Is a week too long for CA wine country?

Sep 15th, 2008, 11:51 AM
  #1  
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Is a week too long for CA wine country?

Can afford a week's time in the Napa/Sonoma area. Is that too long a time? I mean, how many wineries can one enjoy per day, and is there any sense of "seen one, seen them all" that sets in over time? My husband and I enjoy wine, but are not experts in any way, and cannot tell expensive wines from inexpensive. Just wondering if 7 days is too long a stay.
Thanks!
mkdiebold is offline  
Sep 15th, 2008, 12:19 PM
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I just returned from Sonoma and love visiting there, but, Yes, in my opinion, a week is too long.

Spend a few nights in San Francisco, and/or drive down to Carmel.

Enjoy!
Gekko is offline  
Sep 15th, 2008, 12:33 PM
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We will have already spent 5 nights in San Francisco! We're looking for other experiences, wine being one thing. How many days should we plan on for the Sonoma area?
Should we also visit Napa? Or, again, is it just too much of a good thing??
mkdiebold is offline  
Sep 15th, 2008, 12:45 PM
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You might find some good ideas in the following thread:

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...1&tid=35129049

Ronda is offline  
Sep 15th, 2008, 12:49 PM
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I'm not keen on Napa, so I would likely spread my time along the coast - from San Francisco to Mendocino. Point Reyes, Occidental, Jenner & the Bodega Bay area in general are wonderful (& adjacent to Sonoma).
SAnParis2 is offline  
Sep 15th, 2008, 12:56 PM
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How funny, Rhonda. I just finished printing that thread! I'm familiar with Stu's work from the European forum. He's priceless!!

Here's where I'm coming from...2 weeks total time divided so far this way: 2 nights Costa Mesa to attend the opera (neighbor has lead role), and 5 nights in SF. And, some time in Sonoma and/or Napa.

Gekko thinks a week is too long for the wine country. I'm looking for suggestions for what to do with 3 days! Help!
mkdiebold is offline  
Sep 15th, 2008, 01:01 PM
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SAnParis2, What don't you like about Napa?
Are you saying you'd go only to Sonoma?

If we head up to Mendocino, any suggestions for where to stay for 3 nights that would serve as a base?

We're not exactly budget travelers, but neither are we self-indulgent. Clean and comfortable is all that's required.
mkdiebold is offline  
Sep 15th, 2008, 01:07 PM
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Take a look at any of the Sonoma v. Napa posts on here. The diffrences are amazing. Linda from Louisville also has some great posts about Mendocino. Napa is very stuffy & pretentious w/crazy tasting fees. Sonoma is much more laid back, & you'll likely even talk to many of teh wine-makers. To each their own + each area does different wines better. I'll top some relevant posts after soccer practice...
SAnParis2 is offline  
Sep 15th, 2008, 01:07 PM
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Are the giant redwoods too far away?

We did a spa day. That was fun. And the Healdsburg area is fabulous.
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Sep 15th, 2008, 01:32 PM
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kelliebellie...are you suggesting Yosemite?
We've considered that, however the weather is scaring us off. Our dates for these "extra" days is November 1-7. Although we love nature, we're not big hikers, and don't want to pack clothes for winter-like conditions. Can you enjoy the park from your car?
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Sep 15th, 2008, 01:42 PM
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I also think a week is too long for the wine country.

You didn't say how you will get up here from Costa Mesa. If you'll have a car, I would head to Hearst Castle in San Simeon, spend a night there & see the castle. If you won't have a car, I would consider flying to santa Barbara & renting one there, if there are 2 or less of you & it is a work day when you leave - then on to Hearst Castle. Then head up the fantastic coast to Big Sur & spend a night there and explore that region. Then spend 2 nights in Carmel, visiting Pt Lobos on the way from Big Sur. If you need to save a night, stay 2 nights in Carmel & skip Big Sur - but stop in Nepenthe in Big Sur for lunch or early dinner.

From Carmel, head to San Francisco & stay 5 nights there (leave after 9:30 on a work day to avoid traffic).

Then up to Healdsburg in Sonoma Co for 2-3 nights. If you depart from SFO after 3PM, you can stay 3 nights in Healdsburg & return to SFO mid-morning & miss commute traffic (if you'll do this on a work day). If you stay 3 nights, explore the Napa Valley as a day trip.

For exploring the Napa Valley, if you do this as a day trip from Healdsburg, head north on the main road through Healdsburg (not 101), and drive through the lovely Alexander Valley (hwy 128) to Calistoga. Continue south on 128/29 through the heart of the Napa Valley winegrowing region. When you get to Yountville, head east on Yountville Cross Rd & hit the lovely Silverado Trail (actually, prettier than the 128/29, IMO) traveling north back to Calistoga. From there, return to Healdsburg. If you have a flight before 3PM from SFO & only stay in Healdsburg 2 nights, mid-day of your last day, drive to Napa - but at Yountville head to San Francisco.

Make sure that just before you head across the Golden Gate Bridge you head "up" to the GGNRA area for fantastic views of SF and the Golden Gate. There is info about this in the link Ronda provided.

If you're leaving SFO before 3pm, stay the last night in Half Moon Bay - following the coast all the way from the Golden Gate Bridge to Half Moon Bay. HMB is real cute & only 30-40 mins from SFO.

Stu Dudley
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Sep 15th, 2008, 02:38 PM
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I agree that Sonoma is better than Napa. I find Napa far too touristy.

If it were me I'd spend a couple days in Sonoma and then head to Tahoe, Santa Cruz or Monterrey.

Lake Tahoe is beautiful and a must see if you've never been there.
RBCal is offline  
Sep 15th, 2008, 03:10 PM
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Stu...thanks for your suggestions! We are taking this trip with another couple (parents of the opera star) and we do plan to make our way via car to San Francisco. Not sure of the number of stops, although I know Hearst Castle is on the list. Our friends want to spend most of their time in SF. They are flying out of there for home. We, on the other hand can stay another week, or so. Our thinking is heck, we're spending time and money to fly from Kentucky, we might as well stay a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, it isn't the prettiest time of year for the area.

RBCal...I like your idea of Lake Tahoe! Never been there! Heard it's beautiful...and we could fly out of Carson City or Reno.

Thanks to both of you for your suggestions!
mkdiebold is offline  
Sep 15th, 2008, 03:22 PM
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I'm not sure I would make definite plans for Tahoe or Yosemite for the first week of November. It could be beautiful & it could be rainy. Yosemite is a long way to drive through not-so-scenic country if you don't want to hike or the weather isn't that great & you just want a "drive through".

You would have more flexibility if you stuck to areas within 2 1/2 hrs of San Francisco in case of rainy weather. Carmel is 2 1/4 hrs away & the wine country is less than 2 hrs.

Stu Dudley
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Sep 15th, 2008, 06:46 PM
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Don't let the time of year deter you from enjoying your visit to Northern California. The first week of November can be very beautiful. The big storms don't usually arrive until the middle of the month. But, of course, there is no guarantee. However, in most years, the last week of October and the first week in November can be what we call "beach weather".

It can also be really nice in Yosemite and Tahoe too. There are no crowds then and there can even be fall colors. Days are cool but not yet cold. Nights though can be chilly.

Here's a quote from the NPS website about November in Yosemite.

"Crowds are gone until Thanksgiving week. It's cooler and NICE! The first two weeks have really nice foliage colors still out, and it's a WONDERFUL time to hike on the valley floor."

You shouldn't have trouble getting a room mid-week either.

One other plus, is that in most years, Tioga Pass is open until mid-November. So, you could drive over to the Eastern Sierra and then up to Tahoe and not have to backtrack through the foothills.

But, if you go, don't miss the foothills either. The Motherlode Country is very interesting and there are neat old mining towns and attractions that may interest you. It might even remind you somewhat of Kentucky there.

A possible itinerary for you might be:

2 Nights in Healdsburg - one day for the Sonoma Coast and the Russian River and one day for the wineries in the Alexander Valley and Dry Creek Area.

1 Night in the Napa Valley. Disregard the Napa bashers. If you don't visit the Napa Valley, you haven't seen the Wine Country. Napa has the best and most beautiful wineries and vineyards and the best restaurants.

1 Night in Murphy's - for the Gold Country experience.

2 Nights in Yosemite - if you haven't been there, you NEED to go.

1 Night in Tahoe - another awesome sight not to be missed if you haven't seen it.

That's what I would do. You could tweak it many ways. If you don't want to go to the Sierra, then go up to Mendocino and Fort Bragg (and maybe a ways further north to the Redwoods). 3 Days on the coast would not be too long. There is lots to see and do.
Supercilious is offline  
Sep 15th, 2008, 07:14 PM
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Supercilious...Thanks for your encouragement! Now we need to study the map, tour books, and fodors forum to learn all we can about the area. I've never been to California, so it's all pretty exciting to me!
mkdiebold is offline  
Sep 16th, 2008, 04:41 AM
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Hi there! I heard my name mentioned "Linda from Louisville".
It's definitely worth seeing Napa, but after two days there I've had enough. You have to get off the beaten path to find smaller wineries and get out of the traffic, We prefer the area around Calistoga for a Napa experience. Healdsburg is our favorite base, Sonoma (town) second. Ditto the drive up through gorgeous Anderson Valley. Stop at Libby's in Philo for great tex-mex lunch. Mendocino is a lovely place. We've been there 3 times in the past 6 years. You don't have to be a hiker to really enjoy the Armstrong Woods (flat). There are some hikes around there which are beautiful and not difficult. One year we went horseback riding through the redwoods and along the beach from Ricochet Ranch near Ft Bragg.
You can email me at this screen name at aol dot com and I'd be glad to send you a trip report and info from our trips. I have many travel books and info here at home in KY which I'd be glad to loan to you.
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Sep 16th, 2008, 05:53 AM
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We did a similiar trip this summer - a few days in SF, a few days in Sonoma, a few days in Yosemite...the drive there isn't terribly long - 4-5 hours and it was a beautiful park. There is access year-round to the Valley floor and several pleasant walks...we found it a wonderful contrast to the hustle-bustle of SF and all the food/wine of Sonoma....also drove up and spent several days in the Point Reyes area north of SF...again, a gorgeous area with lots of B&B's, walks along the coastline, a lighthouse, remnants of a Russian fort....I find it much more pleasant to intersperse quiet slower-moving spots with the more intense ones...We just got back from a 7 day drive-by of Santa Fe, ABQ, Arches, Mesa Verde, and Canyonlands, hiked 12+ miles, and I'm exhausted and next week, will think about what I've seen! My husband, on the other hand, loved the pace!
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Sep 16th, 2008, 06:47 AM
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>>It's definitely worth seeing Napa,<

Just for clarification, I think Linda is referring to Napa Valley, and not the town of Napa.

>>We prefer the area around Calistoga for a Napa experience. Healdsburg is our favorite base, Sonoma (town) second<<

Again for clarification, both Healdsburg & Sonoma are not in the Napa Valley. If you base in either of these towns, you'll be doing some driving (>30 mins) to get to the heart of the Napa Valley)

Stu Dudley
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Sep 16th, 2008, 09:08 AM
  #20  
dmlove
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However, in most years, the last week of October and the first week in November can be what we call "beach weather".

FWIW, my son's birthday is the last week of October. So every year I dutifully planned an indoor birthday party, worried about rain. And every year but one, in his 23+ years of life, the weather has been gorgeous the last weekend of October!
 

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