The lack of travel this year has me feeling a little stir crazy so I’m thankful that my move to California has made it easy to take quick trips to some amazing places! Since I was unable to head home for Thanksgiving, I thought it might be fun to take a short trip west to wine country for a night! At the time of my visit things were pretty much all open for outdoor dining and tastings. Be sure to check on the current rules and regulations if you’re planning to visit anytime soon. If you are planning to visit, here’s how to spend 24 hours in Napa and Sonoma.
Where to Stay
I’ve stayed in both cities, but this past time I decided to stay in Sonoma. I love how Sonoma has a small-town feel to it, and there’s a little less hustle and bustle around town. Ever since I returned from Europe, I have developed a new love for B&Bs. I love the intimate, cozy feel of these smaller facilities and find that many of them offer much better attention to your needs. I chose Seven Branches for my night in Sonoma and had a great experience.
Seven Branches has only six rooms, each uniquely decorated. Our room had a king sized bed and even had a working fireplace! Since Sonoma tends to be cooler at night during the winter months, this was a great feature for when we returned from dinner. Because of COVID there was no formal breakfast, however, they delivered fresh pastries to our door for breakfast in the morning and there was French press coffee in our room.
This B&B is also in a great location, just steps from the town square. It took about ten minutes to walk from Seven Branches to main square where we were presented with a good number of restaurants and a delicious ice cream shop. For a low key meal, check out Murphy’s Irish Pub or for a gourmet meal head to the girl & the fig.
There are a lot of different wineries between Napa and Sonoma and chances are you can find something great based on your taste and budget. If you don’t have your sights set on any winery in particular, I suggest looking in to the wineries covered by the Covet Pass. This pass is a flat rate and gives you premium tastings at a variety of wineries in both locations. And if you plan to visit the area more than once in a year, Covet Pass is good for 365 days so you can visit all of the wineries on the list! Be sure to check to be sure that the wineries on the list are open with COVID restrictions and make a reservation.
Domaine Carneros Winery
After learning about this Domaine Carneros and its French connection, I had to make a reservation! The winery was founded by the same family behind Champagne Tattinger. The focus of the winery has always been Méthode traditionelle sparkling wines – the method for making champagne. It cannot, however, be referred to as champagne because only wines that come out of the Champagne region of France can be called champagne! They now also offer a selection of Pinot Noir and 95% of their fruit comes from one of their six estate vineyards.
Domaine Carneros offers a variety of tasting flights, full glasses or bottles and even cheese, meat and caviar pairings! My choice was the Grande Tasting comprised of their Late Disgorged Brut, Le Rêve Blanc de Blancs, Le Ciel Serein Pinot Noir and The Famous Gate Pinot Noir. My favorite was the Late Disgorged Brut which is aged for six years sur lie en bouteille. The flavor and crispness of this sparkling wine was very pleasant on the palate and I had to take a bottle with me! If you’re looking for a last minute gift, head to their online gift shop to grab a bottle or two to celebrate the holiday season. (This winery is not included in the Covet Pass.)
Opus One Winery
If you are a fan of French wine then you must head to Opus One. This winery is the brainchild of Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Chateau Mouton Rothschild in Bordeaux and Napa Valley vintner Robert Mondavi. The winery is comprised of four vineyard parcels and only the best of the best fruit is made into wine. Unfortunately for this year because of the fires, many of the grapes were left hanging on the vines to dry in the sun. On October 1st of every year a new vintage is released into the world to be enjoyed.
There are two options for tasting: a full glass of the current vintage or a hosted wine experience featuring a tasting of the current vintage plus two library selections. With this option you also get the attention of your host to answer any questions and tell you all about the beauty of this winery. You’ll also get to pay a visit to their grand cellar at the end of your tasting.
Given the prestige of this property and the wine you will want to plan ahead to be sure that you can get a reservation. You won’t be disappointed by the beautiful property and the impeccable wines that are offered. (This winery is not included in the Covet Pass.)
Sequoia Grove Winery
For a rustic, comfortable tasting you’ll want to check out Sequoia Grove Winery nestled beneath a grove of sequoia trees in Rutherford. This winery was founded in 1979 and offers a variety of tastings and food pairings to enjoy. Sticking with my French theme I opted for the CAMBIUM vertical tasting, which are wines blended of red Bordeaux varieties hand selected from their cellar. The beauty of this vertical tasting is that you can taste a series of the same wine from different years to get an idea of a new versus aged vintage, as well as how the flavors varied throughout the years. The current vertical tasting consists of 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 vintages.
Sequoia Grove has a beautiful property with comfortable seating and outdoor fireplaces to cozy up and enjoy your wine. This winery is included with the Covet Pass, so just let them know you’re a pass holder when you call for a reservation.
Chateau St. Jean Winery
If you’re looking for another beautiful setting (which is hard to avoid in this region) then you should head to Chateau St. Jean in Kenwood. The vineyards surround a gorgeous chateau built in the 1920s which now serves as the main hub of the property. They offer a great selection of red and white wines with the Cinq Cépage blend serving as the flagship wine offered. This wine has collected a number of awards and accolades and is a Bordeaux style red blend.
They offer a variety of wine tastings but a unique offerings is their picnic lunch that you can enjoy alongside of your tasting or bottle of wine at a table nestled in one of their beautiful courtyards. Our basket featured a selection of meats, cheeses, salads and spreads, bread and even dessert! It was the perfect way to spend an afternoon and a great way to enjoy some of their amazing wines.
This winery is also included in the Covet Pass, without the picnic, but there’s always an opportunity to upgrade to enjoy the picnic. You also get to keep the picnic basket, which is perfect for future wine picnics!
Of course there are a lot of other wineries out there but the above give a great selection of wine styles and price points. With COVID rules changing rapidly you’ll want to check out the current rules and regulations before you plan your trip. If you’re coming from San Francisco you might look in to a day tour that leaves from the city. There’s never a bad time to visit Napa or Sonoma and if you’re a lover of wine and beautiful scenery you should be sure to add it to your list for the upcoming year!
Special thanks to Seven Branches, Covet Pass, Domaine Carneros, Opus One, Sequoia Grove and Chateau St. Jean for hosting me during my visit!