Fodor's Travel Talk Forums

Fodor's Travel Talk Forums (
-   United States (
-   -   First Trip to Wine Country -- Mondavi or Shafer (

AngelaDD May 2nd, 2007 05:39 AM

First Trip to Wine Country -- Mondavi or Shafer
We will be making our first visit to the wine country in June. I have had conflicting recommendations regarding the first winery we should tour -- Mondavi vs. Shafer. Please let me know your thoughts on these two. Thanks

pavfec May 2nd, 2007 08:02 AM

DH and I toured Mondavi 4 years ago. The cost was $10 for a 1-hour tour and a tasting of 3 wines at the end. We really enjoyed it. It was very informative and the grounds were beautiful.

We also toured Domaine Chandon that day, and found the Mondavi tour to be more complete.

LLindaC May 2nd, 2007 08:14 AM

Wine country is pretty ambiguous, considering all the appellations in CA. I guess since you mentioned Mondavi, you meant Napa. I highly suggest doing Benziger's tour in Sonoma and plan most of your trip in Sonoma Valley. It's much prettier, wine tasting is cheaper and the traffic is not horrific like Napa Valley.

bill_boy May 2nd, 2007 08:23 AM

If wine quality is of importance to you, then go to Shafer.

Their Hillside Select bottlings are superb - the 2002 vintage is one of the finest California that I've had in recent years.

AngelaDD May 2nd, 2007 08:41 AM

Thanks everyone for the great advice.

Laura147 May 2nd, 2007 10:14 AM

My husband and I did a wine & cheese pairing tour at Mondavi last July. It was a very small and intimate group which was terrific. The experience was one of the highlights of our trip to Napa. Highly recommend it.

chepar May 2nd, 2007 10:24 AM

It's been a couple of years, but the tour at Shafer was just ok. The tasting however, was excellent. I am not sure if you can do a tasting without the tour.

And the dog is really cute.

BeachGirl247 May 2nd, 2007 10:53 AM

((y)) for Shafer. One of my favorites and as mentioned, the wine is excellent as are the views and the four-legged host!

Love the Hillside Select, Relentless and the Red Shoulder Ranch Chardonnay. And you get to buy the Hillside there as well -- unless its sold out.

ParrotMom May 2nd, 2007 11:01 AM

Benzingers in Sonoma gets my thumbs up too.. Hopefully it's still a family owned business where the others aren't and the wines are lovely

BeachGirl247 May 2nd, 2007 11:27 AM

ParrotMom, I don't know if you're referring to Shafer but it is a family-owned winery.

Ike May 2nd, 2007 11:51 AM Melissa Prange at Shafer and tell her you are a big Shafer wine fan and see if she will help you out. She's their marketing director so she might refer you to someone else. Have a nice trip.

Their phone # is 707 944 2877 Ext. 23. You can reach her by email @ [email protected].

They have a wine tasting tour for $35.00 by appointement that lasts 90 minutes. You will enjoy every minute of it.

AngelaDD May 2nd, 2007 12:05 PM

Thanks so much for the inside contact!!!

BeachGirl247 May 2nd, 2007 12:39 PM

Ike, is Melissa the girl that replaced Nancy Blue at Shafer? I miss Nancy.

AngelaDD May 2nd, 2007 02:20 PM

Thanks for the great advice. We are going to be spending most of our time in Sonoma. We are going to visit visit Benziger, J Vineyards, Matanzas, Chateau St. Jean, and Ferrari Carano. We are staying in Healdsburg. Can anyone recommend any smaller wineries in the area?

We will spend a couple of days in Napa and plan to visit Cakebread, Shafer, Frog's Leap, Del Dotto, and maybe Mondavi if we have time.

Any thoughts?

LLindaC May 2nd, 2007 03:07 PM

Go to Chateau SJ's website and print out free tasting coupon. Check out winecountrythis week to find specials, coupons and activities:
I linked that to the article about Diane Wilson. DON'T miss this splendid winery. Also, you have to try Rosenblum in the Healdsburg square. Fun room, free sips, too. 2 other favs are Papapietro-Perry and Amphora across the parking lot. P-P's pinots just won 7 90-plus points awards from Wine Spectator. All I know is that they are yummmmmmy.

LLindaC May 2nd, 2007 03:08 PM

btw....where are you staying in Healdsburg?

AngelaDD May 2nd, 2007 03:17 PM

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!! Just the advice we needed. We are staying at the Camillia Inn.

LLindaC May 2nd, 2007 03:36 PM

Excellent, Angela. We stayed there one year. They make quite yummy wines and they'll pour them for you each afternoon. Lucy can give you some good advice about places to visit as well. They may also give you some tasting coupons. Their tasting room is next door to Sapphire Hill, which is really a great stop. Simi Winery is close, but skip it- it's too "Disney" and the wines are everywhere. We've stayed in Healdsburg 4 times; one of our fav things to to is to start around 2 pm and walk through town, stopping at tasting rooms and shopping in between. (we usually take water and cheese/crackers) There are something like 12 tasting rooms in the town! Then, we walk to dinner. One of my fav restaurants there is Willi's Seafood. They serve small plates and the food is great, atmosphere is fun. You can take a bottle of your Sonoma fav and they charge a $25 corkage fee. You can only make a reservation through

bill_boy May 2nd, 2007 05:04 PM

While I agree that Simi is everywhere (I like their AV Cabs, btw), what does that make of Rosenblum and Chateau SJ which you recommended? Their wines are in drugstores and supermarkets everywhere.

LLindaC May 2nd, 2007 05:17 PM

I didn't recommend Chateau St Jean. Not crazy about their wine. OP asked about them, and I know that they have free coupons. Rosenblum might have a few wines available mass market, but certainly not all the ones they serve in the tasting room. Some are very limited production and you can only find them there. Of course, you would know that if you had ever actually visited them. They offer many, many choices at the tastings and there's always a lively crowd in there. Fun place. Simi is right on the main drag and was packed. I am not going to wait a half hour and get elbowed by people when I can find quieter places with better wines a few miles down the road.

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 05:43 PM.