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mmmooommm May 25th, 2019 12:21 PM

Napa Valley over the 4th of July, appreciate input!
My husband and I (50's) are looking at 5 nights over the 4th and would appreciate input. He has meeting in SF ending 6/30 Sunday am. so aiming to drive up slowly and ...

(? #1) stay in St. Helena? Was looking at Yountsville but couldn't find anything much under $500 a night. Looking at Wydown Hotel and Harvest Inn in St. Helena, both comparably priced. Do you recommend either? Also open to other ideas or towns if you have a recommendation. Both are $300-ish a night. Please mention another town or hotel if you prefer that, or a VRBO/AirBNB you are familiar with. Sometimes too many surprises with those, but other times they are great! Rancho Caymus Inn in Rutherford is another option.

(?#2) is 5 nights too long? Aiming to not get into our hotel til later on Sunday and use the drive to sightsee, maybe Muir Woods? Sausalito? Coastline? What would you recommend for a nice meandering drive there? any great eats along the way? we are more the Diners, Drive Ins and Dives than the Michelin type. And on the way back to SFO, as a late flight on 5th.

(?#3) To do's. Obviously wineries. Many are recommended elsewhere so Ill just mention a few we will hit. Cade for the view, Schramsberg (book tour), Rombauer for the view, Del Dotto Estate, Frank Family. Eats recommended are Taylor's Refresher for lunch, Mustard's Grill for lunch, Bouchon, Redd Bistro Jeanty and Ad Hoc for dinner.

(?#4). May need a day trip out of the wine area as 5 nights is a lot. Thinking coast or Redwood forest type area (without major fire damage). Anything else? Could obviously visit Sonoma but think Napa will be enough of that.

Flying in and out of SFO. Late flight on the 5th (Friday). Any issues from the fires I should be aware of? Many thanks!

janisj May 26th, 2019 04:01 PM

I'd widen the scope -- the entire area is very pricey especially on summer weekends, but if it has to be Napa or Sonoma -- I'd pick someplace in Sonoma County. I'd look in Healdsburg and probably stay there 3 nights and on the coast 2 nights. (maybe Timber cove or Bodega Bay)

MichelleY May 26th, 2019 08:09 PM

I agree with splitting up the time. The town of Napa may have some less expensive lodging choices.

worldwidewinetours May 27th, 2019 08:46 AM

First things first....having lived in Sonoma for over 25 years, and working in the wine business for over 20 of those years, I can assure you that ANY amount of time spent in Sonoma will not be wasted. It is NOT merely the ugly step-child to Napa. Questions:
1) Are you wine buyers? Or are you just looking to taste a few and maybe ship several bottles home?
2) Why St Helena? One of the hardest concepts for first-time visitors is just how big the Napa Valley is. It can easily take upwards of 1-1/2 hours to travel from St Helena to Napa. From Napa all the way up to Calistogta is just ongodly....ESPECIALLY during a holiday weekend.
3) Are you amenable to staying in a private home with your own private bath and entrance, or do you want your own place, like a cottage or mother-in-law unit? There are MANY places in Sonoma (and yes, Napa) that are wonderful places to stay (Airbnb especially since VRBO specializes in entire homes) that won't break the bank.
4) Are you bubbly aficionados? Or is the inclusion of Schramsberg and Frank Family just a coincidence?
5) Are you more "off-the-beaten-path" types, or do you have a smaller comfort zone?

As for other activities: I concur. Five days of nothing but wine tasting is daunting. In Sonoma County (NOT the town of Sonoma) look west of Santa Rosa to the town of Guerneville (pronounced gern-ville, not gerny-ville). The drive out there is fabulous as it follows the Russian River (which is its own wine growing region or AVA). Just outside of the quaint downtown area, you will find Armstrong Redwoods State Park. Some of the last true old-growth redwoods left on the planet. Very easy access, well maintained roads and hiking trails, with a few short hiking loops that you can take right from the parking lot into some of the most stunning forest you will ever see. I would recommend this hands down over either Muir Woods or Sausalito. There is only one road in- one road out of Muir Woods or Muir Headlands and the long, winding road can be nothing short of exhausting, (again) ESPECIALLY on a holiday weekend.
Try looking at places to stay in the Carneros region, which is at the southern tip of both Napa AND Sonoma counties. That way you can visit both, without spending your vacation in a car. A very simple tip for either area is: plan your trip in a loop so that you go from winery to winery (or restaurant or whatever) making RIGHT HAND TURNS out of the parking lot to your next destination. In this entire area you can spend a frustratingly long time waiting to make left turns across these very busy roads. This goes for PCH as well. (We call it "PCH", not "the PCH") If you do go to the beach, travel SOUTH on PCH, not north. This will allow you to pull over at viewing areas without having to make those annoying left turns into and out of the parking lots. It is a very windy road, and some of those left turns to get back into the northbound lane can be downright dangerous.
Based on your answers to the above questions, I can offer winery suggestions that you probably have not heard of.....if you're up for it :)

StuDudley May 27th, 2019 02:33 PM

What is PCH ??? Shoreline Highway/Coast Highway/Ca # 1 ??

Stu Dudley

janisj May 27th, 2019 03:52 PM

>>We call it "PCH", not "the PCH"<<

You might - but 'we' don't if you mean northern Californians. PCH or The PCH -- doesn't matter - that's a SoCal thing.

It's Hwy 1 or (rarely) the Cabrillo Hwy -- but not PCH.

StuDudley May 27th, 2019 05:06 PM

>> It's Hwy 1 or (rarely) the Cabrillo Hwy -- but not PCH. <<

Actually, California Highway 1 in Marin it is the Shoreline Highway. Once you get into Sonoma Co, it is the Coast Highway. Then when you cross the border into Mendocino, it goes back to the Shoreline Highway. South of San Francisco till Santa Barbara (I think), it is the Cabrillo Highway. Then as far south as the Mexican Border, it is PCH. When it goes through cities, Hwy 1 can change names - like 19th Ave in San Francisco. We lived on PCH in Laguna Beach until 1975, then moved up to the San Francisco area.

Friends & us called it PCH in Southern Calif, they Highway 1 up north here.

More than you wanted to know!!

Stu Dudley

worldwidewinetours May 28th, 2019 04:53 AM

Well.....didn't expect such strong reaction to PCH comment. Sorry, folks. I was born and raised in Huntington Beach. Spent 20+ years in Sonoma. Lived years in Half Moon Bay and Jenner. That's plenty of time in both southern California and northern California. I NEVER heard anyone call it Cabrillo Hwy or Hwy 1. My bad. Just as locals do not call it "Frisco" when referring to San Francisco, or "Cali" when referring to the state of California. Merely trying to give the prospective visitor some helpful tips. At the Korbel Winery once, overheard someone from England say that they were on their way to Mendocino - pronouncing it "Mendo-CHEE-no". I hope I wasn't wrong in pointing out their error, in a nice, polite, informative way. I would certainly want to know if I had been that person.
Anyway, I'm here to help the OP with a visit to wine country. Forgot to mention in my first post: Del Dotto is probably one of the most over-rated wineries in Napa County. Very expensive wines (not all that unusual for Napa, certainly, but the founder of that winery made his money as the king of "info-mercials" and is prone to exaggerate the quality of the wines somewhat), and their idea of making customers happy is to get them drunk so that they will buy more wine. They pour freely. If this is your style, have at it. But they have become known as "Del Blotto" in the industry.
Rombauer: There are many other wineries which offer a premium view. Some people like to go there because their wines are so widely distributed that you can find them anywhere, and they like to be able to say that they went to that winery. Also, there is some of Mr. R's war plane memorabilia on the walls, and the famous cookbooks of Mrs. R on display/for sale. I prefer lesser-known wineries with unique wines at an affordable price.
Frank Family is an excellent choice. Just be aware, as I mentioned in my first post, that it has a Calistoga address. It's a long drive up the valley.....but worth it.
I will make one suggestion for winery in Sonoma County: Ledson. Great venue, good wines at a fair price. Well, OK, one more. Just south of Ledson on Hwy 12 is VJB Winery. Both are family owned and operated, , picnic on site, and they will give you a feel for the more friendly, customer oriented wineries of Sonoma County compared to the snob-ish other valley to the east.
I agree with Janisj about Bodega Bay. Great place. Try lunch at the restaurant right on the water. What's it called? Help, anyone...Tides?

mmmooommm Jun 8th, 2019 01:07 PM

Update: lodging found in St Helena.

worldwidewinetours, many thanks for your input! We are more into what is good wine and a nice tour, than one we can "brag" about going to, if that makes sense. We did find airbnb in St Helena, and being red fans, was our reason for Napa. Glad to hear Frank Family is a good choice and happy to scratch Del Blotto off the list. Yes, bubbly is good, so thought I might include one. "Lesser known wineries with unique wines at an affordable price" sounds up our alley, and knowing we lean red, would love an additional recommendations. Frank Family is still on our list, with your nod of approval! Ledson and VJB Winery are two you mentioned in Sonoma, so will investigate that. Bodega Bay for a day at the beach sounds divine, if you think of the restaurant, I would be interested. Guerneville and Armstrong Redwoods State Park are quite interesting, esp if the latter can take the place of the Muir Woods as Sunday (crowded) would be the best time we could do Muir Woods. And the comment about right hand turns is so wise!! As to your specific questions, #1 not massive buying, as we flew in, but would consider shipping if it makes sense ($). #2 found a place in St Helena, red fans, hear it is a nice town and several walkable options. #3 n/a #4 yes bubbly fans, but one is fine. #5 I would say off the beaten path, but not sure what comfort zone you are referring to. Good versus "Famous"? we will opt for good. Truly, dressing for dinner and crowds of fashionable people is not our thing.

janis, great, will take you up on the bodega recommendation.

Michelle, we will. We don't like to pack up all the time, so 5 nights in St Helena, but road trip to select areas.

Love gardens, views, dives with great food. :)

Sunday 6/30 drive in from SF.

Monday 7/1 Napa.

Tuesday 7/2 (my bday!) Dinner somewhere special but low key. Sonoma

Wed 7/3 Bodega Bay, Armstrong Redwoods ? or more time in N/S

Thurs 7/4 July 4th, TBD

Friday 7/5 Late flight out of SF

Just a rough plan, no reservations other than housing are made...thanks all for your input. xoxo

Underhill Jun 10th, 2019 08:46 AM

Keep in mind the summer heat in the Napa Valley--and the possibility of fires. I'd keep a fairly open itinerary.

maitaitom Jun 10th, 2019 09:15 PM

A couple of other ideas if you tire of wineries:

Jack London State Historical Park ...

and Point Reyes Lighthouse (90 minutes from Bodega Bay) ...

worldwidewinetours Jun 13th, 2019 06:21 AM

You have done a lot with the itinerary....bit overwhelming, I'm sure. Again, no matter where you go - it will be great!! A few more pointers:
I agree with maitaitom that there are other things to do. I cannot recommend Armstrong enough. As far as Point Reyes; great venue, IF it's not foggy and/or windy. And you must bear in mind that it is over a two hour drive there from St. Helena. That's on a good day :)
Just a couple wineries...Loxton, in Glen Ellen. Chris Loxton is an Aussie, very affable. low key, good wines, great prices. Used to be a PHYSICIST!! If you are in the Carneros region (very southern tip of both Napa and Sonoma counties) try Bouchaine. Off the beaten path, great people, very good wines, and a nice view with a history. Also in that area is Artesa. More upscale, little more pricey, but oh, my....the VIEW!!
Re: buying/shipping wines. Just so you know, it is ALWAYS more expensive to ship several bottles than it is to ship an entire case. So what you can do is have the folks at each winery you visit (buy) just put the wines into one of their cardboard carriers. When you have a total of 12 bottles - it won't take very long :) - take those to a shipping company, and pay to have just the one case shipped. At the southern end of the valley, in Napa, there is "Buffalo's shipping post". Up in your neck of the woods in St. Helena there is "55 Degrees". There are others around, too. They will package and ship it all. It is illegal for one winery to ship another wineries product, so they can't combine for you at the wineries.
Dinner: In Sonoma, hands down choose Harvest Moon Cafe right on the plaza (1st Street West). That would be my choice for the "Happy Birthday" meal. One big caveat: be aware that the CHP (California Highway Patrol) are VERY vigilant in this area. Cannot stress enough: UBER.
Last, but certainly not least...if you are in Sonoma/Glen Ellen area around lunch time, that "dive with good food"? Go, go, GO to "Juanita Juanita" on Arnold Drive (it's right on the way between Sonoma ans Glen Ellen) just south of Grove Street. Beware: you have to be HUNGRY :)
Good luck.

mmmooommm Jun 15th, 2019 11:41 AM

Super tips WWWtours, thanks, noted ALL of them on our days and will get a Rez at Harvest Moon Cafe one night. As we might aim to be back to St Helena area for the actual bday evening, is there a recommendation there you would approve keeping in mind our casual/laid back (not the see and be seen) type? Juanitas sounds perfect! WILL DO!

maitaitum, thanks, great pictures and I followed them to your trip. you did luck out on weather!! Great choices, as we will wear out on wine. (It gives me a headache if I drink in the daytime!)

Underhill, will do.

thanks all!

MoBro Jun 20th, 2019 08:02 AM

Wow-- great info from WWWtours! I'm copying and pasting into notes for my next trip. Thanks!

P.S. The one time we went to the Russian River area, we thought it was very pretty.

mmmooommm Jun 24th, 2019 01:53 PM

OK, think Ive got it, with much help from all especially WWW!!!

Sunday, drive in from SF, lunch at Juanita, Juanita then onto Bouchaine for an early afternoon tasting. On into Napa stopping wherever, Napa town center, etc. Up to St Helena to check into hotel, then dinner at Farmstead (Rez).

Monday, loose plans other than a reserved tasting - sparkling and cheese pairing at Schramsberg. Hoping to have an easy lunch, Gott's Roadside? and make it into Yountville for Dinner at Ad Hoc or Ciccio. The former is full but does take walk ins and can get on list early, the latter in a no Rez place.

Tuesday, Rez at Gatehouse for a nice lunch, then explore upper area of Napa. Dinner more casual at Cindy's Backstreet or whatever looks good.

Wednesday, drive to Armstrong Redwood Park, hike a bit, then onto Bodega Bay to see the views. Still looking at eat options.

Thursday, no reservations, casual dining, explore 4th of July activities in Calistoga by day, St. Helena in the evening.

Friday, drive back along the coast, have reservation for Muir Woods (?) but loose plans here too. Late flight out of SFO.

Granted, not too many wineries booked, but with the non refundable fees, I am a bit skittish to go too crazy, knowing how plans can change, and truth be told, I am not a big drinker! Husband likes reds, we both like sparkling, and heart not set on anything! If you have a CAN'T MISS, please let me know, but we are easy, casual, love eats more than drinks, especially dives/good food places!

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