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ISO feedback on tentative plans for Sonoma County trip in June

ISO feedback on tentative plans for Sonoma County trip in June

Old May 31st, 2005, 09:15 AM
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ISO feedback on tentative plans for Sonoma County trip in June

At the end of June, my husband and I will be celebrating our 10th wedding anniversary in Sonoma County – we have rented what looks to be a great house in Healdsburg. Before I list off my questions, it is probably a good idea to tell you a little about us so it will be easier to respond.
Neither of us has been to Sonoma or Napa Valleys – we both love wine – tasting it and learning about it. We are primarily red wine drinkers, but also enjoy dry whites. We are quite physically active, tend to be early morning people, and are adventurous eaters (love to cook too). When we travel we try to do a good bit of research on the area before we go to get an idea of the things we don't want to miss - then we make some kind of loose plan. BUT once we get to our destination, we play it all by ear – sometimes we throw the plans out the window and wing it, other times we stick to some of the itinerary and are spontaneous with the rest of our time.
Below is our tentative plan – we realize we probably have too many wineries/things to do on our list – especially since we love the idea of stumbling on the smaller wineries that might not be on the maps - but hopefully your comments will help us to narrow things down a bit.

We’d love suggestions on how the wineries are grouped – does it make sense geographically?
Are there any wineries we have on our list that aren’t recommended – any we should add to our list?
We need some serious help with the Napa Valley wineries – which ones should we cut out? Should Duckhorn be added?
We also need to figure out which winery to tour – we saw some recent stuff on the forum about Del Dotto – we’d probably go for the $40 if it is really worth it, but we’d love other suggestions?
We need ideas on great hikes – nothing flat – we like the idea of hiking up to an amazing view of the area.
How about canoeing or kayaking – where are the best spots?
I know some think mud baths are gross, but it is one of those things I really want to try at least once. I have a reservation for a mud bath @ Indian Springs – my husband is getting a massage while I am being bathed in the mud ;-). I think there are probably better spas we could go to for other spa services (massage, facial, etc), but it seems like general consensus is that this is the best place for an authentic mud bath – am I correct? Is it nice – the website looks pretty good, but I just want to be sure….?
Restaurants – a few I’ve read a lot about are Willi’s Seafood in Healdsburg (can’t wait to go there), Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen in St Helena, The Girl & the Fig in Sonoma, & Cyrus in Healdsburg – I’ve also listed some others below restaurants – but would love some input for lunches and dinners – where should we go for our anniversary dinner? We want somewhere nice – don’t mind paying for great quality/atmosphere, but don’t like stuffy places – we tend to enjoy a lively place – not too pretentious.
How about night life in the area - besides dinner places?

I think that’s it – I know I have a lot of questions – but you those of you who live in and visit the area often are such a wealth of information – I look forward to your suggestions.
We have listed our ideas out by day, but we are fine with shifting things around - we welcome ANY comments!! Thanks in advance for your help


Fri Arrive SFO in AM - Drive to Mendocino
Check-in - Brewery Gulch Inn – this place looks wonderful (http://www.brewerygulchinn.com/)
Explore town

Sat Drive to Healdsburg (3 ½ hrs?)
Lunch (suggestions ???)
Preston Winery, Healdsburg
Rafanelli Winery, Healdsburg (Appt required)
Check-in to house
Oakville Grocery – dinner @ the house

Sun Morning canoeing or hiking(???)
Hop Kiln, Healdsburg
J. Rochioli, Healdsburg – picnic lunch
Davis Bynum, Healdsburg
Gary Farrell, Healdsburg
Dinner (suggestions ???)

Mon Napa Valley-
Cakebread, Rutherford (Appt required)
Carneros Creek, Napa
Stags Leap, Napa (Appt required)
Lunch (Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen??)
Robert Sinskey, Yountville
V. Sattuti, St. Helena
Vincent Arroyo, Calistoga
Cook dinner @ the house

Tue Redwood Forest/Hiking (would love suggestions for good hikes???)
Picnic lunch (not sure where – suggestions ???)
Dinner (Barndiva?? Other suggestions – possible cook @ the house)

Wed Indian Springs – mud bath/massage (finished by 11 AM) Calistoga
Lunch in Calistoga – suggestions???
OR we might go over to St Helena and check out CIA @ Greystone????
Roshambo, Healdsburg
Foppiano, Healdsburg
J. Vineyards, Healdsburg (Appt required)

Thu Sonoma Valley area
Ledson, Kenwood
Kaz, Kenwood (Appt required on Thursdays)
Gundlach Bundschu, Sonoma
Sonoma Square/Lunch @ Girl & The Fig
Paul Hobbs, Sebastopol (???)(Appt required)

Fri ????
Dinner @ ???

Sat Drive to San Fran

Other wineries that look interesting Merry Edwards (Appt required ???), Seghesio, Nalle (Appt required except Sat), Sharp Cellars (Appt required), & Duckhorn

Cyrus, Healdsburg
Barndiva, Healdsburg
Dry Creek Kitchen, Healdsburg
**Willi's Seafood, Healdsburg
The Girl & the Fig, Sonoma
Cafe Citti, Kenwood
Martini House, St Helena
Tra Vigne, St Helena
CIA @ Greystone, St. Helena
**Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen, St Helena
jfelice24 is offline  
Old May 31st, 2005, 10:32 AM
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I just got back on Monday from Napa/Sonoma.

You have done your homework already and have too many questions to answer at once...Here are few comments:

- be flexible with your time - don't book too many tasting appointments
- ask wineries for reccomendations on neghboring wineries. They can tell you who has good new vintages
- make some reservations for dinner if there is any "must go" restaurants. Just tried Martini House this trip - very good!
- Skip Duckhorn - $25 to taste wines you probaly can get at a store buy your home

What is your favorite type of wine?

weimer is offline  
Old May 31st, 2005, 10:40 AM
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Don't leave Calistoga without a meal at the Wappo Bar & Bistro! www.wappobar.com Have a wonderful time! ***kim***
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Old May 31st, 2005, 11:11 AM
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It’s refreshing to see a poster who has done some (in your case, a significant amount of) due diligence before making a query in this board. You have been able to research the good wine producers and have been able to group them in the appropriate logistics and location. IMHO, V. Sattui is a picnic destination (lot’s and lot’s of tourists by the busloads) and I have heard about how the pourers will look at visitors with disdain after some tasting and when their mediocre wines are not bought.

You seem to be heavy with the Russian River Valley / West Side Hwy. wineries. If you plan it out, you can cover all the ones you’ve listed in this area in one day. You may want to open up the other day for Dry Creek Valley or Alexander Valley wineries just about 20 minutes north of Healdsburg. These are Ridge, Ch. Souverain, Peterson Winery (by appointment only, but Fred Peterson will be more than happy to accommodate you), David Cafaro, Hanna, Sausal, White Oak – I’ve barely scratched the surface with the multitude of wineries in this area. You can have lunch at Santi, in Geyserville (10 minutes north of Healdsburg), which serves good Italian dishes in a small quaint, wine-town atmosphere.

Willi’s Seafood has a branch in Santa Rosa (about 15 minutes south of Healdsburg) called Willi’s Wine Bar. The very good tapas-sized dishes and the availability of a large number of local wines by the glass makes this a great destination for food-and-wine-lover.

If it will be difficult for you to secure reservations at the French Laundry (Yountville, in Napa), then The Farmhouse Inn in Forestville (again, about 15 minutes from Healdsburg) is one of the best restaurants for wine-country dining in Sonoma.

I second the recommendation for Martini House in St. Helena. Good choice with Cindy’s. You may want to go a little bit further south (in Yountville) for Bistro Jeanty, my favorite lunch establishment in Napa or Sonoma.

billy_boy is offline  
Old May 31st, 2005, 12:17 PM
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We dined at the Farmhouse Inn in March, it was wonderful, I highly recommend it! We also like the Alexander Valley Grille at the Chateau Souverain for lunch. ***kim***
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Old Jun 1st, 2005, 04:28 PM
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thanks so much for your responses - again, i apologize for such a long post and so many questions, but i thought it best to take a shot and try to get feedback on all of the things we still are working out...

we have decided to skip duckhorn and v. sattuti
we are definitely going to defer to the experts at various wineries to help guide us on wineries that we haven't even thought of - good suggestion weimer.
billy boy - thanks for the suggestion to include more dry creek and alexander valley wineries. once i read your post it was obvious - a perfect example of why it is good to get input. we are going to look at the wineries you suggested.
went to the willi's website and saw the wine bar - also looks great - we are excited to try both of these places.
wappo also looks good kim.
Farmhouse Inn looks AMAZING - we are considering this for our anniversary dinner.

re: our favorite wines - we enjoy big spicy wines - syrah, zinfandel.

Any more suggestions out there - these are great, but i'm hoping for a few more.
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Old Jun 1st, 2005, 06:04 PM
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Wow, jen, you did an excellent job of
researching my county !

Think about considering Cyrus for that anniversary. The reviews are spectacular
and my industry friends up here say look out French Laundry !

I give raves to Willi's in Healdsburg,
yet do not agree that the one in Santa
Rosa,the roadhouse, merits a visit.
Try to get to Barndiva at least for cocktails and preferably for dinner.

As you are in the West Side road area on Sunday, I would suggest Zazu for Sunday dinner (I am surprised it's not on your list),don't miss this little
gem. Since you cannot visit Merry Edwards, you can have a bottle with dinner at Zazu.

I think I might re-arrange your Wed afternoon, and continue visiting the Napa Valley instead of back to Sonoma-
keep Rochioli and Roshambo on Monday.
If not, Group J. with Foppiano and then go over to Alexander Valley.

It's a good 45 mins. Healdsburg to Calistoga. Healdsburg to Sonoma town is closer to 1 hr.

Keep Nalle for your Dry Creek visit.
Doug Nalle and his gang are loads of fun!

For hiking check out napavalleyonline.com and go to the parks and camping tab.

For kayaking/recreation info on the Russian River
check out wineroad.com

Congratulations !
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Old Jun 1st, 2005, 06:54 PM
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R5 - i'm so glad you responded - i've read so many of your posts and they've been a great help in our research!
wow - that article on cyrus is making my mouth water. we've visited the website and it looks amazing. i am just wondering if it is stuffy? although if it is as good as it looks, i could deal with stuffy;-)
barndiva is definitely in for at least drinks.
can't wait to try zazu - looks like a fun place - it has made the cut - great website too!
we have an appt for a merry edwards tasting - ken sounds like a very nice guy - we are really looking forward to a private tasting.
this afternoon i received a voice mail from doug nalle, so when i call him back we'll schedule a tasting - we won't book any other appts (just merry edwards & nalle - and we have to call rafanelli the day we want to visit)

Do you suggest we skip the wineries in the sonoma area and add some other napa wineries? or just split out napa wineries into 2 days?

thansk again for all of your suggestions - it is such a big help!

jfelice24 is offline  
Old Jun 1st, 2005, 07:18 PM
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Your desire for more fun, less pretentious prompts me to suggest keeping your wineries around Sonoma town
KAZ is great as is the gang at GunBun.

My buds say Cyrus doesn't take itself to serious-pun intended. Michael Bauer
says in his review that it's not stuffy
either-and he would know stuffy !
We plan to go on our anniversary in October, but pals may force us to go sooner,lol.

Be certain to reserve at Zazu-it is popular. So glad you will visit Merry Edwards. Makes me think of what to have with it for dinner!

If I can think of anything else, I'll let you know-or just ask if something
pops up !
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Old Jun 1st, 2005, 08:00 PM
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I have eaten at Cyrus and granted that it is relatively new, it is in no way anywhere within the league of nor comparable to the French Laundry.

The setting is good, the service is not as tight as FL, and the food, aaahh, the poor food - do not deserve to be mentioned in the same breath as FL's cuisine.

My friends in the local wine and restaurant sevices industry also have similar opinions.
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Old Jun 1st, 2005, 08:48 PM
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We'll all take that with a grain of
salt ! LOL !
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Old Jun 1st, 2005, 09:03 PM
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You'll be asking for a lot of that when you get the chance to dine at Cyrus. Heh, heh, heh.
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Old Jun 2nd, 2005, 09:02 AM
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You sound like us...we hike a lot, love big red wines and adore CA, having visited 3 times in 2 years! The hiking around Mendocino is great- we stayed at the Brewery Gulch and they fixed us a picnic which we took to the Redwoods.They have hiking books there. We did the Pygmy forest trail and an invigorating 3 1/2 mile trail through the Upper Fern Canyon in nearby Van Damme park. It finishes uphill! SFO to Mendo is a long drive- sure you don't want to stay 2 days? Mendo is our favorite place in the US. On your way to Healdsburg, stop in Anderson Valley at Lazy Creek for the best Pinot you'll ever taste. It's back a dirt road, right on their farm and lots of fun! Oh, and if you have time, drive 25 min north of Mendo to Pacific Star winery for a breathtaking view of the only winery on the ocean! try Dad's Daily Red,we have a case. If you love reds, DO NOT miss Rosenblum's tasting room in Healdsburg! They have several 90-plus rated Zins and they pour LOTS of them. Check out Wine Spectator, trust me. Also, you only need one tour. There are no appts needed for most tasting rooms.We toured Cakebread, it was a great tour. Try Wilson as well- she is a runner and gave us good hiking suggestions around H'burg.If you go to J's, have the appetizers with tasting and you can skip lunch. I suggest on Tuesday heading north. By all means, go to Geyserville and try Meeker. It's in the old bank in town. They do vertical tastings of HUGE reds- your teeth will be black and you'd better eat first, or your day will be shot. Say hi to Cynthia; it's the most fun you'll have! We loved the hiking at Lake Sonoma- many good trails, some very tough. They will give you maps and advice at the info center. While up there, visit Ferrari-Carano, cause it's gorgeous. Skip V. Sattui. In fact, you'll maybe want to make Napa a short day, you'll have traffic. In Sonoma, Ledson Hotel has a great tapas restaurant and music. Loved it! At the winery, ask if Jerry Padilla is there and request a tasting with him! Imagery Winery is very cool, too. On your way back to SFO, go off course a bit and visit Hess at Mount Veeder. This place is 3 stories of the wildest art and most beautiful grounds, too. Tasting room is cool- give yourself at least an hour here. We thought this was the coolest stop of all. Write me at [email protected] and I'll send you my trip report.Oh, thumbs up to Roshambo, too- very nice.
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Old Jun 3rd, 2005, 02:35 PM
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thanks so much for the additional responses - we are going to print everything out and rework things a little based on some of these suggestions.
linda thanks for the offer for your trip report - it does sound like we have similar interests, so i think it will be very helpful - i'll email you.

thanks again to everyone - i'll post again when we revise things.

jfelice24 is offline  
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