Determining Your Game PlanFirst off, you've got to decide what kind of wineries you'd like to visit, how many, and in which budget range. Some of this will also be determined by the type of wine you actually like. We're teachers, so we're on a decently conservative budget. I also prefer whites and sweeter wines, which means that places that didn't offer white tasting were either a waste of my time or money (or both). We went back and forth about paying for a tour that would take us from place to place, but ended up really happy that we saved our money and just rented a car. As long as you are responsible, eating, drinking water, and taking your time- you'll be just fine. Tasting portions aren't super super big. Also, we didn't make reservations ahead of time at any of the places we visited, but you may need to do so if you have groups of five or more. Just be sure to check and see when places close!
Priority Wine Pass and Local Wally HelpTo help in the planning, and to figure out just where we should actually visit, I found and contacted Local Wally for his Napa and Sonoma advice. He had several first timer itineraries on his website, and after I answered some questions to give him an idea of our budget and winery preferences (boutique vs. big name, red vs. white) he gave us an itinerary with deals listed next to each place! To save on our costs, we also purchased the Priority Wine Pass through Wally, which was $39.99 and offers you 2 for 1 or even free tastings and discounts at lots and lots of wineries throughout the country. The pass is good for an entire calendar year, and we used it at every single place we visited, so we basically paid $40 to get half off everything else. It was super easy to use the pass, and we just showed it to the wineries when we went it.
Day One: NAPA
We rolled into Oakland around 12, and then got our rental car and drove about an hour up into the Napa Valley. Keep in mind that many of the wineries will close by 4 or 5 at the latest, so you'll want to be sure you visit the ones that close earlier first. We also stayed out in Vacaville for both nights because we had free IHG nights, and so we did a little bit more driving at the end of the night, and even ate in Vacaville our last night. There are vineyards and wineries everywhere though, so it didn't feel that far out!
Stop 1: Andretti
Andretti looks like a little Italian village. They offer 2 for 1 tastings on the pass, and had the best moscato I've ever had (Villa Andretti Napa Valley). Even though it was $40 a bottle, Im still kicking myself in the butt for not buying it! They also sell yummy mustards and cheeses, and have beautiful vineyards.
Stop 2: Hagafen Cellars
Hagafen was probably the most reasonable winery we visited, and one of my favorites. Their tasting fee goes towards the price of the bottle, and you still get two for one tasting. It only cost us two more dollars to bring a bottle of wine home, so we went for it. They have great whites, and also a really fun area to play corn hole, Yahtzee, and chess!
Stop 3: Trinchero Napa Valley
Trinchero is a bit more "upscale", but is incredibly beautiful. We tried the $10 artisan cheese plate, and it was delicious and totally worth it. They also do two for one tasting. The grounds are newly renovated and gorgeous, and they actually took us on a tour of their grounds (and snapped the only picture we have of the two of us together!!)
Stop 4: V. Sattui Winery
Our final stop for the day was at V. Sattui. It also has incredibly beautiful grounds (see the theme?), and a huge store with deli, cheese, and all sorts of souvenirs. They also offer tons and tons of tasting for reasonable prices (2 for 1 with the pass), though we were tasted out by the time we made it here.
For dinner, we hopped around several places, but finally ended up at the reasonable, delicious Azzurro Pizzeria e Enoteca. Aaron had a delicious manciata, which is dough with a salad and meat on top that you can fold and eat like a sandwich. I enjoyed the baked rigatoni- delicious! We drove back to Vacaville for the night, and got ready for a full day in Sonoma!
Day Two: SONOMA
We woke up and headed into Sonoma, timing it to arrive at our first winery right around 10:30 (they open at 10). Yes, it's kinda early for wine, but hey- you want to keep it spaced out and be responsible, right?
Stop 1: St. Francis Winery
St. Francis also had very beautiful grounds that were excellent for picture taking (which they were actually doing for their company the day we were there). They also offered two for one tastings, and had a neat little path you could follow with fun facts and information about wine and the company.
Stop 2: Landmark Vineyards
The sun was coming out of the clouds right when we reached Landmark. Their tasting were very reasonable, and they also took our two for one pass, though they said they were phasing out of it. We saw several large tour groups (like the tour we considered doing) there sharing a meal and wine, so we figured we were in the right place. We also purchased some awesome wine packs here that kept it safe on the flight home (in checked luggage).
|Our rental car for the two days...they upgraded us free after we had to wait for 30 min. Thanks, Hertz!|
After Landmark, we drove into the city of Sonoma for a quick, cheap, and yummy lunch at Happy Dog.
Stop 3: B. Wise Winery
We just stopped in to the small tasting room that wasn't on the actual vineyard property for B. Wise. They've got a pretty nifty story, and are a bit more upscale, but still offer the two for one pricing. They also have some pretty serious reds if that's your thing!
Stop 4: Deerfield Ranch Winery
Deerfield is super cool because you get to taste inside of a cave. They also do the two for one tastings, and the nice lady even let me borrow her jacket when I got chilly inside. It's fun to walk through their racks and racks of wine barrels!
Stop 5: Schug Winery
Schug was our last stop on the trip, when we were starting to feel pretty wined out (if that's a thing). They did have really beautiful grounds that were a bit more off of the beaten path, and they actually offer two complimentary tastings with the pass! I had to get a little artsy with my photos on the drive.
Napa and Sonoma are gorgeous and a whole lot of fun. Sonoma is a little bit more low-key, but you can also make Napa a little bit claimer and more budget friendly if you follow the plan we did! Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any questions! Cheers!