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Sonoma / Napa wine tours

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I have 1 day to spend in either Sonoma or Napa (coming from NYC, visiting a friend in San Francisco). There are plenty of tours online. Are any particularly reputable or particularly awful?

Would love any feedback. While I don't want to break the bank, "value" is not so much a concern as hitting some smaller, more charming, possibly owner-operated vinyards.

Thank you!!

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  1. I very much enjoy taking guests to Vine Cliff on the Silverado Trail in Napa. Appointment only, $20 tasting. The hosts do a great job giving you as much or as little info as you want and are quite entertaining. (Khris is especially good) Very good cabs and chards, although a bit pricey. Your tasting fee is deducted from purchases.

    1. I just came back from Napa. I would highly recommend Frog's Leap (they are all organic and use geopower - the tasting is free as well), Cakebread (really nice tasting experience - they take you in the back where all the action is going on as opposed to just going up to a tasting room) and if you're into it, Round Pond Olive Oil (different experience but by far my favorite of all the tastings and tours). Chateau Montelena also had a really nice and informative tour - the most informative of the ones I went to (about 15 in all) and a really well put together tasting. Plus the grounds are just spectacular. All are by appt only.

      1. Thanks for the suggestions so far! I should have been more specific.
        We will not be driving (being a NYer, I am too nervous to drive even after 1/2 a glass of wine, so don't want to risk it after a day's worth of tastings.
        So I am looking for more of an organized tour/bus type thing. Or could be convinced to stay overnite if vinyards are close enough to bike/walk/taxi.

        1. Your not going to get smaller family owned wineries on a bus tour! 50 tourists piling off the bus is a bit more than most can handle. As the other poster implied, however, many of the larger places do a great job.

          My recommendation is to get a driver and a private car. There are plenty of services, you might try a google search.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Chris Rising

            I know. I know!
            That's why I was asking for suggestions for the best of that sort of thing. I will look into cars. Thanks!

          2. Beau Wine Tours is an option. Have not used them myself, but ran into a driver at a winery and he seemed a nice guy. Chatted for a bit and got his card. (800) 387-2328

            1. There are several individuals in Napa that offer individual tours. While I have no names, I have run into several different guys at various wineries. The normally do no more than two couples max and are happy to do single couples. Have no idea of the costs involved but they are normally familiar with many of the smaller wineries.

              1. I'd recommend Dan Dolen of Reserve Wine tours. He focuses on smaller, family-owned wineries that he's selected because he likes the wines and the vibe. He'll get a sense of what you're interested in, whether it's a type of wine or an appellation or winery size etc, and tailor the tour accordingly.

                If you were to be persuaded to stay overnight, Wine Country Inn in St. Helena offers Inn-cursion tours for their guests on certain days of the week. The tour includes a visit to 3 wineries and a picnic lunch. It's not a private deal, so you may spend the day with other Inn guests but the maximum tour size is only 6 people. They visit some cool wineries, and the Inn staff is very accommodating and approachable.

                * Disclaimer: I work at a small winery that both Dan Dolen and Wine Country Inn groups have visited in the past. However, there's no guarantee that if you choose either one of them you'll come to visit my employer.