Wine Country

Old Jan 16th, 2017, 05:15 AM
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Wine Country

We are coming to wine country from the east coast in April for 4 days, 5 nights; Looking forward to seeing wine country and tasting different wines. Have only been to San Diego before - we like out of the ordinary places, not into big commercial areas - can anyone recommend which wine country area to visit and share suggestions of making the most of 4 days in the area.
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Old Jan 16th, 2017, 06:32 AM
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Wine country covers a lot of different areas. We've been to wine country north of SF about 6 times - it's a very beautiful part of the world. In general I prefer Sonoma over Napa, it's more rural,and the wineries tend to be smaller. Of course Napa valley is also fabulous. The further away from SF the less crowded and cheaper the wine tastings. If I were to pick an ideal spot to base myself it might be Healdsburg. If you want less expensive and less touristy, Cloverdale is a good option.
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Old Jan 16th, 2017, 08:27 AM
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There is a lot of "wine country" in California. In Southern (Temecula), Central (Paso Robles) and Northern (Napa, El Dorado and Amador). Depends on what you are looking for.

Amador and El Dorado Counties (Sierra Foothills-Gold Country) resemble what Napa/Sonoma was over 30 years ago. I find the Napa/Sonoma area very touristy and traffic can be horrible (Dad lives in Napa, I live in the Sierra Foothills.) Not only does the Sierra Foothill have wineries, but it is the area where gold was discovered in California. There are many historic sites to visit.

https://www.winecountry.com/regions/gold-country/
http://www.historichwy49.com/wine.html
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Old Jan 16th, 2017, 08:33 AM
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we like out of the ordinary places, not into big commercial areas

Well, both Napa and Sonoma have well-developed wine tourism industries, so I'd set a baseline expectation. Sonoma is a little more spread out when you are driving around, but it also has some pretty sizable commercial areas. Napa can be a bit more congested, owing to most wineries being concentrated on two roads, but everywhere north of Napa (the city) is relatively small-town (if only all small towns were affluent and prepared for visitors. Napa definitely has better restaurants, at least at the high end.

If you have a strong preference for particular grapes, Napa tends more toward the Bordeaux varietals, while Sonoma does Pinot and Zinfandel better. Both regions produce good Chardonnay. If you have particular favorite wineries, that may also impact where you choose to stay.

If you want truly non-commercial, I would head even further north to the Anderson Valley. AV has good to great Pinot Noir and two of the bigger sparkling wine producers in the state. Varietals outside of Pinot can be found, with sometimes mixed results. Lodging options are very limited, as are restaurants, but it ain't commercial.
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Old Jan 16th, 2017, 12:11 PM
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I agree with everything travelgourmet said. My advice for a first timer to wine country (a broad term indeed) would be to spend two nights in Napa and two in Sonoma. Fly into SFO.

In December we spent ten days in wine country, starting with three nights at the El Bonita Motel in St. Helena, which is a very well located budget option. There are others. Do not plan to be in Napa over the weekend if you can help it! It gets congested, but the wineries are worth the trouble.

In the Sonoma Valley we like to stay in Healdsburg because we like the town and its dining options and we like the wines produced in the Dry Creek AVA. We spent three nights at the H2 Hotel, also like the Healdsburg Hotel, neither are cheap, but both include an enormous hearty breakfast and are on the town square. You could stay elsewhere in the valley, though.

We also spent two nights at the Booneville Hotel in Anderson Valley. Love that valley and its wines, love the hotel, and the area is charmingly under developed. Mendocino is lovely. But for a first timer with only 4 days, I'd leave it for a return trip.
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Old Jan 16th, 2017, 01:30 PM
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I'll second BarbAnn for the Amador county wineries, not heavily visited and lots of good wines.
There are also some nice wineries outside San Luis Obispo in the Edna Valley area, we visited there a number of years ago.
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Old Jan 16th, 2017, 04:53 PM
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The Central Coast would be nice that time of year. Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, Edna Valley, down to Santa Ynez.
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Old Jan 16th, 2017, 05:17 PM
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I agree with MichelleY.

Bonus: THE WILDFLOWERS!

Here are some pics from last year of the Figueroa Mtn. recreation area north of Los Olivos and Santa Ynez.

http://www.jeffsullivanphotography.c...-blooming-now/
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Old Jan 16th, 2017, 07:14 PM
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With respect, first time visitors to California wine country really should visit Napa and Sonoma. Historic properties, excellent wines and an abundance of great food make these areas a must.

Sure, it's just my opinion, but would anyone recommend going to France and avoiding Paris because everyone goes there?
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Old Jan 17th, 2017, 09:09 AM
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Sorry NewbE, have to disagree with you. There are other "wine" areas of California that have historic properties, excellent wines and great food opportunities.

Most of the wineries in Napa/Sonoma area are owned by big conglomerates and care more about the "sale" than the learning experience. Back in the early 70's it was not that way, but it is now. Just my opinion, but I would rather chat with the owner/winemaker/vineyard manager to learn more about the varietals, climate, terroir that gives each vintage their own character. I've said it once and I'll say it again, Napa has GREAT PR.
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Old Jan 17th, 2017, 09:13 AM
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BarbAnn, you couldn't be more wrong about this:
<Most of the wineries in Napa/Sonoma area are owned by big conglomerates and care more about the "sale" than the learning experience. >

When was the last time you were in either Napa or Sonoma?

We were just there a few weeks ago, and enjoyed exactly this:
<chat with the owner/winemaker/vineyard manager to learn more about the varietals, climate, terroir that gives each vintage their own character.>

And finally, if you think Paso wines are comparable to Napa--we're speaking different languages!
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Old Jan 17th, 2017, 12:46 PM
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Big conglomerates own wineries and labels from all over California. Both Barb and Newb have have valid points. I think it is great to educate visitors as to the many vineyards and wine areas in California, which may fit into their travel plans better. However, I have to say Napa and Sonoma are pretty much the best and most beautiful wine growing areas in the state. I didn't like to think that before, but it is true in my book. The hills, redwoods on the mountains...so beautiful.
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Old Jan 17th, 2017, 01:20 PM
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NewbE: Was in Napa about a month ago. I have visited many wineries there. I still contend it is not like it used to be and I have been visiting Napa/Sonoma/Mendocino wineries since I was 21 years old (63 years old now). Too much of a Disneyland atmosphere for me. Are there some small wineries? Yeah. Each person's palate is different. Do I drink Paso wines, not usually. Do I drink Napa wines? Yes, I have several bottles in my wine refrigerator. My point is that Napa is not the be all, end all of the California wine industry. AND the OP specifically asked about out of the ordinary places that were not too commercial.

Michelle, I agree that Napa is beautiful. I also love viewing rolling hills covered with vineyards and seeing the snow covered Sierras as I sip wine at a few of the Amador Co. wineries.

Let's drink and be merry!
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Old Jan 17th, 2017, 01:34 PM
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There are other "wine" areas of California that have historic properties, excellent wines and great food opportunities.

Just as long as we are clear that Amador County does not qualify on that last point.

Napa has GREAT PR.

Napa has great wine. Period. Pretending that recognition of Napa wines is down to PR, rather than quality, is disingenuous.
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Old Jan 17th, 2017, 01:37 PM
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< it is not like it used to be>
Ah, so nostalgia is the reason you're going to discourage people from visiting America's best wine region. OK.

<Too much of a Disneyland atmosphere for me. >
Next question: have you been to Disneyland?

Napa is nothing like Disneyland. Is it more prosperous than it was when you were 21? Sure. Everything got bigger and fancier, and the wine got better, too. Different doesn't mean worse.

Michele Y said it best and I should have left her words to speak for my view, since she put it so well.

But calling Napa Disneyland gets my goat. It is still rural, still about farming and making beautiful wine and serving beautiful food alongside it. The artificiality of Disneyland is nowhere to be seen and is therefore just a slur cast by cranky old timers and people who don't want to pay what Napa costs these days.
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Old Jan 17th, 2017, 02:01 PM
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"And finally, if you think Paso wines are comparable to Napa--we're speaking different languages!"

When was the last time you were in Paso? Next time you visit, I would be happy to make some recommendation as there are amazing wines now in the area. It is not the land of Zin anymore.
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Old Jan 17th, 2017, 02:56 PM
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I haven't been to Paso, but I have had lots of wine from Paso, and some good zin (I like zin), but Napa it ain't.

I'm going to quote MichelleY:
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Old Jan 17th, 2017, 06:53 PM
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I haven't been to Paso, but I have had lots of wine from Paso, and some good zin (I like zin), but Napa it ain't.

While I would agree that Paso ain't Napa (nor is AV or Amador County or even Sonoma), I think it helpful to be clear by what that means. To my mind, it comes down to a couple of things:

1) From a wine quality perspective, I think Napa has a concentration of quality producers that is unmatched in the US, especially by any region not named Sonoma. I mean, I love Anderson Valley wines and my cellar is disproportionately full of them, but it isn't Napa. There are maybe a half dozen wineries producing truly collectible wines in the AV. Napa has more than I could count.

2) From a tourist's perspective, the hotels in Napa are unrivaled in any other major wine region in the US. Ditto for the restaurants. Yeah, if you are looking for a bargain, we can have that discussion, but if price isn't an overwhelming consideration, I think Napa does the wine country experience about as well as it can be done.

If you want to talk to the winemaker, yeah, other places may be better. I can tell you from some experience, though, that winemakers aren't nearly as cool as you might imagine. That goes double for the ones that are eager to talk your ear off.
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Old Jan 17th, 2017, 07:00 PM
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Have I been to Disneyland? Too funny! I grew up in the shadow of the Matterhorn. Started going there in 1956. Still have relatives that live in Orange County.

You know, I stated my opinion. You have stated yours. I have been to many, many wine areas in California, Washington and Oregon (also Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Greece). Each area has something to offer, including beautiful wines.

Lastly, I am not saying Napa has bad wines or is not beautiful. I just think that other areas of wine production can give them a run for their money. I prefer areas that are not as crowded or as commercial, which is what the OP was asking about.

Now, I am going to finish my glass of wine. I'll let the OP decide where they want to visit.
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Old Jan 17th, 2017, 07:05 PM
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Lastly, I am not saying Napa has bad wines or is not beautiful.

No, you just said it is a PR creation. Implicit in that is that the wines don't stand on their own.

I just think that other areas of wine production can give them a run for their money.

Even more areas <cough>Amador County</cough> can't. And before I'm accused of slagging on Amador County wines, there are some good wines from the area, but it isn't even in the conversation with Napa. It is comparing apples to tuna.

I prefer areas that are not as crowded or as commercial, which is what the OP was asking about.

The OP also said they were planning on visiting "wine country", which I think we can all agree means Napa or Sonoma in 99% of usage.
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