Different people have different preferences, but we’d suggest flying into San Francisco to begin your tour. Sure there might be less traffic heading in and out of Sacramento, but SFO has way more flight options. There’s also the chance to head over the Golden Gate Bridge, and to stop for a little bit of seafood over in Sausalito before heading out to Napa or Sonoma. If you’re looking for something tasty try Fish. at 350 Harbor Drive, and be sure to bring cash—they don’t take plastic. The crab roll is a must, and on a cool day a cup of chowder is a good starter.
As far as the flights are concerned you should be able to get out west without too much difficultly or breaking the bank. We found flights for as little as $350 round trip for a long weekend during the middle of April between New York-JFK and San Francisco, and flights from Chicago can be had for a little bit less—maybe even on Virgin America. It’s not necessarily safe to assume that the closer you are to San Francisco the cheaper your flight will be, but check things out for yourself.
The big chains are well represented in both Napa and Sonoma, so if you’re checking out one—or both—spots you should be all set. We’ve been to both the Embassy Suites and Hilton Garden Inn in Napa and both are clean, safe, and convenient options; however, they might not give you the true wine country experience that you’re looking for. Rates for both of those spots are right around $250 a night during the middle of April, but if you’re looking for something a little more affordable try staying in American Canyon. Rates at the discount branches of Marriott and Hilton can be had for as low as $100 or so, and you’re just a short ride away from the vineyards, restaurants, and everything else.
Hyatt has recently rebranded a hotel in downtown Napa, so the Andaz Napa is certainly a great option and is walking distance to plenty of shops, restaurants, and other wine country goodies. If you’re looking for the whole spa weekend thing look no further than The Carneros Inn, but just be sure to bring a long two tax refunds to pay for things. Nightly rates start at around $550 per night, but the options we were checking out were even well north of that.
Opus One, Cakebread Cellars, and even Sutter Home all have roots in the region, and we’ve been lucky enough to check out each and every one of them. Besides just driving around and trying to remain sober between tastings—don’t drink and drive people—there’s other stuff to do as well. There’s hot air balloon trips, bike tours, and even a fancy pants train that will wine and dine you through the entire valley.
As for where to eat the sky is the limit, but if it’s your first time we’ve got a couple quick picks. Mustards Grill—get the pork chop—is a tourist and local favorite, and it’s been serving up creative fresh local fare for years and years. If reservations to The French Laundry aren’t in the cards—or the budget—there’s always Ad Hoc in Yountville. They do a mean buttermilk fried chicken every other Monday, but be sure to score reservations sooner than later. As for a quick lunch we’ve always been more than pleased with the options from Gott’s Roadside, and thankfully their Western Bacon Blue Ring Cheeseburger is available at all locations including St. Helena and Napa.
So raise a glass to us for suggesting this tax refund trip and enjoy—cheers!