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Mar 12, 2008 11:31 AM

Best wine tour in Northern California?


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  1. for pinot lovers , you would stay in Healdsburg or Santa Rosa , and then hit Benovia , Woodenhead , Dehlinger , and Rochioli......Woodenhead and Rochioli have tasting rooms , you will need to call Benovia and Dehlinger...enjoy yourself .

    1 Reply
    1. re: pinotho

      I did this back in December. Learned that you need to know what your focus is...
      Sonoma = zins & pinots
      Napa = cabs & syrah
      we stayed in Healdsburg in Sonoma, did 2 days of tasting there (Peay & Hartford were the favs), then 1 day drive over to Napa.

      If you are interested in the wine making process go to the small family owned that you need appointments for, they really take the time to show you around. Plan ahead as a lot of the smaller you have to contact ahead to make an appointment and they only do tastings on certain days. If you prefer not to be that restricted there are LOTS with open tasting rooms (usually for a fee). Keep it to a max of 3-4 vineyards per day, anymore is pushing it. When you book, if there is a certain wine you are looking for make sure that you ask, as sometimes they have sold out and are not tasting that particular one.

      The board winodepot is a good help with information on vineyards/hours/contacts etc.

      have fun!!

    2. Have either of you been or heard of Del Dotto Vineyards and their caves?


      5 Replies
      1. re: harleyj

        How much money do you have you're willing to give away?

          1. re: harleyj

            Because the whole idea behind Del Dotto is that they pour lots of wine down your throat and you end up drunk and broke . . . .

        1. re: harleyj

          no, but we did get to go to the caves at Truchard & Tresspass & Neale (all in Napa) what a cool experience!

        2. The website for the SF Chronicle has a very helpful database for info on visiting NorCal wineries. They also have an archive of articles/reviews on visiting a large number of wineries.

          Look for the "Wine Country Guide" at:

          1. This is not an original or unique suggestion, but it's one I find hard to refute (and I have tried myself, trust me). The gold standard in Northern California Winery Tours is the Robert Mondavi winery in Oakville. Check out the website for the options and pick the one that appeals most to you. Then spend days, weeks or longer trying find a better overall experience. Some people may have better wine, or wine you like more I should say--but that isn't the point. This is not say there aren't other good tours, or possibly one you might end up liking more, but all paths lead from here. As it turns out, I find the larger wineries with greater resources are often the best tours. Let's also be clear that I am talking about walking aorund with a winery representative AND tasting as opposed to just walking up to a tasting bar.

            Caveat: If you know somebody at a certain winery, are in the business or are somehow incredibly famous/important et cetera, then this gets all messy.

            But, for the average enthusiast, missing Robert Mondavi is a significant mistake regardless of your opinion on them, their history or their wines. Go, and there is a darn good chance they'll change your mind on the spot or make you even more of a fan. The only way I can describe the culture is with that old analogy..."give a man a fish and he eats for a day...." Well, I see them as saying "Sell a bottle today and the winery gets one sale. Teach some one about wine and they'll buy over and over..." Okay, sorta clumsy, but I think the point is there.

            6 Replies
            1. re: ellaystingray

              Thanks for the rec's. RM sounds like a good starting point, where else would you go if you had another day or two in the wine country?

              1. re: harleyj

                It really depends upon WHAT you like, and WHERE you're going to be . . . and how much you already know, and what you'd like to learn.

                Some people will visit wineries with the idea of learning more about wine; others will visit their favorite wineries and/or trying to discover new ones; while still others are there just to drink wine . . .

                If you can provide a few more details, I'll be happy to provide some tailored recommendations.


                1. re: harleyj

                  I also regularly suggest seeing a sparkling wine facility and I prefer the tour at Mumm Napa for that. Once you've been to Mumm and RM you've seen two very large operations and I tend to then suggest some medium size places. Far Niente, Peju, Grgich and Whitehall Lane come to mind. Miner is also really good, as is Sinskey. And then I would mix in places you simply want to check out. They may or may not have "exceptional" visitor experiences but if you like the wine, that makes up for a lot.

                  It is worth noting that it is hard to visit more than four wineries in a day and less than that if you are trying to do tours at each place. Believe it or not, the day goes by really really fast and time gets eaten up by things like lunch and travel--while the valley seems small, Calistoga to Oakville takes some time. If you are just dropping into tasting rooms, you can add more.

                  Oh, and one more thing. If you are into seeing unique places (unique meaning different, not necessarily pretty) Darioush and Castello di Amarosa are one of kind spots.

                  1. re: ellaystingray

                    Oh gosh -- how do I say this politely? I'll just say it straight out then: The last winery you mentioned makes some of the worst wine I've ever tasted in Northern California. 16 of 18 wines tasted smelled like vinegar. Thin, weird and awful flavors on the palate. The castle itself, similar to many in Italy, is somewhat interesting, but that's the only worthwhile thing you get for your $25 admission, $30 on weekends.

                    1. re: maria lorraine

                      Well, personally, I wouldn't recommend EITHER Darioush or Castello di Amarosa, but -- yes -- ESPECIALLY the latter!

                      1. re: zin1953

                        Maybe I should have been more clear about the unique part as opposed to the wine part. My bad. I am not endorsing the wine, or even the architecture/design--but I found them wildly amusing.