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tasting in napa or sonoma?

c
cleopatra999 Nov 1, 2007 10:04 AM

we are traveling to Napa in early December. Trying to set my tasting schedule. We are booked into a place in Napa proper. We have 3.5 days. Is it too lofty a goal to do the Russian River Valley & Dry Creek in one day? We are HUGE pinot & zinfandel fans. Should we be staying in Sonoma instead?

Thanks for any one's help!

  1. eatzalot Nov 7, 2007 11:52 PM

    For Zinfandels, unless they're already very familiar, be sure not to omit the fundamentals -- the "Three Rs" of Ridge, Ravenswood, Rosenblum. All popularizing Zinfandel as a respectable varietal for 30 years (longer than that, I think, with Ridge). All have presences in Sonoma County even though Ridge and Rosenblum are headquartered further south -- Rosenblum's congenial tasting room in downtown Healdsburg where you may encounter Mr. Rosenblum himself; Ridge's satellite "Lytton Springs" operation north of Healdsburg. Ravenswood's HQ is in the city of Sonoma as I recall.

    1. eatzalot Nov 6, 2007 09:16 AM

      History of modern Pinot Noir production in California is a case of a false start followed by a recovery, accounting for current quality PN growth in geographical pockets. These are in cooler growing regions -- RRV already mentioned, pockets of Napa County, and the northernmost winegrowing coastal river valley, the Anderson Valley (crossing Sonoma into southern Mendocino County), link below. The false start was in the 1960s and 1970s, when growers cultivated PN alongside Cabernet, where PN actually needs cooler regions. (It produced wretched PNs and for a while stigmatized California as unsuited to that grape.)

      If you're interested in Pinots Noirs, John Haeger's comprehensive book "North American Pinot Noir" (2004) is the standard. (It's in revision, 2nd edition due out at some point.)

      CH thread on Anderson Valley:

      http://www.chowhound.com/topics/89523

      2 Replies
      1. re: eatzalot
        Frodnesor Nov 6, 2007 09:32 AM

        Some of my favorite PNs these days are coming from Anderson Valley.

        1. re: Frodnesor
          eatzalot Nov 6, 2007 12:07 PM

          Yes -- though it's not large, that valley accounts for a disproportionate number of high-qulity PNs. (Sonoma County leads state PN acreage at 10,027 as of 2005 according to McGourty at this year's Pinot Noir Conference.) The official Anderson Valley winegrowing area (AVA) is in Mendocino County although the valley itself extends into Sonoma County towards Highway 101.

          Haeger identifies important subregions in the "Pacific Pinot Zone." The north-bay AVAs on this list are the Russian River and Anderson Valleys mentioned here, and [Los] Carneros, which overlaps Sonoma and Napa Counties.

      2. w
        whiner Nov 5, 2007 07:02 AM

        RRV AND Dry Creek in one day AND staying in Napa does seem a bit much.

        1 Reply
        1. re: whiner
          a
          Annapolis07 Nov 5, 2007 07:04 AM

          Go to Cyrus and have the tasting menu. They give TFL a real run for their money IMO.

        2. s
          speakingthetruth Nov 4, 2007 12:24 PM

          1st stop Sidurri...not a vineyard but an industrial warehouse but you will become a fan with the first sip.

          2nd stop drive another 1.5 hours to Mendocino. Stop by Goldeneye and then proceed to Lazy Creek vineyard, my personal favorite, just don't tell anyone else about it. :) Small, fun, and some of the best wine you will ever have. Then go to Harmonique. Stop by Roederer for a glass of bubbly and taste the difference between a regular bottle and a magnum of the exact same champagne. Let me know how it goes.

          2 Replies
          1. re: speakingthetruth
            Frodnesor Nov 4, 2007 08:53 PM

            Just FYI Siduri is to my knowledge appointment only. Sister winery Novy also makes very nice Syrahs and Zins.

            1. re: Frodnesor
              c
              cleopatra999 Nov 5, 2007 06:31 AM

              sounds great! I will check into these places.

          2. z
            zin1953 Nov 4, 2007 11:47 AM

            >>> We areHUGE pinot & zinfandel fans. Should we be staying in Sonoma instead? <<<

            Yes.

            1. Frodnesor Nov 1, 2007 03:44 PM

              If it's pinot and zin you like then I highly recommend you spend at least some of your time on the Sonoma side, probably using Healdsburg as a base. That's where our preferences lie as well, and we much prefer Sonoma to Napa. Here is the report on our most recent visit ->

              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/433164

              Our high points:
              Wineries - Bella, Preston, Seghesio, Porter Creek
              Restaurants - Cyrus, Willi's, Bovolo

              There are several Sonoma wineries that are appointment-only, but also a big number that are not. I never make appointments and have no difficulty finding 3-4 good wineries a day to visit. It is worth doing a little advance research to make sure a place you want to visit has regular tasting room hours (or make an appointment).

              Getting from Healdsburg over to Napa side (starting in Calistoga) is about a 45 minute drive, which we did one day. Not such a big deal. If I recall right, it's easier to do the cross-valley drive coming from the northern end this way than it is to cross in the middle, which is a hairier, hillier drive.

              On previous trips we've eaten and stayed at Farmhouse Inn in Forestville, which is wonderful (but, I should note, further west making a day-trip to Napa more difficult). The town of Sonoma also has some very good restaurants - General's Daughter, Girl & the Fig in particular come to mind.

              The drive between valleys is doable, but not something you want to be doing every day, and probably not something that's much fun at night. Another alternative if you really want to maintain one base - consider staying in Glen Ellen, which is
              - about 10 miles north of Sonoma
              - about 15-20 miles south of Santa Rosa (which can be sort of the southern base for exploring the River Road / Westside Road wineries which are south of Healdsburg
              )- about 30 miles southeast of Healdsburg, and
              - about 15 miles west of Yountville (though they are twisty, slow-driving miles crossing from one valley to the next).

              We used Gaige House Inn in Glen Ellen as home base one year for both Sonoma and Napa and did OK.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Frodnesor
                c
                cleopatra999 Nov 1, 2007 04:09 PM

                thanks everyone, we have moved our hotel to healdsburg. we will go to napa one day for tasting, just to experience that area. the other days we will spend in sonoma, specifically the upper valleys.

              2. oolah Nov 1, 2007 10:12 AM

                Doing the Russian River Valley AND Dry Creek AND driving all the way back to Napa does indeed sound a bit ambitious.

                If you love Zinfandel and Pinot, consider staying the Healdsburg area instead of Napa. Napa is better known for Cabs. You'll find more Zins, Pinots and Syrahs on the Sonoma side.

                9 Replies
                1. re: oolah
                  c
                  cleopatra999 Nov 1, 2007 10:18 AM

                  that is exactly what I have been thinking. Cabs are not really our thing. we could drive to sonoma 2 days, but that seems like a lot of driving.
                  What about the restaurants? do they tend to be better in napa or sonoma? i have been researching the napa side only.

                  1. re: cleopatra999
                    oolah Nov 1, 2007 10:23 AM

                    I've eaten well on both sides. I was in Sonoma over Labor Day weekend, and we very much enjoyed a dinner at The Girl and the Fig (Sonoma) and lunch at Willi's (Healdsburg). We also did a big splurge on Cyrus, which was nice but I thought a bit overpriced.

                    Here's my itinerary from our recent trip:
                    http://www.chowhound.com/topics/437995

                    1. re: oolah
                      c
                      cleopatra999 Nov 1, 2007 10:59 AM

                      thanks that was helpful. I cannot wait for the tastings! I just changed our hotel, we are now staying right in healdsburg on the plaza.

                      will look at cyrus, we do want one splurge dinner. on the napa side we were going to go to la toque.

                      do the vineyards in sonoma require appointments? do i need to plan ahead of time exactly where i want to go?

                      1. re: cleopatra999
                        oolah Nov 1, 2007 11:27 AM

                        Many of the best ones do require appointments.

                        In the post I mentioned above, I linked to a map I created with restaurants, tasting rooms, hours, and whether or not they require an appt. Definitely check it out.

                        1. re: cleopatra999
                          maria lorraine Nov 1, 2007 12:33 PM

                          I know you've posted for Napa resto recs on the SF Bay Area board...you'll also find loads of resto recs and winery tasting recs there also for Sonoma...

                          I wouldn't miss Farmhouse Inn if I were you...

                          If you're into Pinots, RRV is the place; Dry Creek Valley for Zins. Good adjustment of place/strategy, by the way. You might search this board for Zin and Pinot recs, especially by area. Have a lovely visit.

                          1. re: maria lorraine
                            c
                            cleopatra999 Nov 1, 2007 12:55 PM

                            thanks yes, i have now been looking into restos. i think cyrus will be our splurge dinner, and we were thinking of making a trip to farmhouse from napa, so definitely now! can you recommend a steak place tho?

                            1. re: cleopatra999
                              maria lorraine Nov 1, 2007 01:36 PM

                              This discussion should really continue on the SF Bay Area board, Cleopatra.

                              How about beginning a new thread there, indicating your change of base camp to Healdsburg? I would never recommend your driving from Napa to Farmhouse Inn and back-- a very long drive, too twisting a road and frankly, dangerous. Check the Healdsburg threads on the SF Bay Area board. See you there.

                          2. re: cleopatra999
                            Carrie 218 Nov 6, 2007 10:02 AM

                            Question your La Toque res - a quick search will show wildly varying reviews while there are numerous consistently great restaurants on the Napa side. I've eaten at La Toque four times; two were stellar and twice it was close to horrific. Much better *consistently* good restaurants in Napa.

                            1. re: Carrie 218
                              w
                              whiner Nov 7, 2007 05:07 AM

                              Yes, I've heard reports that it had become inconsistent at best. FWIW: I really like Martini House. It isn't super-high-end, but it is pretty damn good.

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