Help with Napa /Sonoma Valley itinerary...

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Sep 14th, 2003, 07:55 AM
  #1
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Help with Napa /Sonoma Valley itinerary...

My husband and I are leaving this Friday (!) for our first wine country experience. I have read many of the postings here, and have decided that I need the help of my wise Fodor friends to help plan the perfect getaway. These are my arrangements:
Arrive at San Fran airport at 11am Friday morning. Spending first 2 nights at The Lodge at Sonoma, 2 nights at the Yountville Inn, flying out of San Fran 3pm on Tuesday. We plan to visit many of the wineries, and we are interested in biking and hiking. Also interested in french (but not the French Laundry - no reservation!) and italian restaurants.

Looking forward to your advice - many thanks!!
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Sep 14th, 2003, 08:30 PM
  #2
 
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My husband and I spent several days in Napa Valley last year. I loved the Italian restaurant Tra Vigne. The food was good, and the buildings were beautiful. They have a cantinetta next door, and you can sit on the terrace between the two buildings and try wine.

There's a centrally-located Dean & Deluca (can't remember which town) that had all the fixing for a gourmet picnic lunch. Some of the wineries have places where you can picnic on their grounds.

I'm no wine lover, and not knowledgeable, but if you can stomach tasting wine in the morning, the staff at the wineries had more time and inclination to chat in the AM; by late afternoon, there were so many visitors they didn't have much time to talk.

The Silverado Trail (which runs up the valley to the east of the main road) has a nice, wide bike lane.

We stayed at the Yountville Inn. The rooms were huge and very nice. One morning we had breakfast next to the pool; the other, we ate on the balcony outside our room.

Have a great time!
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Sep 16th, 2003, 06:13 AM
  #3
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Another question I forgot to ask:

Is it necessary to book dinner reservations way in advance - at restaurants like Bistro Jeanty, Bouchon, etc? And if so, how far in advance?
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Sep 16th, 2003, 07:08 AM
  #4
Kal
 
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Aloohaaa addy,
Looks like you've picked a great weekend to come over. Should be nice.

I believe there is a bike rental place in Yountville at the Vintage 1870 shopping center which is short walking distance to the Y'Inn. You may want to Google it.

Dean Deluca is in St Helena. We love that store. Stand around the dairy counter and cut the cheese with the counter people.
A BIG selection of cheeses, wines, meats.
Nice deli counter too if you're inclined to picnic. A bit larger than Oakville Grocery.

It wouldn't hurt to get reservations at Bouchon's/Bistro Jeanty.
We've just walked into Bouchon's right around dinner time and managed to get seated but you never know.

Non-French but still pretty good restaurants in Y'ville are Hurley's, Napa Valley Grille, Piatti's.
Pacific Blues Cafe and Gordon's are good breakfast places.

For a nice sunset, you can grab a few goodies from the Italian Deli located behind Vintage 1870 and take them up the stairs <if they are open> to the back entrance to the 2nd floor and if the tables/chairs are still out on the deck, enjoy!
If not, a decent "semi view" from the patio of Pacific Blues Cafe.

Della Santina's in Sonoma is a pretty good Italian restaurant.

Slight disagreement with Lex9 on the Silverado Trail shoulder comment. >-

While it's wide for the most part, there are some sections where it's narrow and a pretty steep drop into a vineyard so you still have to pay close attention. Especially with the caras going by around 55mph.
But the S'Trail is a beautiful, rolling ride.
We zig zag back and forth from the Hwy to S'Trail thru the vinyards.
BTW, a lot of the local police dept's enforce laws for bicycles, too so you may want to really stop at stop signs to be on the safe side.

Good !
Kal
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Sep 16th, 2003, 07:28 AM
  #5
 
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Don't miss one my favorite restaurants in the area, BRIX. Great food, wine, atmosphere & shop.

www.brix.com

Enjoy!

(Also the Domaine Carneros chateau in Sonoma Valley shouldn't be missed. Wonderful champagne tasting, but the chateau is the real reason to visit. Impressive. www.domaine.com)
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Sep 16th, 2003, 02:01 PM
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Wine country report

Do?s:

Winery tours: To experience the best of the best you MUST book tours/tastings in advance! The better tours/tastings primarily do not allow you to just walk up and jump in! Buy a book on Wine country, read about the wineries and what they offer and then book a month or two in advance. I had two appointments each day I was in wine country and it really paid off for me!

Best tour: Schramsberg: This winery in Napa (near Calistoga) produces champagne that is fantastic, their bottles have been served at the White House since 1972! The appointment only tour explains the champagne making process, the history of the Schramsberg?s and you walk deep into ancient caves that store the wine at 58 degrees! I have never seen so many bottles of champagne stacked up, imagine a subway train tunnel filled with champagne from head to toe for hundreds of yards and you?ll have an idea about these wine caves. Many wine caves in wine country are newer versions, they just don?t have the feel of the Shcramsberg caves, I could imagine Count Dracula stepping from behind the bottles at any moment! The tour ends with a tasting either inside a tasting room or if you are lucky you taste in the cave by candlelight! We tasted 5 to 6 different champagnes and I asked the tour person if he could explain sabering (method of opening a bottle of champagne by taking a saber and cutting off the bottle top ? very exciting) instead of explaining sabering he actually took a thin blunt piece of metal and lopped of the bottle top and served us right from the beheaded bottle ? quite cool! Great wine, great tour ? a must see!

Best wine: I confess I did not get to every winery and I missed many excellent wines, but some of the best product I tasted are the following: Schafer Zin Port, Prager White Port ?Aria?, Gloria Ferrer Champagne, Schramsberg ?Cremant? Champagne, Ravenswood barrel tastings ( all 11 different zins), Zingaro Zins,

Best view: Napa = Silverado Trail ? Silverado Vineyards, great patio to sip and look!

Most fun winery: Coppola Niebaum ? if you love the movie the Godfather you will love this place, movie artifacts from all Francis Fords Coppolla?s movies, castlelike visitors center, excellent reserve wines, relaxing atmosphere ? must stop and see!

Most informative tour: 1) S Anderson ? great overview won why Stagg Leap district is so unique, great tasting of champagne in their caves! 2) Chateau Montelena ? 1:30 pm tour (25$) great overview of wine making ? from soil to climate all conducted in an ornate tasting room that looks like Rockefellers library, you also tour outside and view the ponds and gardens and vines!

Don?ts:

Lodging: Don?t stay in South Napa, it?s a strip mall city and resembles anywhere USA, stay up in Yountville, St Helena, Calsitoga ? all are very cute and close to wineries!

Wineries: All the following wineries offer boring wine and boring experiences: Charles Krug, Cline Cellars, Beuna Vista

Conclusion:

I had a great time in Napa/Sonoma, highly recommend this are for people who really love wine, If you don?t drink wine and are not inte4rsted in learning about wine, it may disappoint you! I think three nights of wine and food is enough for most people , I could not see staying there longer than that! Good luck w/ your trip planning!
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Sep 16th, 2003, 04:14 PM
  #7
glo
 
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In Sonoma, Ledson has just opened a restaurant on the square, outdoor seating available. It serves "small dishes", so go there for some wine and a bite to eat.
When we went to Yountville this last weekend, we happened across Bouchon Bakery, right next door to the restaurant. I felt like I had been transported back to Paris. They have a small selection of sandwiches at the counter, beautiful breads, and the most luscious french pastries.
We then went up to Greystone, the culinary academy in St. Helena, and watched a cooking demonstration at the school. They have a schedule online. We then walked over to their restaurant and had a drink outside on the patio, overlooking the valley. It was fantastic.
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Sep 16th, 2003, 04:24 PM
  #8
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Thanks for all the great advice!

Lexma - thanks for reaassuring me about my choice in Inns. BTW - wine in the morning? Yummy!!

Kal - before I forget, how DO you make a beer glass and a wine glass??

Which do you prefer..Bouchon's or Bistro Jeanty? I've heard such good things about both.
Good call on the sunset, thanks. I have seen the weather forecast, and am soooo looking forward to this trip!

Gekko - BRIX sounds interesting. Advance reservations necessary??
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Sep 16th, 2003, 04:47 PM
  #9
 
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Addison,
Bistro Jeanty is one of our favorites...we usually make reservations.....we come from the east coast...don't want to take any chances.
Brix is also great...at lunch you prpbably won't have any trouble getting in without reservations!
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Sep 16th, 2003, 04:52 PM
  #10
glo
 
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Go to opentable.com. You can make reservations online for some of the restaurants you want to go to. Mind you, they only list some times that are available. It's always best to call the restaurant and talk to someone.
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Sep 16th, 2003, 05:59 PM
  #11
 
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Brix is a large restaurant; I doubt you'd need dinner reservations except for peak weekend hours. But why not? Call a few hours in advance from a cell phone and make your life easier.
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Sep 18th, 2003, 05:27 PM
  #12
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Thanks to everyone for all the help! I'll be sure to post a report upon my return.

Amy
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Sep 19th, 2003, 07:43 AM
  #13
Kal
 
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addy, You're probably on the road by now. I hate when work gets in the way of this " " on my back!

As mentioned, you really can't go wrong with either Bouchon's or Bistro J.

As for e'cons try http://www.fodors.com/forums/smileys/

Kal
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