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Vintinerary

In this section you will find various “Vintineraries”, or winery itineraries, based on what type of trip you’re taking. Whether you’re a tourist on a budget, a serious wine collector, or a group of 10 girls on a bachelorette party – I’ve got the right trip planned for you!

For a special customized trip, contact me at vintinerary at gmail dot com. 

Which statement describes you best?

I’m a tourist.

I’m a wine collector.

I’m planning a Bachelorette party.

I’m traveling with my sweetheart.

I’m organizing a business trip.

I’m looking to get out of the city for the day.

I’m just a guy looking for a BROmantic day with my buddies.

For Tourists on a Budget…

SONOMA is a great destination for people who are looking to spend a little less money. It’s more laid back than Napa, but it still offers the quintessential wine tasting experiences that tourists are looking for. 

  • Start off your morning with some bubbly at Gloria Ferrer. They also offer an hour-long tour if you’d like to learn about the making of sparkling wine (don’t call it Champagne unless it’s from Champagne!).
  • As you continue on your way to Sonoma, stop at Carneros Deli to pick up some sandwiches for lunch. Make sure you ask for a kiss (of the Hershey variety) with your sandwich.
  • Drive up Route 12 to Kunde, where you can opt to splurge for a Mountain Top Tasting (reservations must be made in advance), or enjoy your tasting at the long bar in the main tasting room.
  • Head up the road to Chateau St. Jean for a tasting of their delicious Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs. After your tasting, feel free to picnic at one of their tables on the front lawn. You’ll need some more energy for the second half of the day!
  • Reverse the course and hit up B.R. Cohn on the way. The tasting room also serves flavored vinegar and olive oil, and it’s owned by the manager of Doobie Brothers!
  • Swing over to Buena Vista for a tasting of their wines, finishing up with a splash of their delicious Cream Sherry. It’s the oldest winery in Sonoma, so be sure to ask your server about the history.
  • By now you’re probably hungry so you should head on back to Sonoma Square for some dinner at Della Santina’s for some authentic Italian food with big portions.
  • Take the short walk back to the Swiss Hotel, where you can finish off the evening with a nightcap at their historical bar, and stagger on up to your cozy room.

For Serious Winos…

SPRING MOUNTAIN is the ultimate Napa destination for wine collectors. Most wine collectors have been to the staples along Silverado, but Spring Mountain offers a unique palate of flavors because of the terroir of the vineyards. All wineries on the mountain are appointment only, and they book up quickly on the weekends so plan your trip well in advance!

  • Since you’re trying to hit up as many wineries as possible, you don’t want to worry about lunch. So grab some sandwiches to go at Giugni’s on Main Street in St. Helena before you head on up the mountain. They’re famous for their Giugni Juice, so grab some on the side to keep your sandwich from getting soggy. 
  • There is no better place to start than the top of the Mountain. So book yourself the 10am tour at Pride Mountain Vineyards and you will not be disappointed. The tour is the perfect combination of learning and drinking, and you may even get some samples of Syrah from the barrel if you’re lucky! If you’re looking for a more private experience, ask them about their seated tastings in the cave.
  • Head down the winding road about half a mile to Smith-Madrone, a small operation run by two bearded brothers. Take in the views of Cook’s Flat and the olive trees before moving inside the tasting room/barrel room/office to sip on some of their Chardonnay, Cabernet and the delicious Riesling. You may not get to try the Cook’s Flat (their $200+ Cabernet blend), but you’re sure to walk away with some new favorites.
  • A little bit further down Spring Mountain Rd. is the turn off for Schweiger, where you can choose between an intimate balcony tasting, sit down paired tastings or full estate tours including a descent into the barrel room. They also have picnic grounds so this is the perfect spot to enjoy your sandwich, pre or post tasting.
  • Be sure to leave yourself some time to find your way to your next stop, Paloma, because Barbara doesn’t make time for just anybody. You will be in awe as Barbara welcomes you into her home and takes you to her back porch, overlooking her small vineyard of Merlot grapes. She will tell you the history of the winery before letting you sip on her award-winning Merlot. And trust me, you will want to buy several bottles of it. For patient wine enthusiasts only!
  • Time to head back down to St. Helena. And if you can make the time, it’s worth getting an appointment for a Library Tasting at Corison, just south of the the entrance to Spring Mountain Road. Cathy Corison has been making incredible Cabernet for the last 25 years, and you will surely be impressed.
  • You must be hungry after all that wine! And I’m sure you have picked up some great bottles along the way. So head on into Market for some delicious ribs and mac-n-cheese, or if your palate requires something more sophisticated you can pick one of their grilled fish, roast chicken or braised lamb dishes from their scrumptious menu. Did I mention their one of two places in the valley to offer FREE corkage??
  • After dinner you can stop by Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen for a martini, or just head on back to the Wydown Hotel and tuck yourself into bed. It’s been a long day, but you did well. Pat yourself on the back.

For your Bachelorette Party…

NAPA has a reputation for being a little snooty, but if you know the right places to go then you can have a rockin’ good time! Travel in style and book a stretch limo for your group, and bring plenty of OJ and Barefoot Bubbly (and water!) for the ride. Be sure to call the wineries in advance so they know you have a big group coming. 

  • Kick off the day with some bubbly at Domaine Chandon, one of Napa’s best distilleries. Skip the tour, and head upstairs to the bar to purchase some bottles of your favorite sparklers, then head out onto the patio to enjoy them. I’d recommend starting with a bottle each of Brut Classic, Blanc de Noir, and Chandon Rose. Then pick up a bottle or two of their Sparkling Red to toast with later in the night. 
  • Be prepared to spend a couple of hours at V. Sattui. They have a great deli where you can pick up salads, sandwiches, meats and cheese for lunch. After ordering your food, I would recommend doing a quick tasting first and figuring out which wines you like, then buy a few bottles to drink with your picnic lunch. Be sure to pick up a bottle of their famous Madeira if you like dessert wine.
  • Once you’ve torn yourself away from V. Sattui, have your driver cross over to Silverado Trail and take you to Clos du Val. They offer a variety of experiences for large parties, including customized wine flight. And they even have a girls weekend package (inquire within) with gift bags and tank tops! Or if that’s not your style, you can just relax with your girlfriends by the bocce ball court with a glass of Stags Leap Cabernet in hand.
  • Three wineries is probably enough for a group of 8 or more girls, so head on back to your digs for nap time before dinner. For a large group, I always recommend renting a house or apartment through airbnb or homeaway, somewhere near Downtown Napa. You and your friends will save some money by splitting the cost, and you don’t have to worry about dividing up into hotel rooms.
  • There are tons of great restaurants in Napa, but for large groups who have been drinking wine all day I think Italian food is always best. Head to Uva Tattoria and share some of their delicious salads, pastas, and pizzas. When you’re done with dinner, move on over to the adjoining bar for cocktails and live jazz. Just try not too get too rowdy… you will want to go back someday.

For a Romantic Getaway…

ANDERSON VALLEY is a beautiful destination for couples looking for a romantic getaway. Only a few hours north of San Francisco, Route 128 is lined with some fantastic wineries. Because of the proximity to the ocean and thus a cooler climate, the entire valley is known for producing delicate whites like Riesling and Gewurztraminer, but also for their bold and fruity Pinot Noir. The towns of Philo and Navarro offer plenty of private homes and cabins for rent, as well as some cozy inns, such as The Madrones. There are also plenty of romantic lodges and B&B’s right off of Route 1 in Mendocino, and you don’t have to feel so bad about splurging a little on your accommodations because almost all of the wineries offer free tastings!

  • The wineries are about a 30 minute drive from downtown Mendocino, through the stunning Redwoods. But once you hit that stretch, there is poor cell reception and only a couple of little markets and gas stations. So before you head out for the day, pick up some snacks and tasty sandwiches to go at Mendocino Market. If you’re staying closer to Navarro then swing by Navarro General Store to grab a picnic lunch. 
  • I always like starting off the day with some bubbly, as it’s easier in the morning. So make your first stop Roederer Estate and taste a flight of their delicious sparklers. Ask one of the staff members to take some photos of you and your sweetheart with the beautiful rolling hills in the background. And you might want to pick up a bottle of bubbly for later ♥
  • Drive 30 feet south to Husch for some delicious wines that are only available in their tasting room. They operate out of an old with some tables out back, and they offer a variety of whites and red, including their T-Bud Dry Cuvee Gewurztraminer and Old Vine Zinfandel. They also have a fantastic Chardonnay and a variety of Pinot Noirs.
  • A little further down the road is one of my favorite wineries, Navarro Vineyards. They have a list of nearly 20 wines, and you can taste as many as you want… for free! My favorites are the Rosé of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Edelzwicker, and all of their Pinot Noirs. The owner’s daughter recently opened Pennyroyal Cheese Farm, and her delicious cheeses are available at the winery (my favorite is Boont Corners). Navarro also has picnic grounds and gardens, so it’s the perfect spot to take out those sandwiches.
  • You can’t make a trip to Anderson Valley without visiting Goldeneye, a member of the Duckhorn family. Sip on some of their delicious Pinot Noir while sitting in one of their many Adirondack chairs, taking in the views of the estate vines; it’s the perfect photo op for your next Christmas card.
  • Last but certainly not least, drive back North to Handley Cellars to sample the best variety of white wines in Anderson Valley (and they’re red’s aren’t too shabby either). Their uniquely decorated tasting room – complete with wood carved elephant chairs – expands onto an adjacent patio that overlooks their estate vineyards. Opt for a tour if you have the time, but either way the welcoming staff will leave you with a lasting impression of the true Anderson Valley.
  • After a great day of wine tasting, you will want to make it back to Mendocino with plenty of time to watch the sunset over the ocean. For dinner, head to one of the more romantic restaurants in Mendocino like Cafe Beaujolais, MacCallum House RestaurantLittle River Inn Restaurant or Ravens Restaurant. You won’t be disappointed with any of those choices!

For a Business Retreat…

RUSSIAN RIVER is the perfect place for your next company retreat because it’s far enough away from San Francisco to be considered a “retreat”, but it’s close enough that you can bail if you get sick of your coworkers – but hopefully that won’t be the case because you’re having so much fun with my trusty itinerary!

  • The last thing you want is a bunch of drunk people on a bus, passing out on each other’s shoulders, or embarrassing themselves in front of the CEO. So be sure to bring PLENTY of food and water for the ride. Call in a catering order for boxed lunches at Oakville Grocery in Healdsburg Square, and add an assortment of chips and snacks to be safe. 
  • Iron Horse is one of my favorite destinations in Russian River. Not only do they have killer sparkling wines (the Wedding Cuvee is my favorite), but the outdoor – and heated – tasting bar has a stunning panoramic view of the vineyard. For big groups, they usually set up a second bar so you can be sure that you and your coworkers will be taken care of!
  • Armida is the perfect place to stop for a picnic lunch and some bocce ball. Their beautiful grounds overlook the vineyards and a lovely pond, and their wines aren’t so bad either! Their whites are particularly enjoyable on warm, sunny days and the “Poizin” Zinfandel is lush and delicious. It will be hard to tear away your coworkers from the Bocce courts, so you may have to bribe them with more wine.
  • Bella is a great spot for large groups, and they also have some really cool wine caves that they offer tours of. They have a great selection of Zinfandel and Syrah, including a late harvest Zinfandel to satisfy your sweet tooth.
  • Three wineries is probably enough for your group; any more and you might be dealing with a really awkward Monday. So head on back to your the square and pop into your hotel to spruce up before dinner. H2hotel is the perfect spot to stay for the night, and they even have meeting rooms in case you want to get some actual work done on this trip.
  • For dinner, book your group at Zin Restaurant & Wine Bar. They have a diverse menu to please any palate, and they can easily accommodate large groups. And it’s walking distance from the hotel, so you don’t need to worry about transportation.
  • Now sit back, relax and enjoy a martini or two at Spoonbar in H2. You deserve it after the great company retreat you planned!

For the Day Trippers…

CARNEROS is the ideal spot for people trying to get out of the city for the afternoon. It’s only about 45 minutes away on 101, and it has some of the best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir around. 

  • Since you’re coming from SF, bring some sandwiches from your favorite deli, or swing by Carneros Deli on your way into wine country. Either way, be sure to bring some sustenance because the wait at Fremont Diner can get pretty long during lunch, and you have no time to waste.
  • Staying true to my motto of “bubbles first”, head straight to Domaine Carneros before the afternoon crowds hit. Pick a table on the patio and order their sparkler flight for each guest while sharing one of their tasty cheese plates (I recommend whichever one includes Midnight Moon). Be sure to bring some sunscreen because that Carneros sun is strong.
  • Bouchaine is just down the street and around the corner, tucked away on a dead end road. If they’re not too busy (or someone in your group is a club member), they will let you sit on the patio while you sample some of their beautiful Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. And if one of you splurges for the reserve tasting, be sure to get a sample of their Pinot Meunier.
  • Gundlach Bundschu (aka GunBun) is right off 121, and a great spot to break up the day. They have a bunch of picnic tables on the hill for you to enjoy your lunch before heading into the tasting room. Be sure to get a taste of their Tempranillo and Syrah-Cabernet blend. GunBun certainly offers a wide variety of wines to choose from, and all of them are unique and delicious.
  • Down the road is one of Sonoma’s most beautifully structured tasting rooms, Artesa Winery. Before you even enter the tasting room, which is built into a cave, be sure to snap some photos of the stunning grounds and fountains that adorn the entryway, If it’s a clear day, you can even catch a view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the top of the hill that Artesa lies on. If you’re tasting with some friends, do a mix of reserve and basic tastings so you can try everything.
  • On your way out of the valley, you might as well make one more stop at Ram’s Gate. This winery is open late and just North of Hwy 37, so it’s the perfect place to stop before heading back over the Golden Gate Bridge. Enjoy a quick tasting at the bar, or grab a table by the fireplace. You can also walk around the beautiful grounds, or down to the lake where they teach fly fishing lessons. It’s a sure bet that you’ll finish off the day right!

For the Bros…

SILVERADO TRAIL is the best way to drive Napa, especially if you’re trying to cruise through the valley and avoid the traffic-ridden and left-turn unfriendly roads of Highway 29. And if you’re planning on heading back to The City in time to rage at the bars after a day of wine tasting, it’s best to start further North and work your way down the road. 

  •  You most likely won’t be getting off on too early of a start, so after your morning coffee and light breakfast, try to head out of the city some time between 10 and 11am. And be sure to bring some hearty sandwiches and several bags of chips with you for the car ride. Leave the cheap beers at home.
  • Start off the day with some tasty wines, gardens and Bocce Ball at Frog’s Leap, right off Conn Creek road in Rutherford. You can make an appointment for the tasting room, or try to find a seat in the Garden Bar around back. Either way, be sure to snag a bottle of their tasty (and inexpensive) Zinfandel; a sure bet to impress the ladies.
  • Next stop: Round Pond. This beautiful appointment-only winery features outdoor fireplaces on the patio, leather seats in the tasting room, and small bites prepared by their in-house chef to be paired with your wine tasting. What more can a guy ask for? Oh, a beautiful woman on his arm. Well the ladies tend to flock to this architectural beauty of a winery, so if you’re lucky you might walk away with some digits. Otherwise, you can just continue on your bromantic adventure.
  • Ease on down Silverado and pull into Paraduxx in Oakville. This winery is part of the Duckhorn family and offers some delicious Cabernet and Zinfandel, not to mention incredibly comfy couches and chairs in their outdoor garden-tasting area. This could be the perfect way to end your MaN-apa day trip.
  • But – if you do have time for one more destination before heading back to The City, I would recommend popping into Signorello for a glass of Padrone Cabernet while admiring the view of the sun going down, reflecting on their infinity pool. And in the summer months, they offer a pizza pairing from their wood-burning oven on the pool deck. Major bonus points.
  • Now Gentlemen, be sure to designate the most capable driver and watch for the speed limits. Those Napa Valley cops aren’t too forgiving, and you certainly don’t want to spend a night in jail for a DUI. What a buzzkill to a perfectly bro day!

6 responses »

  1. You should make a business of this and charge for your knowledge-really!!!!

    Reply
  2. I can’t decide which tour I want to take first!

    Reply
  3. This is amazing! Please can you do even more wine-tinerarys. I would like one for every month of the year!

    Reply
  4. So glad I discovered this post! It will definitely come in handy:) I’m always looking for suggestions when it comes to wineries in all these areas, as there are so many and I get a bit overwhelmed. I head to Spring Mountain this Saturday! – Leslie

    Reply

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