we knew we wanted to explore a little more but not do a full day of wine tasting before our flights. After eating a drinking for a few days, we wanted to get some exercise. There are all kinds of parks in this area and we found some good trails. Then we found some breweries and small tasting rooms in the Fairfield area. We visited Heretic Brewing and Sonoma Harvest Wine and Oils. Interesting this wine tasting was not in a vineyard and only $10 for 5 wine tastings….
For a short trip to Napa Valley, we sure did do and see a lot. It was great to participate in a few organized activities, and then play a few by ear. I really wouldn’t change much. Maybe staying at a different place, but it all depends on lodging costs and what deals can be had.