Napa and Sonoma are jointly known as California famous wine country, but despite being separated just by a mountain range — they are far from interchangeable. Being a wine lover myself, Napa became one of my most favorite place to visit in California. I fell in love with the scenery, art, food and of course the wine! This is why every year visitors from all over the world flock to this area to hike, bike and swim in a pool of wine, and eat rich food. It is what Tuscany is to Italy and Bordeaux is to France.
Lodging in Napa/ Sonoma is undeniably expensive. The best way to save on accommodations is by getting an Airbnb. There are several listings for the wine country with some costing a mere $65-100 per night for a private room. If you don’t mind driving a bit more, we stayed 40 minutes away from Napa which is in Vallejo and found rooms for only $40/ night. Lastly, the majority of travelers suggest to sightsee in Napa Valley, but dine and lodge in nearby Sonoma where prices are budgeted.
Unless you have an assigned driver who is willing to stay sober the whole day, driving in Napa Valley is not the best option. Therefore, it is better to find other means of transportation. You can hire a motorbike for about $45 per day. Conversely, you can join group tours organized by local tourist companies that cost around $100 per day. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t say Uber is the cheapest option specially if you are winery hopping, but it could be your last option to go see the wine country.
Following are the top quality restaurants to suit your premium-value meals;
• Napa Valley Wine Train
• The French Laundry
• The Restaurant at Meadowood
Following are Napa Valley and Sonoma Restaurants for $20 or less:
• Auberge du Soleil, Rutherford
• Kitchen Door, Napa
• Gott’s Roadside Burgers, Napa
• Redd Wood, Yountville
• El Molino Central, Sonoma
The Napa Valley is renowned for good food and fine wine. Getting tipsy during the daytime is pretty common for the people visiting. However, if your energy is not done for the day and you still want to party the night out, then hit the downtown area to catch some live shows or dance at the Calistoga area.
WHAT TO DO IN THE WINE COUNTRY?
Napa’s chardonnays and cabernets boast international fame and some of the most authentic wineries in the world can be found in Napa. Of course, they are expensive, costing anywhere from $15 to $65 for a tasting of 4-6 wines. However, that does not mean you cannot find more affordable wineries. Make a point to visit Merryvale Vineyards, Whitehall Lane, Jericho Canyon Vineyard, Davis Estates and Hill Family Wines for fantastic wine-tasting experience on a budget. Moreover, do visit Heitz Cellars which is the only winery in Napa Valley to offer free tastings.
My top 4 favorite wineries:
1. Castello Di Amorosa
2. Robert Mondavi Vineyards
3. Beringer Vineyards
4. Grgich Hills Estate
Sonoma’s wineries are more spread out, laid-back and intimate with lower tasting cost the farther you get from main roads. Put together they also offer a greater variety of wines compared to Napa that primarily concentrates on classic Bordeaux varietals. Sonoma vintners make everything from Zinfandel to pinot and Gewurztraminer to Charbono.
Activities to do:
1. Grape stomping
Grape-stomping is a part of the process of maceration used in conventional winemaking. Jump in the bucket and crush those grapes! The experience is unique and you’ll definitely enjoy the activity. Most Grape stomping places offers a souvenir with your wine foot print embedded to the shirt.
2. Napa Valley wine train
The Napa Valley Wine Train is handled by the Napa Valley Railroad. It is a privately operated excursion train that operates between Napa and St. Helena, California.
3. Wine Cave tour
4. Winery tour
In my opinion, 3 to 4 days in Napa Valley and Sonoma are more than enough making weekend trips all the more possible for this place.