Sonoma or napa?

Apr 7th, 2013, 07:00 AM
  #1  
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Sonoma or napa?

Are Sonoma and napa both worth staying at? Or is one better for a day trip? Interested in food,wine,sightseeing...
Thank you!
dmcq is offline  
Apr 7th, 2013, 11:17 AM
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Here is a blog entry highlighting the key differences between the Sonoma & Napa wine regions. I tend to agree with the author's points.
http://fermentationwineblog.com/2011...sonoma-valley/
bluestar is offline  
Apr 7th, 2013, 11:32 AM
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And just to clarify - you are comparing the Sonoma Valley vs. the Napa Valley, not the towns specifically (though that is addressed in the blog)

We get a lot of questions about 'Which is better, Napa or Sonoma?' and I sometimes fear they don't realize these are regions/valleys - not just the namesake towns.
janisj is online now  
Apr 7th, 2013, 12:54 PM
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We love staying in Healdsburg in the Sonoma Valley--good point, janisj My advice if time is short would be to stay a night in Healdsburg at the Healdsburg Hotel, check out West End Road and Dry Creek wineries, have dinner at Dry Creek Kitchen in the hotel (bring a bottle of Sonoma wine and pay no corkage fee). If you have two nights, have dinner at Scopa, too.

You can also just drive to the Napa Valley from a base camp in the Sonoma Valley, to avoid changing hotels.

I mean, both Napa and Sonoma amply satisfy the criteria of food, wine, and sightseeing. Sonoma is, to my mind, more laid back, more like Napa used to be; Napa is higher octane. But they're both swell.
NewbE is offline  
Apr 7th, 2013, 04:50 PM
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Toss a coin. Both the Napa Valley and Sonoma County wine growing areas are wonderful.
MichelleY is online now  
Apr 7th, 2013, 05:27 PM
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Which one is "better" would also depend on the time of year and the day of the week.

I try very hard to stay away from Napa during the summer, and during a weekend. The two roads north are both packed, with seemingly hundreds of bicyclists.

I like Sonoma County, it's a bit funkier and more laid back.

Although it's written in the 1990s, the book describing the two valleys is still pretty accurate.

http://www.amazon.com/Tale-Two-Valle...der_0767907043

I'm not a big Healdsburg fan. A bit too yuppified for me. I spent 3 days there in March. Many years ago, I used to live in Sonoma County, and Healdsburg was a quiet tiny town.

NewbE describes the classic yuppy trip to Healdsburg. I prefer the laid back area of Glen Ellen, just north of the town of Sonoma.
Rastaguytoday is offline  
Apr 7th, 2013, 08:49 PM
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Ouch! Well, what can I say, we enjoyed the heck out of Healdsburg, but I do see that it is recently spiffed up. We are going back in May--not over a weekend, we aren't that hopeless--and will be sure to check out Glen Ellen. Rasta, I'd consider staying there, too, if you have a suggestion...
NewbE is offline  
Apr 7th, 2013, 10:33 PM
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Great article, bluestar! Captures the two regions perfectly!

Healdsburg may be "yuppified" but it's still less "sophisticated", "geared with an eye to tourism" - whatever you want to call it - than Napa. Healdsburg is more the "center" of Sonoma County winetasting than the town of Sonoma itself.

There are any number of winetasting places located in and around the Healdsburg Square, which is a bonus, since one can do quite a bit of "tasting" without having to drive. "On" the Square, where the wineries are usually open every day, we tend to favor the smaller wineries, such as Selby and Toad Hollow. However, what is "good" really depends on which year. There is no one particular wine or year that is consistently good each year - but that's the fun of winetasting.

"Off" the Square, one of our favorite tasting area is still in the town of Healdsburg but not on the main square. It's slightly south on Front Street and consists of the Davis Family Winery, the Holdredge Winery and several other smaller wineries; usually open only on the weekends.

If you do drive over to the town of Sonoma, try looking in the Sonoma Market which is more the place where locals meet rather than the famous town square. I love the cheese selection there. The store is like a Whole Foods without the hype.

The prime resource for Sonoma County winetasting is this:

http://www.wineroad.com/

You can tell I prefer Sonoma County, don't you?
easytraveler is offline  
Apr 8th, 2013, 08:35 AM
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I would choose Sonoma for the sightseeing. There are more historical sights, beginning with the town square of Sonoma itself and the buildings around it, including the only mission built after Mexican independence. There is the mid-19th cent. house of General Vallejo. There's Valley of the Moon, Jack London's ranch now a State Historic Park with the ruins of his Wolf house and the house his wife had built furnished with their South Pacific memorabilia.
Michael is online now  
Apr 8th, 2013, 11:46 AM
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I like them both. Sonoma is a bit more laid back, but Napa has better dining. For Sonoma, I would stay in Healdsburg, because I want proximity to wineries and restaurants - I'm there to taste wine, not discover "hidden California". For Napa, I like St Helena, again for proximity, though the dining in Napa itself is improving.
travelgourmet is offline  
Apr 10th, 2013, 09:45 AM
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Bookmarking...Just booked tickets last night for late September - early October.

NewbE, enjoy you trip and please report back.
travfirst is offline  
Apr 10th, 2013, 10:01 AM
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sf7307 is offline  
Apr 10th, 2013, 12:15 PM
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I'll take Sonoma as well - better site seeing, closer to the Coast & approachable winemakers versus the snobbery that seems to prevail in many Napa locales.
SAnParis2 is offline  
Apr 10th, 2013, 12:34 PM
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versus the snobbery that seems to prevail in many Napa locales

I honestly have no idea what wineries people are visiting in Napa that they encounter snobbery. Rehearsed maybe, but not snobbish. The vast majority of the people I encounter at the wineries in Napa and Sonoma are incredibly friendly.
travelgourmet is offline  
Apr 10th, 2013, 02:54 PM
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Thanks for the interest, travfirst, I will!

travelgourmet, I have never, ever encountered snobbery at a winery, not in Napa, not in Sonoma, not in Willamette Valley. Staff and other visitors have always been friendly and generous in sharing ideas and information. I think that people who don't know much about wine may feel self-conscious, but they shouldn't, because first of all, everyone starts somewhere, and secondly, there's nothing wine people like better than to share their love of wine.
NewbE is offline  
Apr 10th, 2013, 09:37 PM
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The Napa Valley gets my vote for the plentiful restaurant choices, from Napa up valley to Calistoga.
Underhill is online now  
Apr 11th, 2013, 04:01 AM
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Well, I like them both.

To me, Napa looks like Tuscany. Sonoma County is far more varied, with treeless hills that look like English downland and Point Reyes that looks like the foggy coast of Northumberland combined with places like Healdsburg that are pure California. I like driving the twist Oak Grade road between the two.

The downside of Sonoma for me is having to cope with Santa Rosa. There may be beautiful parts, but you don't seem them on the highway. So try to find a way to avoid it.
Ackislander is offline  
Apr 11th, 2013, 06:47 AM
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I prefer the Sonoma area. There are certainly lots of attractions right there and it is centrally located for driving either east to Napa or west to Dry Creek, the Anderson Valley and the coast.
kvick is offline  
Apr 11th, 2013, 08:30 AM
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I would also add that the exhorbitant tasting fees at some wineries in much of Napa you may also want to consider...My experiences may differ from others, but to me it is an easy choice. For example - We traveled to Ledson a few yearsa ago in Sonoma & they hosted my friends & I, 7 of us all together. We tasted well over 20 wines, in a private tasting room, were given food, met the owners & winemakers, etc. all, for free...Granted, we spent some $$ while we were there, but they had no idea whether we would or not. We were just frequent visitors, nothing more....Sonoma baby!
SAnParis2 is offline  
Apr 11th, 2013, 09:57 AM
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I would also add that the exhorbitant tasting fees at some wineries in much of Napa

Most wineries in Sonoma charge as well, but I would agree that the tasting fees are usually $5 to $10 higher in Napa, at least at the quality wineries.

My experiences may differ from others, but to me it is an easy choice. For example - We traveled to Ledson a few yearsa ago in Sonoma & they hosted my friends & I, 7 of us all together. We tasted well over 20 wines, in a private tasting room, were given food, met the owners & winemakers, etc. all, for free...Granted, we spent some $$ while we were there, but they had no idea whether we would or not. We were just frequent visitors, nothing more....

Your experience most certainly does differ from others. Ledson charges for tastings, they charge extra for private tastings, and they charge extra for food. Your experience has a list price of $40 to $50 per person (or more, depending upon the food). My guess is that you weren't charged for one of the normal reasons: you bought wine, some or many in your group are residents of the area, or some or many in your group are members of the wine club. All of those exclusions are normal in Sonoma and Napa.

I would also note that Ledson is somewhat unique in that they are completely a direct sales winery and something of a "lifestyle" company trying to sell their hotel, event spaces, and real estate. Frankly, I don't think you could find a more "Disneyesque" winery experience in Napa, save maybe for Beringer or Mondavi. And Beringer and Mondavi both produce wines that are much more highly regarded than what Ledson produces. I don't want to slag on Ledson too much, but it would be among the last places I would mention if I were trying to contrast Napa and Sonoma.
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