California Trip for Friends

Hey all,


So a friend of mine who does not work in restaurants wants to head out to Napa/ Sonoma for the first time with his girlfriend.  Having never been myself, I am hoping for some info on more accessible wineries for tourists as he is obviously not reaching out through reps/ as a buyer himself.  I don't get the impression that he is trying to get "hooked up," just genuinely looking for some advice on friendlier/ more accessible wineries that a young couple would enjoy without breaking the bank.  Maybe a few that are in close proximity by either foot or bike to make a day out of it.


Any and all advice would be greatly appreciated.



  • As having been to both areas I would advise them to stay in Sonoma, prices are very affordable also there are a ton of limo services with lots of connections to wineries... but Jordan and ridge are a do not miss!!!
  • So, there's a very distinctly different vibe about Sonoma and Napa. Napa is a mono-culture. It's about wine. Period. The good side of this is that there are plenty of stretches where wineries are literally right next door to one another. So, super easy by bike. Sonoma is certainly mostly wine, but there's still elements of it being a farming community so the wineries are sprinkled in around several towns and plenty of non-wine related things.

    I prefer the laid-back nature of Sonoma over Napa, but this comes at a price of convenience, as the wineries themselves are more spread out. Healdsburg is kind of a hybrid of the two. It's the fanciest part of Sonoma and has a number of tasting rooms in the city proper. You can, for instance, walk from Ramey to Davis Family (two of my favorite CA producers).
  • Alexander Valley Vineyards is a great casual place to visit. Jordan is down the road from them, but I suggest making reservations. Trione is a smaller winery that makes some excellent wines, then you can drive down the street to visit Coppola's winery.
  • If it's Napa/Sonoma for the first time, I usually recommend people to check out Napa first, since it is the famed region. Yes, it can be touristy, yes, it can be very commercialized, but I think it's great for first-timers to see what makes Napa unique. So, I'd definitely recommend Sterling (the cable car ride is definitely memorable), Castello di Amarosa, Opus One, Robert Mondavi, and +1 for Francis Coppola if visiting Sonoma.
  • Thank you everyone for the feedback!
  • I would recommend the SF Chronicle's 2016 Guide to Tasting Rooms. Well worth the $10
  • I'm also curious about this myself.
    I'm looking at going in January (only time I can really get time off, but is it dead and pointless then?), but like your friends, I'm not really in the industry (work in progress though). I am certified though.

    I presume being certified isn't going to make any difference and be prepared to drop $$$ on tastings and wines? I'm thinking sommeliers are a dome a dozen there.

    I'm wanting to go to Cade, Stag's Leap and possibly Sequoia Grove. Besides that, it's just tastings. Def. stopping at Mondavi. Haven't thought about Sonoma yet, but I did want to check it out.

    Still VERY early in the planning stages and super preliminary.

    Thanks in advance for any suggestions/tips!
  • In reply to Xavier Burgos:

    Xavier, definitely don't worry about the time of year! I really like it up here in January, as it's quieter, with very few tourists. You can often find better deals on hotels, or at least fewer restrictions (2-night stays, etc.). Wineries and winemakers have more time available to connect. There is, of course, still plenty of wine. Plus, the mustard starts blooming in January and into February/March, and it's absolutely gorgeous.
  • In reply to Stacy Ladenburger:

    Thanks Stacy.
    Unfortunately, early Jan is looking like the most likely time for me. I hope Uber is easy to get :)