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Help planning first trip to San Fran and Wine Country

Help planning first trip to San Fran and Wine Country

Old Jan 29th, 2012, 07:17 AM
  #1  
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Help planning first trip to San Fran and Wine Country

My husband and I are celebrating our anniversary with a trip to Wine Country and San Francisco. We'd like to go at the end of June (after the US Open), I;m thinkng we'll fly into SF, rent a car stay for 5-7 days in wine country then another 2-3 in San Francisco.

Here's where I need help, we want to rent a vacation home in either Napa or Sonoma but not sure which one would better suit us - it seems as if Sonoma is more laid back and less crowded so I am leaning towards that but would appreciate some feedback from those more familiar. My husband is bringing his clubs, so he'd like to golf, I'd like to hit a farmers market or two. We plan to hit the wineries and do some tastings, and we are foodies, so I'm trying to figure out where would be a good base for us for the wine country portion.

We are looking at rentals in Sonoma -
one in Sonoma is 7 minutes from the town square
another on a farm and vineyard in Sebastopol
another with a fab pool in Glen Ellen
another on Taylor Mtn, 15 minutes SE of Santa Rosa.
In Napa: Calistoga about 15 min. walk to main street

Any suggestions on areas and must see things are greatly appreciated - thanks!
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Old Jan 29th, 2012, 07:28 AM
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Just my 2 cents and my thought - I would switch the time frames: 2-3 days in wine country and 5-7 days in San Francisco. I would be bored for that long a time in wine country.
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Old Jan 29th, 2012, 07:36 AM
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Since you are not going to San Francisco first, consider flying to Oakland, San Jose or Sacramento. This avoids driving through SF in an expensive rental car at a possibly high traffic time.
Try to see Muir Woods and something else along the coast.
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Old Jan 29th, 2012, 07:38 AM
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I think we're pretty good on our time frame - we spent a week in the heart of Chianti and could have spent the entire trip there - we do love cities, but for this one the focus is on wine country.

Just need help on where to base out of.
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Old Jan 29th, 2012, 07:40 AM
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Thanks Tom - was thinking if it would be wise to fly into alt. airport. we're coming from Cleveland - a Continental/United hub - I know they fly direct into SFO, will check on the other three.
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Old Jan 29th, 2012, 08:14 AM
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How do you fly into San Jose and avoid driving through San Francisco (or even worse - Oakland) to get to Sonoma or Napa? I would never recommend 880/580 to get to Sonoma - that is the most dreadful drive in the Bay Area, IMO. I tooke the stretch south of Oakland to the San Mateo Bridge everyday to/from work for about10 years. 280 is much more scenic - in fact, it is designated a "Calif scenic highway".

Jill - My wife & I have vacationed for around 6 weeks in the Val d'Orcia in Tuscany, 18 weeks in Provence, 4 weeks in Burgundy/Beaujolais, 10 weeks in the Dordogne, and perhaps another 50 weeks elsewhere in the countryside of France. IMO, there are about 50 times more things to do & see per square mile in these European areas than there are in the Calif wine country. No medieval villages, caves, castles, etc here. We have lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for the last 37 years, and I agree with DebigNM - you might get a little bored in the Napa/Sonoma Wine Country in 7 days - especially at the end of June when the coast is usually quite foggy if you get tired of inland.

I have never considered Sebastopol to be in the "heart" of the "wine country". Most locals (including myself) prefer Healdsburg over Sonoma or anyplace in the Napa Valley. If you stay in Sonoma, Taylor Mtn, or Glen Ellen, the drive to the Napa Valley or elsewhere in Sonoma Co (around Healdsburg) will take you through Santa Rosa and a particularly ugly stretch of city driving.

I would find someplace near Healdsburg or stay at the Calistoga place.

Good Farmer's Market in San Francisco. The ones I've visited in the wine country are just OK.

Stu Dudley
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Old Jan 29th, 2012, 08:27 AM
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{DeBigNM - has a nice ring to it, stu!}
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Old Jan 29th, 2012, 08:39 AM
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>>DeBigNM - has a nice ring to it, stu!}
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Old Jan 29th, 2012, 08:58 AM
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{yup. that's what I had in mind! To err is human.... etc. }
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Old Jan 29th, 2012, 09:21 AM
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Stu has given good advice... some other thoughts.

DH & I are foodies too: we have been to CA wine country/SF almost yearly for 20 years. If we could, we would move permanatly.

Contrasts are important to consider: Sonoma more rustic, Napa more refined. Sonoma wineries are often longer distances (sometimes 1-2 closer) on windy, hilly backcountry roads, Napa the wineries are usually literally next door and mostly flat roads. Sonoma wineries don't usualy charge by glass, Napa almost every winery charges by glass. Also if you stay in SF first, you get discount winery tickets from the Hotel Concierge: we like Grand Hyatt on Union Square: concierges are extraordinary.

Maps might help, altho since this is your first visit it won't tell you much about towns or distances.Sonoma distances are quite long.
http://www.winecountry.com/maps/

Rush hours are a challenge: avoid and if flying out of SF to allow 3-4 hours for drive and check in from Sonoma/NApa.

What we do is fly into SF (yes it is more expensive to rent a car at the airport/park downtown but for us worth it)stay 2-3 days in SF, sightsee 1-2 (or 3) days, then on am of last day, we go to the SF Farmers MArket and buy what we want to eat for the remainder time on Wine Co. Saturday is the big MArket day but Tuesday and Thursday are fine too. (Be sure to bring cash for most of the outside vendors: inside permanant vendors take credit cards.)Also go early 7:30 or so and plan on having breakfast at the market, picking up pinic lunch items for later that same day and other days if so inclined and spending 1/2 day..there is alot to see if a foodie..you can buy almost anything here..)

http://www.ferrybuildingmarketplace....ers_market.php

Then we head to Wine Country via the Golden Gate bridge (be sure to sidetrack and visit the MArin Headlands and look back on SF, Rodeo Beach) as Stu said Healdsburg is the best base for Sonoma: NApa almost anywhere (except I am not a fan of downtown except for MArket)...the farmers markets are smaller and the choices will not be so great as Jume is the begining of the growing season: you will still find wonderful fresh vegetables...

Be sure on one day in Sonoma NApa go over to Bodega BAy and drive back through Jenner/Duncan's Mill and go to Armstrong PArk: the redwoods are wonderful, nice short hikes (or there are some longer killer moountain hikes)http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=450
Duncans Mills has a great restaurant:
http://www.duncansmills.net/cpfpage.html
Korbel (champange) is on this road too.

OAkvile Grocer in Healdsburg is a great reprovisioning place: nice for picnic supplies and lunch too
http://www.oakvillegrocery.com/stores/stores.php

Dean and Deluca is in St Helena Napa.
http://www.deandeluca.com/Aboutus/De...arentItemId=14

Since your foodies this may interst you:
The Mayo Family Reserve Room Kenwood - The food and wine pairing sister to the main Mayo Family Winery tasting room in Glen Ellen. At the Kenwood Reserve Room, it's all about food and wine pairing and Mayo does it very well. Approximately seven different wines are paired with small samples of food, expertly prepared by an in-house chef. More...

Also if you like french food this is our favorite SF french restaurant:you will need a car...
http://www.chapeausf.com/

LAstly please don't drink & drive: the police will give you a ticket..they take it seriously...
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Old Jan 29th, 2012, 09:25 AM
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I second Stu's nomination of Healdsburg, my favorite of the wine country towns, with Calistoga as the back-up. Although it has now achieved chic and trendy status, Healdsburg is a real town at its roots with a lovely central square. It also puts the coast in relatively easy reach for a possible change of pace.
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Old Jan 29th, 2012, 10:09 AM
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I agree with everything that's been said, except to allow 3-4 hours for the trip from the airport. I live 4 freeway miles south of the airport, and except in the very worst traffic (when July 4th falls on a Saturday), it has never taken more than 2 hours. In fact, we recently drove home from Yountville (which is farther south than Calistoga by about 20 miles) in an hour and ten minutes.
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Old Jan 29th, 2012, 10:20 AM
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Our Tom suggests everyone avoid SFO. (Must have been traumatized by SFO and a car rental in a past life )

In your case SMF probably doesn't make sense (I live near Sacramento and often do recommend it). Car drop off fees would likely be high and flight options/schedules wouldn't be as good.

Just fly into SFO - especially since you are ending your trip staying in the city.

You've received lots of other great advice/info.
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Old Jan 29th, 2012, 10:42 AM
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Sf7307..I know you you live in the SF area..and you are always good with advice. In this case tho I allow 3-4 hours as a safe bet as there is consideration for rental car return even tho we lived in the area and visit every year, we often miss the exit sign to the rental car exit and it is high anxiety to get turned around ;-) shuttle to SF terminal is not a short ride, security lines are aways long etc.
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Old Jan 29th, 2012, 10:47 AM
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Sorry, JAR, I thought you were talking about the other direction, FROM the airport, not TO the airport. Definitely leave a lot of extra time heading back to the airport, to get gas, return the car, etc.
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Old Jan 29th, 2012, 10:50 AM
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1JAR: Maybe so, but they aren't flying out until after staying in the City for a few days. so no mad dash to the rental return, through security, and on to the departure gate.
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Old Jan 29th, 2012, 10:54 AM
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Thanks everyone for the suggestions - am thinking it'll be a base of Healdsburg. Still thinking 5-7 days but may be leaning towards the 5 days and adding an extra day in San Francisco - am really liking your suggestions 1JAR, will definitely check out more thoroughly.
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Old Jan 29th, 2012, 11:39 AM
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Here are my suggestions of things to do & see in the area

http://www.fodors.com/community/unit...mendations.cfm

Stu Dudley
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Old Jan 29th, 2012, 02:50 PM
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Not certain what your lodging budget is, but if your husband wants to golf, have yo uconsidered the Silverado Club in Napa? It has two championship golf courses.

http://www.silveradoresort.com/
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Old Jan 30th, 2012, 03:56 PM
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Great suggestions - TTT for a smiliar trip!
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