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Sonoma Valley

Old Sep 8th, 2009, 10:43 AM
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Sonoma Valley

Going to Sonoma Valley for a few days in mid-October and plan to stay at two locations. Can't decide between Glen Ellen or Sonoma for first stop which would be for 3 nights, unless that is too much time. Suggestions for a second town to spend two nights in (thinking of Healdsburg, Guerneville, or Calistoga). We're looking to be 'centrally located', to take day trips from wherever we end up staying. We want to stay in the wine country during the week and finish up in SF for 2 nights or so and fly home from there. Any suggestions of a better itineray? I am thinking we will ditch the car once we get into SF and take mass transit or cabs.
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Old Sep 8th, 2009, 10:51 AM
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Hello! We love staying in Sonoma at the Sonoma Mission Inn. I would go with Healdsburg as your second destination, we have enjoyed stays at the Hotel Healdsburg and the Healdsburg Inn @ the Plaza, a smaller venue, both are right on the square in Healdsburg. You can walk to Cyrus from both places, one of the finest restaurants in the wine country.

Let me know if you have any specific questions about any of the places I've mentioned and enjoy your trip! ***kim***
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Old Sep 8th, 2009, 10:51 AM
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Calistoga is in the Napa Valley, and is the northern end. If you are looking to spend time in Napa, you might want to look more centrally like St. Helena. You didn't specify price range, St. Helena is a bit pricy, we stayed in Yountville last year at a small B & B whose name escapes me. We have also stayed in Calistoga and as I mentioned it is way north. In Sonoma we always stay in Santa Rosa, so I can't comment on the other towns you mention. Have a great time, DH and I love it there.
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Old Sep 8th, 2009, 11:18 AM
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>>

Calistoga is north, but I just wanted to add that "way north" is only about 20 miles.
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Old Sep 8th, 2009, 11:34 AM
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We always stay over on the Coast near Jenner, from there you can enjoy the 'Coastal appellation' as well as have a 'back-door' into Sonoma (as well as enjoy the Ocean as well). This area is where the Russian River (almost) meets the Pacific. Riverhttp://www.vineyardstars.com/sonoma.html, http://www.russianrivertravel.com/towns_occidental.htm, www.osmosis.com
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Old Sep 8th, 2009, 11:36 AM
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I'm not a big fan of staying in the city of Sonoma as a base, and I think you can find better "expensive" wine country hotels than the Sonoma Mission Inn (unles you're going to indulge in the spa activities). The Sonoma Square is quite nice, but as soon as you get much beyond that, the rest of Sonoma is not that interesting and has some pretty ugly sections - specifically around the Sonoma Mission Inn. Glen Ellen is a cute villge - but I would not want to stay there 3 nights unless you want quite a bit of solitude in the evening.

My two favorite cities in the wine country are Healdsburg & St Helena (in that order) - so that's where I would stay. Both are perfectly located & have many excellent restaurants.

Five nights is a long time to spend just in the Wine Country, Perhaps plan a trip or two to the Sonoma Coast north of Bodega Bay, or spend a day at Pt Reyes Natl Seashore.

Stu Dudley
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Old Sep 8th, 2009, 04:25 PM
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Thanks for all the very good info. I am trying to figure out how many nights/days we should stay in wine country. I'm trying to avoid the pack/unpack/pack/unpack syndrome. Stu, are you saying to stay either in Healdsburg and St. Helena, OR just pick one of them as the base and go on from there. I'm planning on a bit over a week for this trip, so would 'wine country and SF' take up that time, or is there any itinerary you'd recommend? The reason I thought Glen Ellen might be the place to base our trip out of was because we were recommended to Calabasas B & B in Glen Ellen, which sounds very nice, has the week we are going open, and was nto outrageously priced. What would you suggest as our 'base' and for how many nights? I'm hoping all of our 'day tripping' will be an hour or less drive.

Thanks, everyone, for all your help!
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Old Sep 8th, 2009, 05:07 PM
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Lori, initially we were going to stay in Santa Rosa, I believe at The Gables, but then someone told us it was too much of a city, and that we should stay in a more rural location. That was when I started doing more research, and now I think I'm just getting confused! I really just want a central location to make day trips from (one hour or less), and am trying to ascertain how many days to stay in wine country. I would also like to visit the coast while we are there. Where in NY are you from? We are from NJ.
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Old Sep 8th, 2009, 05:24 PM
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If you wanted to stay in 1 location - I would stay in Healdsburg. From there you could:

1. Explore the pretty Dry Creeek Valley & Russian River Valley

2. Get to Calistoga & St Helena in the Napa Valley in less than 1 hr on a beautiful drive through the Alexander Valley.

3. Get to the coast (Jenner) in less than 1 hr (through Guereneville - which is worth a stop) on another pretty drive - and then north along the coast.

If you stay in the Napa Valley, #3 is difficult and the Dry Creek Valley & Russian River Valley vineyards are further away - greater than 1 hr, I think.

If you stay in Glen Ellen, to get to #1 & #2, you'll have to drive through Santa Rosa - which is unsightly.

Glen Ellen is really small - not much there to amuse you if you get back from your day trips early in the day. The Square in Healdsburg is a better place to "hang out" after day trips. Morning coffee & sticky buns at the Downtown Bakery in Healdsburg is an event in itself.

St Helena is also a nice place to hang out.

Five days is OK if you include 1 or 2 days on the coast.

Stu Dudley
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Old Sep 8th, 2009, 05:42 PM
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Thanks Stu - is there any place in Healdsburg that you would recommend to stay?
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Old Sep 8th, 2009, 08:46 PM
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We have close friends who live there - so we always stay with them.

Stu Dudley
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Old Sep 9th, 2009, 04:53 AM
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So far I've been unlucky securing a reservation for more than two nights, but am awaiting another reply. I may be able to get a nice place in Sebastopol, would you recommend that location? Hopefully, I be able to find a place in Healdsburg.
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Old Sep 9th, 2009, 06:07 AM
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Even having to drive through Santa Rosa can be a chore.
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Old Sep 9th, 2009, 07:18 AM
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>>I may be able to get a nice place in Sebastopol, would you recommend that location?
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Old Sep 9th, 2009, 07:23 AM
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Hope-Merril B&B
Hope-Bosworth B&B
in Geyserville.

Healdsburg is better, however. There are several B&Bs there too.

Stu Dudley
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Old Sep 9th, 2009, 12:43 PM
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I think Sebastopol would be fine, actually, and it's pretty late in the game to be getting a reservation during what is probably the most popular time of the year to be here in Sonoma County or in Napa County.

It's really quite easy to shoot up to the Healdsburg area using Hwy 116/Mirabel Rd./Wohler Rd and either the Eastside Rd. or Westside Rd.-(and therefore avoiding the current construction on Hwy 101) before Healdsburg
there are many other scenic areas in the Russian River appellation, loads of wineries in the Graton and Forestville area.

Closer to Healdsburg you can easily spend an afternoon on Westside Road, go further north and prowl the Dry Creek Valley. Head over east of Hwy 101 and explore the Alexander Valley - the Jimtown store is a great place for lunch here.

From Sebastopol, you have easy access out to the coast out at Bodega Bay and the Salmon Creek State Beaches. Continue
north on Hwy 1 to Jenner and consider dining at River's End
restaurant www.ilovesunsets.com

A tad south of Jenner you can pickup Hwy 116 East and have a lovely drive through towering redwoods and visit Rio Nido
and Guerneville. The Armstrong Woods state park is worth a few hours.

If you go out to the coast from Sebastopol and go south on
Hwy 1 through Valley Ford you could head for the Pt. Reyes National Seashore-lots to do out here. On the way, stop in Marshall for a meal at Nick's Cove.

Quite close to Sebastopol is the quaint little burg of
Occidental. Arrive around 9 AM at Wild Flour Bakery for a one of their delicious sticky buns. If you like to spa and indulge in a massage, consider a few hours at Osmosis. The family style Italian food at the Union Hotel or Negri's is always a hoot.

If you want to visit Sonoma valley for the day-hop on
Hwy 12 and head east. You will skim a bit of the eastern portion of Santa Rosa at the start, yet soon you will encounter wineries all along the way into Sonoma town in the Valley of the Moon. Stroll around the square,
pop into shops and try to pick a restaurant from a multitude of choices.

For a day in the Napa Valley from Sebastopol, head out on Hwy 12 East again, turn left at the intersection of Calistoga Road & Hwy 12, this will take you into Calistoga at
the northern tip of the Napa Valley. You can also acess
Napa via hwy 128 from the Alexander Valley in Geyserville.

So, no, Healdsburg isn't a must, as the only place to stay.

R5
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Old Sep 10th, 2009, 05:42 AM
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What about the Beltane Ranch? Everyone seems to give it great reviews?
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Old Sep 10th, 2009, 07:25 AM
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susieQ122,

We've stayed at 410 Matheson in Healdsburg and loved it. Here's the link (and you can look at the reviews on TripAdvisor too):
http://www.410matheson.com/

Although they bill themselves as a B&B, it's so luxurious. We stayed in the separate guest house in the back, which is really wonderful. Think "Ralph Lauren" with a wonderful breakfast served in a basket at your door in the AM.

As many of the posters here, we found H'burg to be an excellent jumping off point for the rest of Sonoma. The town itself is charming and has great food and wine options. Ask the locals, they'll give you good tips.

Enjoy!

LisaG
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Old Sep 10th, 2009, 04:57 PM
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saving this for our 'mid October' adventure. We weren't going to book, but sounds like maybe we should? Will check out all these suggestions.
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Old Sep 10th, 2009, 07:37 PM
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SusieQ122,

Seems like you are getting a lot of conflicting advice! I will likely make it worse, but here goes nothing. As a long time visitor to both Sonoma, Healdsburg, Napa, St. Helena, Yountville, and Wine Country in general, they are all nice - California Wine Country is nice. On this, and many other, forum(s) you will get the old "Napa vs. Sonoma" and even closer to home and what you are experiencing, the "Sonoma Town vs. Healdsburg vs. other smaller areas of Sonoma County.

My two cents is that the are all nice, but different - Sonoma Town is quaint and charming - certainly not upscale, but you can get food on the Plaza equal to anything you will get in San Francisco or New York. Healdsburg is more upscale and is becoming a bit snobbish - many will remember that Healdsburg and the Healdsburg Plaza used to be sleepy and uneventful until the Hotel Healdsburg came to town. No doubt it was charming, but not the "frou-frou" tourist destination it has become.

Other areas such as Glen Ellen, Sebastopol, Guernville, Forrestville, and Cloverdale are small communities that are beautiful, but don't have a lot going on - if you stay more than one or two nights you have to go to another place to have dinner...

So, without further ado, here are some of my choices for lodging:

Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn: Despite some of the above comments, we have stayed here several times and it is always nice with mostly impeccable service; the spa is beautiful; the rooms are nice - they have remodeled some and not others though; and, in general terms, the food is good - especially breakfast and lunch by the pool. The downsides (if there are any) are that the restaurant and the front desk staff can be a bit standoffish; and the location is in what I have others term "a rundown area;" I would only say that it is simply a residential neighborhood where a lot of the people who work in Sonoma's tourism industry live - but it is sort of "county like." And while it is slightly removed from Sonoma town - it is still close enough - when we have stayed, we catch the SMI shuttle into Sonoma and taxi back (about $10 maximum) Otherwise, I would recommend SMI over the other properties. And, I would also note that many people who don't like or pan the SMI is because they got a "special" hotel deal on one of the expediter websites and got a room in the "old" building where the rooms are rather small and cramped - many have been remodeled, some have not - we recommend getting one of the rooms in the "out" buildings. Having said that, the Mission Inn is expensive and unless you can get a cheaper room, is probably, admittedly, not worth what you will pay, i.e., not over $250 a night...

Kenwood Inn: Kenwood is another beautiful property with impeccable service, a great restaurant, and a nice spa. The grounds are beautiful, the staff is great, and the rooms, while some are quite small, are charming. I can also highly recommend this property. The property is removed from the main town of Sonoma (in Kenwood) and restaurants so if driving to dinner is a concern, then you would want to consider this. And some people have complained about "traffic noise" coming off route 12 going past the Kenwood Inn - we did not have this issue, but then we are both "city dwellers" from the Bay Area and used to live off Van Ness Avenue in SF, so, we probably just thought it was quieter than home...

The Lodge at Sonoma: though it has gone downhill a bit and is under newish management this is a nice property – while they have remodeled, they also raised prices and for what they charge, there are much nicer places to stay. Don't get me wrong, it's a nice property, nice rooms, but the service could use improving and the prices they are now charging seem extravagant (maybe upwards of $399 or higher a night) when we stayed there when they first opened, and again about two years later for half that rate or less...

The Glen Ellen Inn: In, obviously Glen Ellen just sort of northwest of Sonoma. They have beautiful little cottages on a creek side – they (the cottages) look very Italian. They also run the Glen Ellen Restaurant and we liked the food there as well. Probably the best “inexpensive” accommodations in Wine Country.

Madrona Manor: Just outside of Healdsburg. Don't mean to sound like a parrot, but this, too, is a nice property - some of the rooms are a bit frou-frou Victorian (we recommend the "Schoolhouse" suites), but the service is impeccable. But it is removed from the main town area and to go to dinner, one has to drive, so also keep this in mind. They have a nice, but pricey restaurant on premises w/a great chef.

Hotel Healdsburg - I would not stay here - they definitely have a service problem - I gave them several chances and the service is just awful. It is a beautiful property with lots of glitches. However, after the number of years they have been open, they still seem to have service issues. Wonderful Spa and sporadic restaurant in the Dry Creek Kitchen.

Les Mars Hotel is beautiful, but extremely pricey. But an incredible place – one of the best (if not the best) hotels we have stayed in. The service is impeccable and the rooms are elegant and decorated with period pieces – I believe most of the rooms have fireplaces. Les Mars is the ultimate luxury for a special occasion, anniversary, 50th birthday, etc. Great restaurant with Cyrus. I can honestly say that if you have the money to spend, this is the place to go.

Hotel DuChamp - it is a wonderful little place in a modern art, cubist sort of way with excellent service. Named after the artist "duChamp" which the rooms reflect, but the people who run it are great, nice, and very helpful re: dinners, tours, etc.

The Farmhouse Inn: In Forrestville – nice place – they have just added on to the property and now have more rooms. Overall, this is sort of “Bed&Breakfast” meets “Country Inn.” The restaurant here is incredible. But don't expect an hotel w/hotel service - they have separate cottages ranging from smallish to less small and while they are nicely decorated, I have heard complaints about road noise - again, it did not bother us and for what it was and advertised as, it's a great property - you just need to know that going in. Again, it is a bit pricey for what you get, but that's just California Wine Country - seemingly even in this down economy...

Hope the above helps, if you need any more of my gratuitous advice on other lodging, meals, wineries, etc. or have questions on any of the above, please ask.

Perigrinator.
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