California Wine Country: Sonoma and Napa

My husband and I just spent four days and five nights in California wine country. We stayed in Sonoma and went to wineries in both Sonoma and Napa. I have previously been to these areas in 2011, 2014, and 2017 but never took the time to document where I stayed, which wineries I visited, where to eat, etc.

Right: Stag’s Leap Tour and Taste in Napa

There are tons of articles comparing and contrasting Sonoma vs. Napa and they do a great job breaking down the area to help you pick a home base and create a plan for wineries to visit. Check them out. I will share my top three tips for visiting Sonoma and Napa right now.

Have a plan

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, wineries are mostly open and by reservation only. I am a planner so I didn’t mind narrowing down the list of wineries I wanted to visit and then figure out if we could get a reservation that worked for us. A friend recommended CellarPass as a starting point to check out availability and to make and manage tasting reservations. I found that not all wineries use CellarPass but it was just as easy to book via the winery’s website. Here is a snapshot of our reservations that range from private tastings to small group tours (with 4 other people).

Bottom left to right: Private tasting at Silver Oak, Tour and Taste at Stag’s Leap, Tasting at Domaine Carneros

Build in time to relax

After all the pre-trip planning and traveling to get there from the East Coast, leave some time to relax. I left two days partially unplanned which allowed us spend a morning at the Fairmont Mission Inn & Spa’s geo-thermal pools after massage appointments and an afternoon by the water tower pool.

Hire a Driver

It is always a good idea to have someone familiar with the area to drive you from winery to winery – e.g. take the long way from Sonoma to Napa so that you don’t get car sick when crossing the mountain. They have suggestions for places to check out in between tastings and they have plenty of stories to share about the area. I made two reservations with Napa Valley Tours & Transportation, one day in Sonoma and one day in Napa.

Head on over to my Sonoma and Napa pages to see what we did and for a full list of my recommendations.

Question: What other tips are important when planning a trip to Sonoma or Napa?

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