Guest post by dzr1107
My brother and I decided on a whim to visit Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley, California. We did absolutely no planning, other than my quick check on Google Maps to make sure he wasn’t totally insane. It turns out Napa is only a little over an hour from Berkeley (and an hour and a half from San Francisco – going over the Golden Gate, with no traffic (ha)).
We drove up through Napa to St. Helena. There are essentially two main roads that parallel each other, with vineyards in between them and occasionally going up the hillside. The towns – aside from Napa – are rather small and very quaint. So quaint, that we were looking for a nice sandwich shop or fast food for lunch and did not find one on our journeys. Fine dining? Yes. Quick high-calorie grub? No.
The other item we quickly discovered is that the majority of wineries take reservations for their tours and tastings. Since we did not know this, nor did we plan, we ended up booking online a same day Garden Tour at Frog Leap’s Winery. We had a little time to kill before our appointment, so we checked out Lake Hennessey – pretty, not a must see.
At our appointment, we had to check in and were escorted to the proper location. Our package (for $20) included 4 flights of wine – one served after the other – and the freedom to frolic in their gardens or lounge by their koi pond in Adirondack chairs. We did both.
Afterwards, my brother suggested checking out Sonoma Valley. It is apparently the up and coming more affordable wine valley. We took St. Helena Rd across the mountain. This drive is quite a nail biter and I would have a designated driver for this one.
By the time we started to drive south through Sonoma Valley, the wineries were closing (4:30-5pm), so I cannot compare wine. However, the towns we drove through were not as quaint or expensive looking as those in Napa Valley.
If you want affordability and a more casual vibe, I’d pick Sonoma. If you want the glamour, I’d go Napa. And make reservations ahead of time.
Disclaimer: I am by no means a wine connoisseur.
Traveled in September 2017