California wine country.
Whether you decide to visit for a bachelorette party, family reunion, or just a weekend getaway, there’s plenty to do in Napa and Sonoma and there are several ways to enjoy what the area has to offer.
There are a few ways you can explore this gem of an area.
Book a tour bus that will stop by several wineries and allow you to do tastings. You can choose what kind of tasting you do at each. The advantage here is that you can bring snacks to munch on during the rides between stops. When I did this a couple of years ago, we used Dynamic Wine Tours company and I brought all kinds of different cheeses and crackers with me. It helped from feeling the alcohol TOO much, and we discovered some great wine pairings!
Stay at or near a winery and do a single location tour. If you have several days, you can stay at a local hotel and then slowly explore each winery, 1 or 2 per day.
Ride the wine train—a train through napa valley that includes stops and tastings! I’ve never actually done this, but would love to at some point. I think it’s a great way to see the country side, along with eating and drinking of course.
Don’t forget about downtown Napa! If you need a break from winery-hopping, check out some of the tasting rooms in downtown. There’s also plenty of restaurants and boutiques to choose from to fill your day.
Some Must Do’s for Napa
Book a tour. If not booking a tour, make sure you have a designated driver.
Take snacks–crackers/cheese/meats etc.–to help fortify you between tastings.
Eat a full meal before embarking on your wine tasting journey.
Pace yourself. If there’s a wine you don’t like, then pour it out into their cisterns. You’ll get so much wine at each tasting, so don’t fill yourself up on wine that doesn’t appeal to you. Trust me, there’s more at the next spot.
If you’re a lightweight, share a tasting amongst friends. I’m not a big drinker. I’m petite and I definitely don’t have the tolerance I used to. So when I do tastings, I’ll order one and share it with a friend. Each sample of each wine is at least 2-3 sips; couple that with 5 samples and you’ve basically got a full glass of wine. So, if you’re in the category of lightweights like I am, share your tastings. You’ll last longer through your day.
Talk to the connoisseurs at the wineries. Pay attention to the kinds of wines they serve and what goes into each one. One of the amazing things about Napa/Sonoma is not just the tastings, it’s the whole process. If you’re there, you may as well take advantage of it and absorb as much knowledge as you can. I personally find it fascinating (even if I don’t understand all of it) 🙂
Must see wineries
My most recent trip involved hiring a limo service to pick us up from our Air BnB in San Francisco, and then took us to 5 wineries of our choice.
If you aren’t afraid of heights, or cable cars, and love views, then definitely put this winery on your must-see list. Once you arrive, you must take a cable car up to the actual winery (yes, it’s safe). You get fantastic 360 degree views of Napa on your way up and on the way down.
Our entry ticket here included 3 tastings in their tasting room, and then three more as you take a self guided walking tour around their space. The last tasting is at an outside patio overlooking the valley below.
This place is literally a castle.
Our wine tasting was in a dungeon-looking room and let me say, the wines were delicious.
Outside of the castle, in true castle fashion, you’ll also spot an ostrich and her other bird friends roaming around.
Once our tasting was complete, and we came back up to ground level, you’ll enter the gift shop and wine store. Definitely check theirs out. They had some of the cutest souvenirs and wine accessories. For instance, check out this cool wine stopper/pour head:
Plus they have some grape vines growing right in their front yard, for all your picture taking pleasure.
Even our driver didn’t seem to know about this vineyard, but agreed it’s one of the most beautiful he’s ever seen. It’s definitely high end (tastings are around $50 per person, versus $15-20 at some other wineries), however, even if you don’t do a tasting, it’s worth seeing the grounds. They’re amazing.
With outdoor seating, and the possibility of crushing grapes with your feet, this vineyard is a must-do.
In addition, the wines coming out of here, specifically the Chardonnay, gained worldwide recognition when the winery first started, with the 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay, getting ranked as the best in the world at that time.
This was the last stop on our journey. With indoor and outdoor seating, plus dining options, this place is a great stop for both tastings and taking a food break. Be aware, they stop taking walk-ins after a certain hour. So I would definitely call ahead. Even if you don’t make a reservation, you can at least plan your arrival there to make the best use of their services.
Oh, and it’s set in a chateau
They also have grape vines growing in their yard
In summary, there’s something to do, and drink, for everyone in Napa. The five wineries listed were visited all in one day; however, there are tours that are more relaxed should you choose to take it easy and have the time to do so.
So, pick your pace, pick your tour, and get ready for some great wine tastings! I hope you enjoy!
What are your favorite wine country spots to visit?