Great Itineraries for Napa and Sonoma

First-Timer's Napa Tour

On this two-day Napa Valley survey you’ll tour key wineries (some requiring an appointment), taste fine wine, learn some history, and shop and dine.

Day 1: History, Tasting, Shopping, Dining

Start your first morning at Napa's Oxbow Public Market. Down a brew at Ritual Coffee Roasters, then drive north on Highway 29. At Rutherford stop at film director Francis Ford Coppola’s Inglenook, whose tour and exhibits provide a fascinating overview of Napa Valley wine making. Continue north on Highway 29 to St. Helena for lunch at Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch, then visit Calistoga's over-the-top Castello di Amorosa, off Highway 29, or St. Helena's serene Joseph Phelps Vineyards, off the Silverado Trail.

Check into your St. Helena lodgings—luxurious Meadowood Napa Valley or pleasantly downscale El Bonita Motel are two good options. Poke around St. Helena's shops until dinner, perhaps at Meadowood, Harvest Table, or Goose & Gander.

Day 2: Winery and Art Tours, Lunch, and a Toast

Begin your day with coffee in St. Helena at Model Bakery, then drive south on Highway 29 and east on Rutherford Road to Frog’s Leap (book the winery's entertaining tour in advance). Return to Highway 29 and drive south, then turn west on Highway 121. Stop for lunch at the Boon Fly Café, then continue west on Highway 121 to the di Rosa arts center and tour its gardens and galleries. Cross Highway 121 to Domaine Carneros and toast your trip with some sparkling wine.

Sonoma Back Roads Tour

Stay strictly rural on this easygoing trek through forests, vineyards, and the occasional meadow.

Day 1: From Sebastopol to Forestville

Start day one at the Barlow artisan complex in Sebastopol. Have coffee and a pastry at Taylor Maid Farms and mosey around, then drive northwest on the Gravenstein Highway (Highway 116), stopping at Dutton-Goldfield Winery, at the intersection of the highway and Graton Road. From Dutton, take Graton Road west half a mile to Graton. Check out the shops and gallery on the hamlet's one-block main drag and have lunch at the Willow Wood Market Cafe or Zosia Café and Kitchen, which sit side-by-side.

After lunch, if the weather permits, walk a bit of the West County Regional Trail north from Graton Road a block west of the restaurants—the trailhead is just past Ross Road. Look for the plaques with historical tidbits about the railroad that once operated here. Back in the car, drive northeast on Ross Road and west on Ross Station Road to visit Iron Horse Vineyards, known for its sparkling wines. Afterward, backtrack to Highway 116 and turn north. At Martinelli Road, hang a right to reach Forestville's Hartford Family Winery, producer of Chardonnays and Pinots. Splurge on a night's rest at the nearby Farmhouse Inn, and dine at its stellar restaurant. (A less expensive option; stay in Guerneville at AutoCamp Russian River or boon hotel + spa and have dinner at boon eat + drink.)

Day 2: Healdsburg and Dry Creek

Start Day Two by taking Wohler Road and then Westside Road north to Arista Winery. After a tasting, continue on Westside to West Dry Creek Road, proceed north, and turn east at Lambert Bridge Road. Assemble a picnic at Dry Creek General Store, and continue north on Dry Creek Road to Truett Hurst Winery. Taste wines and choose one to have with your picnic here. Backtrack south on Dry Creek Road past the general store, turning east on Lytton Springs Road, which leads to Ridge Vineyards. End the day with a Cabernet.

The Ultimate Wine Trip, 4 days

On this four-day extravaganza, you’ll taste well-known and under-the-radar wines, bed down in plush hotels, and dine at restaurants operated by celebrity chefs. Appointments are required for some of the tastings.

Day 1: Sonoma County

Begin your tour in Geyserville, about 78 miles north of San Francisco on U.S. 101. Visit Locals Tasting Room, which pours the wines of special small wineries. Have lunch at nearby Diavolo or Catelli’s, then head south on U.S. 101 and Old Redwood Highway to Healdsburg’s Jordan Vineyard & Winery for a 2 pm Library Tasting. From Jordan, head south to Healdsburg Plaza downtown. Explore the shops in the plaza area and have a "shrub" (vinegar-based soda) at The Shed; if you're up for more tasting, Banshee and Thumbprint Cellars are good options. Hôtel Les Mars and h2hotel are two well-located spots to spend the night. Have dinner at Chalkboard, Bravas Bar de Tapas, or Campo Fina, all close by.

Day 2: Sonoma Wineries

Interesting wineries dot the countryside surrounding Healdsburg, among them Mauritson Wines and Trattore Farms (the latter just barely in Geyserville). In the afternoon head south on U.S. 101 and east on scenic Highway 12 to Glen Ellen. Visit Jack London State Historic Park, the memorabilia-filled home of the famous writer. Dine at Aventine Glen Ellen or Glen Ellen Star and stay at the Olea Hotel.

Day 3: Napa Valley

Head east from Glen Ellen on Trinity Road, which twists and turns over the Mayacamas Mountains, eventually becoming the Oakville Grade. Unless you’re the one driving, bask in the stupendous Napa Valley views. At Highway 29, drive north to St. Helena. Focus on history and architecture at Charles Krug Winery or let the art and wines at Hall St. Helena transport you. Take lunch downtown at Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen or Cook St. Helena. Check out St. Helena’s shopping, then head south on Highway 29 to Yountville for more shopping. Start at Hunter Gatherer, at Madison and Washington Streets, and work your way south on Washington to V Marketplace.

Stay overnight at Bardessono or the North Block Hotel, both within walking distance of Yountville’s famous restaurants. A meal at The French Laundry is many visitors’ holy grail, but dining at Bouchon, Bistro Jeanty, or Redd will also leave you feeling well served.

Day 4: Oakville to Carneros

After breakfast, head north on Highway 29 to Oakville, where sipping wine at Silver Oak, Nickel & Nickel, or B Cellars will make clear why collectors covet Oakville Cabernet Sauvignons. Nickel & Nickel is on Highway 29; Silver Oak and B Cellars are east of it on Oakville Cross Road. Have a picnic at Oakville Grocery, in business on Highway 29 since 1881, or make reservations for lunch at Mustards Grill. After your meal, head south to Highway 121 and turn west to reach the Carneros District. Tour the di Rosa arts center (appointment required for the full tour), then repair across the street to Domaine Carneros, which makes French-style sparkling wines. There’s hardly a more elegant way to bid a Wine Country adieu than from the château’s vineyard-view terrace.

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