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Oct 16, 2007 07:22 AM

Entertaining in Wine Country


I am from NY and am charged with entertaining a client for the day/night in wine country on Monday 10/29. I have been once before on a personal trip to Sonoma and loved every second of it. After reading several posts, I am still having a hard time putting together a full day itienary. A few questions.

1. Is there a classic chowhound-approved day trip? Link?

2. Is it too much to try to leave SF in the morning, ride up through Sonoma, have lunch, visit a few vineyards, and head back down through Napa stopping for dinner? We have a driver, but don't want to spend the entire day in the car.

3. Restaurants - Zazu seems perfect, but unfortunately, I am doing this on a Monday, and they are closed. Cyrus seems a bit too formal after a full day of tasting and nowhere to change, etc.

4. Are there one or two must stop, off the beaten path vineyard recommendations? I remember going to Amphora on a recommendation and sitting at a picknick table with the owner, and thinking that this was what wine country should be like......

As always, thanks in advance.


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  1. If your plans are to stick to Sonoma for the day, you may as well just stay there for dinner. (I'd recommend General's Daughter). Depending on which part of Sonoma you are in, heading to Napa for dinner can be a long drive.

    If you plan the Carneros-part for the latter part of the day for tasting (Gundlach-Bundschu, Domaine Carneros, Schug, Artesa), than you are relatively close to downtown Napa (fifteen to twenty minutes) for great Napa restaurants like Pilar or the recently opened vegetarian restaurant, Ubuntu. If not downtown Napa, then you have to start driving up valley which will take more time.

    1. Cyrus is significantly less formal than The French Laundry, which is the only place in wine country that I know of with a jacket requirement.

      On a recent trip up to sonoma wine country, we didn't bring particularly nice clothes and were thinking about eating at the bar at Cyrus, which is supposed to be a great last-minute option. I called Cyrus and they said that polo shirts would be fine for the bar, so you could definitely go from tasting attire to Cyrus bar attire without too much trouble.

      If you do Sonoma and Napa, you're looking at spending 4 hours in the car without too many stops and no traffic.

      6 Replies
      1. re: SteveG

        You're in luck in that it is a Monday, some of the best wineries are only open M-F and if you have a list of what you want to do you should be able to get appointments at a few very good places at least. Could you give me more direction on what you like in terms of wine, varietals,

        My sample Itinerary would be to drive up 101 (very few names because I dont know what you are interested in and what type of experience), get off at windsor and go along chalk hill road, chalk hill winery would be a great stop. Take Chalk hill road north into Alexander Valley and have lunch at Jimtown store, laid back and simple food. Continue up through Alexander Valley stopping at (well depends if you drink cab or not)...get back to me on that. Cut through to the upper Dry Creek Valley around Geyserville, come down West Dry Creek Road maybe stopping at Schlumberger and Rafanelli for good, cheap pinot blanc at the former and zin at the latter. Out of Dry Creek and along Westside Road for Pinot, maybe all the way down to Wohler back to the Eastside Road and finish in Healdsburg to walk around the square and have dinner at Cyrus in the bar. I've eaten there many times when there were people wearing jeans and boots sitting next to people in suits and they could care less.

        That should take you through four viticultural regions without an excessive amount of driving and should provide very good demonstration of the incredible climatological and viticultural diversity of the greater Healdsburg environ

        Other know Sonoma better than me and can fill in if you respond with specific likes/dislikes.

        1. re: Tyler McClellan

          Thanks for this great suggestion. Personally, I prefer cab, zin, and pinot noir, and since i'm organizing....i get to pick! So, please do share the place in Alexander Valley you reference above.

          With regards to food.....sounds like Cyrus is the consensus. Is it too refined? Really was hoping to find a rustic/seasonal type place...Cyrus may fit the bill, i'm just not sure. Thanks again and I will report back.

          1. re: chowfreak

            If you do go to Dry Creek, Rafanelli makes an amazing cab and zin and are priced well...$42 for the cab and $36 (or so) for the Zin. Reservations are required so call ahead!

            1. re: tvham


              Chalk Hill Winery

              Lancaster Estate

              Jimtown Store




              Merry Edwards


              Gary Farrel

              Many other good suggestion there are just a few.

          2. re: Tyler McClellan

            Jimtown seems an unnecessary detour east, even though it's a wacky fun place. But there's no need to stop there unless you're also tasting at the neighboring Alexander Valley wineries. Greater adventures await.

            Here's a variation on Tyler's itinerary (and one of my favorite drives):
            Take 101 to the Healdsburg/Dry Creek Road exit, head west under the highway and follow the road and stop at the Dry Creek General Store at Lambert Bridge Road for sandwiches and picnic fixings. (Perhaps before you leave purchase a cheap Styrofoam cooler to keep water and drinks cold.) Take the left onto Lambert Bridge Rd. and then a right onto West Dry Creek Road and hit wineries (see map links below) Rafanelli, Bella and Preston (picnic grounds). Then head south on West Dry Creek Road (stunning little country road) till it intersects Westside Road (slight right). Look up the Westside Road wineries, (Gary Farrell, Davis Bynum, etc.) and visit some of them. Continue south on Westside Road till Wohler Road – take a left onto the one lane bridge over the Russian River (charming) -- and follow Wohler Rd. to River Road. I’d stop at Farmhouse Inn for dinner (not open Monday – dang) or Mosaic (ditto) or Zazu (third strike, I’m out -- shoot!), then head back to 101 and south to San Fran. Since none of those restos is open Monday evenings, perhaps Cyrus is the ticket or another Healdsburg resto, Santa Rosa or Mill Valley/Marin resto. Search this board for recs.

            Tips: Make reservations ahead at the wineries. A couple of days before, order a picnic lunch from Dry Creek General Store or some spot in SF that you can quickly pick up on your way out of town. Drink lots of water during the day. Lots of free regional maps are available once you arrive. Limit yourselves to 4-5 wineries per day. If you want to purchase wine, arrange to buy some Styrofoam shippers before you leave – you can check these just like luggage. Unless the rules have recently changed, most wineries have legal restrictions that keep them from shipping wine directly to NY. NJ is OK, though.

            Dry Creek Valley Map – Zins, some Pinots

            Russian River Valley

            General Area map

            Chowhound thread on restos in the area

          3. re: SteveG

            ".... they said that polo shirts would be fine for the bar, so you could definitely go from tasting attire to Cyrus bar attire without too much trouble."

            Tasting Attire. My least favorite part of living in Wine Country. Now, where is this tourism office that hands out the official wine tourist uniforms?