July Napa/Sonoma Trip
I posted earlier about the restaurants we want to go in Napa/Sonoma, but really am confused because of all of the choice there is. We are staying in Calistoga and would love someone to reccomend a good 2-3 day itenerary. One of the hardest places to plan for because there is so much choice for wineries and restaurants according to all of the posts and what I have read in other places. Can people please comment on the below and also where is the best place to pick up a picnic lunch?
Right now my list consists of:
Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen(Lunch)
Umbuntu(Lunch or dinner??)
Sol Bar(any thoughts?)
Auberge De Soleil(Dinner)
Redd(Dinner or Lunch?)
Bistro Ralph(Healdsburg -- what are other good places there?)
Other Suggestions for any of the places we plan on visiting?
I wouldn't suggest Auberge for the food, only for the view, though you can find a view and atmospher just as nice elsewhere. From my understanding, Solbar is doing a nice job. Redd is a definite must try as is Taylors and Ubuntu. I suggest Ubuntu for dinner, the menu is a touch bigger and the atmosphere is quite unique. In Healdsburg, Bistro Ralph is good as well as restaurant Zin. I think you are right on with the wineries to visit.
Don't Go Fish. As many locals say. Unwieldy menu, dishes that aren't honed. Sushi is good.
A few spelling corrections so you can search here, and Google: Von Strasser, Ubuntu, Gary Farrell, and [Charles] Schulz (the Peanuts musem).
I'm not wild about SolBar, and I live in Calistoga. There's no there there.
Not much to it, and what I've tasted had didn't have much flavor or imagination.
Wappo Grill in Calistoga is excellent, and you may wish to check out the micorbrewery and resto called Calistoga Inn. Great breakfasts at Sarafornia.
Auberge is so expensive and only so-so for all money. Lots better food elsewhere for far less. But, the view is great. Go there and have a cocktail/glass of wine around sunset. Go somewhere else for dinner.
Love Ubuntu, Pride, Cindy's, Redd, Terra, Please bear in mind that Bistro Ralph is in Healdsburg, an hour or so north of Calistoga on a winding road. Lots of wonderful restos in Healdsburg. Do a search because the restos in Healdsburg have been well-covered on this board, as well as those in Napa. Gary Farrell winery is very near Healdsburg. Sorry to say, the wines haven't been as good in the past few years as they once were since the winery has been purchased by Jim Beam Estates.
The Peanuts Museum is in Santa Rosa , which is a drive directly over a mountain range with a steep rise and descent. It's not too bad if you're game for the adventure but please be prepared with GPS and/or excellent directions. A thread in the past year on this board specifically talked about the Peanuts Museum.
Larkmead Winery is OK, nothing outstanding, but could be worked into your SR trip. I'm not sure it's worth the effort, especially since you'll be on Westside Road in Healdsburg anyway, which has a slew of wineries all lined up on one road.
As a suggestion, and because I write about Napa Valley (I live here)
and wine country often on this board, and read the excellent suggestions
made by others, please spend a little time doing a search using each of your
resto, winery and "city" names (like Calistoga, Healdsburg, Santa Rosa, and Napa Valley). Not all those CHers who make good suggestions can respond to every post about wine country, so there is much to be gleaned right here.Have a nice time. Drive safely, and allow plenty of driving time between destinations.
The area looks compact on map. Therein lies the deception.
Well, gee, you know the road, and all its twists and turns. You commute on that road. You could probably drive it half-asleep. And maybe have.
Your situation is the exact opposite of the visitor who is driving that road for the first time. The visitor doesn't know the road's twists and bends, and cannot anticipate them. Whereas you know them like the back of your hand.
The visitor doesn't know exactly where they're going. You know the area very well. The visitor may want to take in the killer scenery along the way. Whereas you're probably making time and have seen it all before. You probablly don't drive the road after drinking wine; the visitor may be doing this very thing.
Several other posts about this road on this board.
You've mischaracterized my response. You mistakenly implied that your experience as a commuter every work day on that road is the same as that of a first-time driver. I'm sorry you thought my pointing out the obvious difference between the two was venomous.
Now, granted, Highway 128 through northern Napa, Alexander Valley, and the sharp jog west and then south into Healdsburg, is a lovely drive. To take in all that loveliness properly requires more time than what you describe. And a bit more care in driving. That's all.
I'd like to suggest to jf123 that he stop in at Alexander Valley Winery, one of the best along that road. They make good Zin (they call it SinZin),
and well-priced Cabernet Sauvignon. Also, Stonestreet. The Jimtown Store, also along the route, is a hoot, full of wacky merchandise (some reminders from your youth, perhaps), and good baked goods, sandwiches, coffees, teas, etc. There are some other posts about the JimTown store on CH.
Here are some Chowhound threads that talk about Healdsburg,
with lots of good winery, resto and navigational recs:
If you are going to be in Healdsburg, you might try to get a reservation at Cyrus. It is a wonderful restaurant on par with The French Laundry. This is a destination restaurant not a casual vacation dinner. For something more casual I recommend Santi Taverna Restaurant in Geyserville. It just a few miles north of Healdsburg on 101. It's worth the trip. They do wonderful Italalian home cooking just like grandma with lots or fresh ingredients from around the valley including a great wine list from small wineries nearby.
If you must go to Santa Rosa/Healdsburg, I'd skip Gary Farrell, and stop at Porter Creek instead.
You need a reservation for Pride tastings. Another out-of-the-way Napa winery (but in the other diirection-- on Howell Mountain) is Ladera Vineyards. They require a reservation too but it feels very special to get a tour and tasting all by yourself, and it's beautiful there.
A nice winery for dropping in is Robert Young in Alexander Valley, www.ryew.com, the family has been there since the 1800s.
If you have dinner in Sonoma County and like a relaxing atmosphere the Farmhouse Inn is good. It's on River Road. I don't know where you're from, but if you want to see rewoods and the river, and then maybe the beach, River Road to Guerneville and Armstrong woods is very different looking than Napa Valley.
It is hard to see more than three or four wineries in a day unless you are in an area of closely-spaced wineries and you go from one to another. Even though I live here, I'm always scheduling too much, and I find the driving times always more than I think they'll be.
If you are going to be on Howell Mtn, which is a fantastic spot, I would recomend visiting Robert Craig. He was the former wine maker for HESS, but some years ago, he decided to create his own wine. They have a tasting room in Napa, But I think they are now allowing people to visit their HQ.
If you are staying in Calistoga, and want to visit a great wine tasting room, I suggest OnThEdge on Lincoln. onthedgewinery.com. Not everyday wines, but incredible and passionate wine maker. At the far end of Lincoln, (East, I guess it would be) is a nice little grocery store that has lot's of picknicky stuff...I just can't remember the name of it now. And be careful about getting in or drinking the water at the spas...both my kids were conceived there. :)