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not to be missed Napa/Sonoma wineries for red wine lovers?

not to be missed Napa/Sonoma wineries for red wine lovers?

Old Aug 5th, 2009, 03:03 PM
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not to be missed Napa/Sonoma wineries for red wine lovers?

Going in November. We love red wine - no white wine please!!!! Huge fan of Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, some Cab's. Usually drink Italian Reds vs Californians, so a bit unfamiliar with. Any recommendations for not to be missed wineries for tasting/tours? There are so many - it's hard to narrow down and figure out where to go. We will have two long weekends in wine country Sat afternoon - Tues AM, with SF in between. any advice is appreciated! thanks.
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Old Aug 5th, 2009, 03:31 PM
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The best italian style wines I've tasted in the area have been at Viansa Winery in southern Sonoma. Excellent wines, beautiful building on top of a hill, and wonderful views of the valley.

There is also Castello di Amorosa which is in Napa County, between St. Helena and Calistoga. Their wines are very good, and they have an incredible castle replica building that is just stunning.

I certainly haven't been to all or many wineries in Napa or Sonoma, but of those I've been to, my absolute favorite is Iron Horse, which is off of River Road in Sonoma County. Their reds are outstanding. Also, they have a very simple and rustic tasting patio that has beautiful valley views.
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Old Aug 5th, 2009, 04:46 PM
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I also like Italian reds and really enjoyed Castello di Amorosa. As stated above, the castle is gorgeous and the the tour is well worthwhile. It's like being in Italy - almost!
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Old Aug 6th, 2009, 10:48 AM
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We love Stryker Winery in the Alexander Valley


fabulous, modern tasting room in a beautiful setting with excellent Petite Verdot (my favorite), Zinfandel, Cab Franc; everything here we enjoy.

The Alexander Valley is not only scenic, but chalk full of excellent wineries.

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Old Aug 6th, 2009, 02:10 PM
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for Zins and Cabs, here are my picks...Near the town of Sonoma, Ravenswood & Gundlach Bundscho. In Healdsburg, Rosenblum tasting room. Dry Creek Valley
Visit Ferrari-Carano.
In Napa on the Silverado Trail is Rombauerm great Zins & cabs

For Pinot - Artesa, Mahoney, Nichloson Ranch and Dehlinger.
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Old Aug 6th, 2009, 02:48 PM
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it's been years but Matanzas creek was lovely. I also enjoyed Hop Kiln and Souverain.
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Old Aug 6th, 2009, 03:00 PM
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"Dry Creek Valley
Visit Ferrari-Carano."

I agree!
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Old Aug 6th, 2009, 04:13 PM
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If you are going to Dry Creek Valley, make a reservation at A Rafanelli.

My son-in-law and I did only a tasting (and purchase) so I'm not certain if a tour is available. The tasting was very personal: we had made an appointment and we were the only customers scheduled for that time! They produce a limited quantity of zin, cab, and merlot.

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Old Aug 6th, 2009, 05:08 PM
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Ferrari Carano also gets a thumbs up here; we've spent a lot of time in italy and have shipped a lot of wine over the years - around 3000 bottles in the cellar as of now; we liked Duckhorn, Opus(a bit pretentious), Silver Oak, Stags Leap and for a little off the beatne path, Goose Crossing.
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Old Aug 6th, 2009, 06:18 PM
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Old Aug 6th, 2009, 06:34 PM
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I agree about Viansa. The winery is lovely and they have great gourmet goodies.
If you like Pinot Noir, my fave is at Duckhorn in Napa on the Silverado trail. They taste excellent Merlot's but the Goldeneye Pinot Noir is so, so excellent - drink it slow and let it really open up. The Paradux us great too. You need a reservation and the cost is about $15 per person, but it is a great tasting sitting down at a table in a beautiful room, save an hour for this place alone. They are very generous in the wines you can taste... Cline (right past Viansa on the left) has some nice ancient vines. Our friends who are wine snobs love the reds at V Sattui, but not my fave. In Sonoma there is Hop Kiln - very inexpensive but excellent reds and even though you dont like whites their Thousand Flowers is teriffic. Hop Kiln's Malbec is very good as well.
Those are my tops. Have fun -
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Old Aug 6th, 2009, 08:09 PM
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Everyone has their own opinion about wines and wineries; you'll get a variety. I'm not fond of Castello di Amarosa wines (Sattui) and prefer red wines from Napa Valley rather than Sonoma. I LOVE cabernet from Peju Winery in Rutherford as well as their Zins. Also Freimark Abbey in St.Helena.
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Old Aug 7th, 2009, 07:20 AM
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thank you all so much for your suggestions!!! It is really helping me narrow it down. I can't wait to taste all these lovely wines
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Old Aug 7th, 2009, 08:43 AM
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Silver Oak, Duckhorn, Ferrari-Carrano, Silverado, Ravenswood.
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Old Aug 7th, 2009, 09:01 AM
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I also prefer reds over whites. My favorites in Napa are Chimney Rock and Artesa. Also just found a smaller place called Bouchaine - excellent reds (and I actually loved their Chardonnay that doesn't taste like your typical Chardonnay).

In Sonoma County, we also loved Hop Kiln, Preston (organic) and Lambert Bridge. Quivira (also organic) is wonderful, although their whites (Sauvignon Blanc) are their best.

Any interest in sparkling wines? Domaine Carneros (Taittinger) is great and they also do a very nice Pinot Noir.

November is a wonderful time to go. We were there November last year.
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Old Aug 7th, 2009, 09:06 AM
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I second the recommendation for A. Rafanelli in the Dry Creek area of Sonoma. Also, Bella which is nearby. If you click on my name, there's a trip report from our last trip in the fall of 2007.

You also can't go wrong with visiting Ravenswood (for their zins) and Silver Oak.
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Old Aug 7th, 2009, 09:39 AM
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Here is maitaiTracy's list (below) she compiled for a friend that includes Napa, Sonoma, Alexander and Bennett valleys. It includes lodging, restaurants and wineries (it also includes whites and places to taste sparkling wines, too, but maybe you will expand your red horizons to taste at one of these places).

"We much prefer Sonoma county to Napa. However, both valleys both offer lots to do and see.

Napa & Environs **********

We don't usually taste in Napa, very crowded, a little snootier (in our opinion) and they charge everywhere for tasting ... however, that being said, when we do taste up there we prefer the wineries along the Silverado Trail which runs parallel to the road from Napa to Calistoga and is always less crowded. Mumm's, Duckhorn, Chimney Rock, Rombauer, Silver Oak are on that side of the valley. If Silver Oak is too busy, they have a tasting room in the Alexander Valley too. Rombauer is well worth the stop. Definitely taste the Joan's Vineyard Zinfandel at Rombauer. Only sold at the winery. Fabulous, as are all their wines – check out the chardonnay, yummy (is that a wine tasting term?)

For sparkling wines try:

http://www.domainecarneros.com/ --- owned by French champagne house, Tattinger

http://mummnapa.com/index.cfm - Mumm's has a gorgeous outdoor tasting area overlooking the vineyards -- they serve flights of champagne. It gets very crowded.

http://www.schramsberg.com/ - Schramsburg gives a really good tour & tasting ($25/person) but you need reservations as it is at the end of a dirt road through the forest, up the mountain, gorgeous --

http://cliffledevineyards.com/wines/ - in Napa, I have not been here but friends have and said it has nice gardens and good art collection. Their cabernet is DELICIOUS, AMAZING, but a tad EXPENSIVE! They also have a sparkling wine.

If you need a limo contact Beau Wine Tours -- I think we paid $350 for 6 hrs. and lunch. Well worth it as there are cops everywhere in Napa. www.beauwinetours.com

Napa Restaurants

http://www.cuveenapa.com/ - restaurant in Napa. Really good food but a tad noisy.
http://www.bistrodongiovanni.com/ - I like this place, noisy, crowded Italian but good food
http://www.angelerestaurant.com/ - I have heard good things about this place but have not been there -- it is in Napa

Napa Lodging -- lots of choices in all price ranges in Napa

Meadowood is outside Napa on the Silverado Trail – gorgeous and expensive
River Terrace Inn – new hotel on the river, not very exciting but it might be less expensive
Milliken Creek Inn – www.millikencreekinn.com Some friends of ours stayed here and liked it
Napa River Inn – www.napariverinn.com I have been in the lobby and restaurant (General Store), my Dad says this is a really nice place

La Residence Inn – B&B we stayed at our wedding night in Napa on the road to Yountville
Blackbird Inn – one of the Four Sisters Inn - www.blackbirdinnnapa.com


Yountville which is just north of Napa has tons of really good restaurants too.

Domain Chandon is always crowded but very modern facility, personally I would skip it -- you can get Chandon at BevMo. If you do go here, be sure to taste their pink Etoille sparking wine.

Of course, French Laundry is there but I understand you need reservations a year in advance and an entire paycheck to eat there. Ad Hoc (French Laundry guy) menu changes daily, really good but gets crowded.

www.brix.com - I really like Brix but for some reasons the foodie people snub it. nestled in vineyards, nice views. Fabulous brunch on Sunday.

http://www.hurleysrestaurant.com/ - We have had several good meals at Hurleys; outdoor seating
http://www.reddnapavalley.com/ - this place was quite the buzz when it opened, supposed to be good
Mustard's Grill – We have not been here but I understand the food is great
Bistro Jeanty - French bistro food (check out the menu, Tom and I had a fabulous meal here but when I went with the girls they didn't see anything they wanted to try)

Bouchon - French seafood place --- good cocktails

Yountville Lodging

Napa Valley Lodge (expensive); Villagio Inn & Spa (expensive); Maison Fleurie – a Four Sisters Inn (when we stayed here last time needed some updating); Lavender – also a Four Sisters Inn

Follow Silverado Trail from Napa to Calistoga (do not take Hwy. 29 through Yountville/St. Helena – too crowded).

Cut across to Hwy. 128 at Calistoga – lots of cute restaurants and shopping. Chateau Montelena is worth a stop to taste if you have time (do the library tasting).

Follow the signs on Hwy. 128 through the Alexander Valley to Healdsburg. Lots of wineries along this route. Check out www.wdcv.com for a list of winegrowers and events in the Dry Creek Valley and www.wineroad.com for Russian River wineries.

Healdsburg is a small town around a quaint square with lots of shopping, antiques and restaurants, including:

Restaurant Charcuterie www.charcuterierestaurant.com -- is on the west side of the square. A small, cozy French cafe painted pink with pig décor (charcuterie is French for pig), the menu is posted on a large black board and changes with the seasons. This restaurant is extremely popular with the locals and reservations are recommended. At the suggestion of our innkeeper, both of us had the rib eye steak with gorgonzola sauce which was delicious, but huge. I definitely recommend that you share this particular entrée and try some of the other side dishes or salads.

Zin Restaurant and Wine Bar, one block north of the square is another of our favorites. A wide variety of zinfandels (surprise!) are available on the menu. The spicy, Mexican beer battered green beans are our favorite. Be sure to share these -- the order it quite large.

The Ravenous is another tremendous restaurant located a few blocks off the square. Housed in a small bungalow, the interior of which was gutted and painted pumpkin to make one large dining area. There is also outdoor dining on either the deck or in the garden. We shared cabbage rolls stuffed with hamburger, pancetta and spinach as appetizer. We both had the skirt steak with lime chipotle cumin sauce served with roasted potatoes, peppers and onions ($23) for dinner and still managed to squeeze in apple crunch with wild honey gelato for dessert ($7.75). Once again, portions large enough to share.

Two other spots with great outdoor patios and people watching are Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen located in the Hotel Healdsburg and Willy's Seafood.

The Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant located just 13 miles from Healdsburg in nearby Forestville, was listed in the San Francisco Chronicle's 2003 Top 100 restaurants. For dessert, I highly recommend the chocolate soufflé -- rich, warm and served with a side of melted chocolate poured over the top. www.farmhouseinn.com

Wine tasting in Healdsburg includes the very fun Seghesio Winery – great zins. We are former wine club members here until we acquired too much zin (is that possible?). http://www.seghesio.com/

Healdsburg lodging – lots of B&B in this area
Hotel Healdsburg – new, hip and trendy, on the square in Healdsburg
Raford House – B&B in a vineyard www.rafordhouse.com

About ten minutes north of Healdsburg is the small berg of Geyserville. Santi Restaurant is housed in an historic building (look for the rustic "taverna" sign), delicious Italian food and has a romantic patio for warm-weather dining. The wine shop next door is called Locals – they feature over 62 wines from 10 unique award-winning smaller vineyards in the area (we are wine club members here). I believe we have tasted them all, and I am sure we have purchased them all! http://www.tastelocalwines.com/

Geyserville Inn - www.geyservilleinn.com; nothing exciting except it is reasonably priced, adjacent to a vineyard and next door to good place for breakfast, there is also a pool.

Also in the nearby Alexander Valley we love Stryker Winery http://www.strykersonoma.com/default.aspx – fabulous, modern tasting room, excellent Petite Verdot, Zinfandel, Cab Franc, everything here is great. The Alexander Valley is not only scenic, but chalk full of excellent wineries.

Crossing under the freeway from Healdsburg (at the end of the road is Madrona Manor http://www.madronamanor.com/ - recently received a Michelin star rating) – turn left where the road curves and you are on the Dry Creek Road --- beautiful drive through the oak trees. If you turn right, you go on narrow, 2-lane road, curves past some off the beaten path wineries – Lambert Bridge Winery is good stop. www.lambertbridge.com

Ferrari-Carano is at the north end near Lake Sonoma. Beautiful winery and gardens. Sometimes too crowded. Do the library tasting downstairs if you have time.

Pick up a wine map – Korbel is definitely worth the drive – technically it is in the Russian River Valley. www.korbel.com Turn right at the end of Dry Creek Road to get there. Good place to go for lunch and sit outside in the redwoods. They have beautiful gardens and garden tours here during the summer. If you turn left at the end of Dry Creek Road, follow signs for J (they have food pairing with their wines) and Jordan. Foppiano Winery has great Sangiovese. Loads of wineries. The roads criss-cross all over in this area. Just follow the big white sign posts.

If you continue on the road past Korbel you will end up at the beach near Bodega Bay, home of Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds.

Going the other direction – north from Healdsburg towards Geyserville. You can cut across at Cloverdale and go to Mendocino. Winding scenic drive through the forest. Takes about an hour and half to two hours to get to Mendocino. Scharffenberger and Roederer sparkling wineries are along the way. Don't drive this at night – too dark and curvy.

If you happen near Santa Rosa, be sure to arrange a tour at Mantazas Creek, home of wine and lavender nestled in the Bennett Valley area. http://www.matanzascreek.com/

SONOMA ************
The town of Sonoma is also very cute with lots of shopping and restaurants. Historical stuff like the Mission, courthouse, Jack London State Park. The General's Daughter restaurant is just off the square in an old farm house, dining in the garden if it is warm enough. Good food. I understand The Girl and the Fig is a very popular restaurant too (www.thegirlandthefig.com) The Swiss Hotel is on the square in Sonoma with good, casual good food, seems like the locals eat here. Gundlach Bundschu is a fun winery on the outskirts of Sonoma – one of the oldest in California, established in 1858 -- their wine club has lots of events (www.gunbun.com ). I don't know why, but we have never stayed long in Sonoma, usually just pass through but I believe there are lots of places to stay and things to do here.

LODGE AT SONOMA: 1325 Broadway, Sonoma, Calif., www.thelodgeatsonoma.com/sonoma-valley.html

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Old Aug 7th, 2009, 04:24 PM
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wow maitaitom/tracy!!! thank you for this awesome, detailed list, so appreciated!
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Old Sep 1st, 2009, 07:36 AM
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bookmarking, thanks so much!
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Old Sep 1st, 2009, 07:53 AM
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Domaine Carneros and Nicholson Ranch are two great places to wine taste in Napa. In Sonoma, we like Gundlach-Bundschu, Bartholomew Park, Buena Vistta and Ravenswood. Sonoma produces some fantastic Zins and Merlots. Enjoy! ***kim***
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