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Please critique my wine country itinerary...

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We are staying at the Inn at Sonoma Friday night, and dining at The Girl & The Fig. sat am, we are driving from Sonoma to windsor, where we are staying the duration of the weekend. We plan on driving through kenwood and Glen Ellen to Santa Rosa and then to RRV. We would like to stop at 3-4 wineries and had planned on: (1) dutton Goldfield, (2) Iron Horse and then (3) Woodenhead before traveling to our hotel. Other options for this day are: Imagery, Eric Ross, Dutton estates, and Siduri. alredy done: J. Swan, Lynmar, Martinelli, etc. Melas we have done include: Santi, Farmhouse Inn. Unfortuantely, mirepoix and Odyssey are both closed Sun and Mon. We love pinots; also like cab and syrah and sparkling. Husband loves port. We like the family owned vineyards with small production/high quality wines we cannot find at home in Chicago. Sat night, we are doing a wine dinner in the vinyeard at Hartford. If snakc is req'd: Underground Bar and Bistro.

Sunday: Dry Creek Valley. we will grab picnic supplies at Windsor Market (I love their fresh smoked salmon) and then head to W. Dry Creek Rd, picking up other suppiles at DCV Gen Store, if necesary. Stops include: (1) A. Rafanelli, (2) Fritz, (3) Unti, and (4) Williamson for F/W pairing. Other options: Quivira, Lambert Bridge (to picnic), frick and Mauriston. We have alredy done: Bella, Michel-S., Preston, PPP, Ridge. Monday night, possibly dinner at Barndiva after Williamson d/t.

Monday: Alexander Valley/Calistoga. jimtown to grab sandiwches, travel Q/V Rd to 128 south thru A/V to Calistoga. vineyards: (1) Hanna, (2) August Briggs, (3) Frank Family, (4) Ladera (noon aptmt), and (5) Pride Mountain (1:30pm aptmt to picnic). May want to take a vineyard out of this equation--which one? dinner again in Hburg, Willi's.

tues: Westside Rd. Hburg/Bovolo to start, wak around hburg, vineyards--not too sure, possibly Selby and then the Front St stores--Davis/Sapphire Hill, then Westside Rd to Rochioli, Davis Bynum...down wohler Bridge Road to head toward OAK airport...maybe late lunch at the FARM.

Other than this being ambitious, any thoughts as to better vineyards on the paths we are taking, better restaurants, or other fun things to do we are missing?

thank you!

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  1. On Monday, maybe we should go to Meadowood for an early dinner outside on the terrace after the vineyards in St. H/Calistoga?

    1. For Dry Creek, skip Frick. . .check out Caffaro. I like Quivira. . .

      I'm a big fan of August Briggs (can't beat a free tasting in Napa), but was underwhelmed with Frank Family (although, can't beat a free tasting in Napa). Also, if you plan on staying a bit longer in Napa, Prager makes port.

      Was at Hartford Family last weekend and really liked their Zins. Let us know how the dinner goes.

      I didn't care for Selby, but that was probably more because our group of 5 was completely ignored by the people behind the bar. Check out Chateau Felice, which is right next door.

      Also, make sure Davis Bynum is open- drove past it a few weeks ago and it was closed. For Westside Rd., Porter Creek is also good (although increasingly expensive).

      3 Replies
      1. re: VenerableBede

        thank you! what type of port does prager do? do you have other favorites in northern napa over frank family and august briggs? did not think I wanted to do schramsberg, but given the warm weather, maybe we will! I love brut rose and heard theirs was good...

        1. re: ljero

          anyone else? we leave today! so excited!!

          1. re: ljero

            Prager makes general port-style wine- no vintage or LBV or 20 years so to speak. I do like their port, and they also make a white port that I like very much.

            As for the northern part of the valley, I don't mean to dissuade you from Frank Family, but as SteveG notes, it might just be better to stay on the mountain than go down to the valley.

        2. Did you like some of the wines at Joseph Swan? Lynmar? Those are two of my favorite Sonoma wineries, and Davis Bynum is possibly my least favorite, based on style of vinification and fruit growing.

          Frankly, if you liked some of the wineries you've already been to in years past, I'd repeat the visits to see how the current vintage is.

          I like Rochioli, but their better wines all seem to be allocated to the established customer list, and all you'll get to taste is the base cuvee, still certainly an enjoyable wine, but not what put them on the map. The up side is that you can be in and out fast since they only pour one wine, and you can sign up for the customer waiting list...which is probably so long that I'll get access to the good wines when I hit retirement.

          Edited to add: I'm not a Sonoma county food expert, but we enjoyed our breakfast/lunches at Bovolo, Wildwood (same people as Underwood across the street), and to a lesser extend Underwood for dinner. Farmhouse Inn was nice too.

          For the day that includes Pride Mountain, that's quite a weird loop, logistically. Pride is located on a 20 mile road that connects Santa Rosa to St. Helena. Another road (Calistoga Road) connects to that road from just north of Calistoga. Were I you, I'd drop the Alexander Valley portion of the day, grab food supplies at Dean & DeLucca in St. Helena, keep the Pride appointment, and then from Pride take St. Helena Rd. to Calistoga Rd. (Left) out to Santa Rosa, hop on 101, and head a few exits north, which comes out close to Joseph Swan, which in turn is close to your dinner plans in Healdsburg. I'd also focus more on the Spring Mountain District around Pride than deal with the valley floor zoo, but I grew up at a (different) winery on Spring Mountain so that might just be my partiality talking. All the wineries in the Spring Mountain District are small and family owned, with the exception of Spring Mountain Winery itself, which is somewhat larger and the (private) owner is hands off, though I've heard the wines are great. Spring Mountain Winery represents the combined estates of Falcon Crest, Streblow Winery, Chateau Chevalier, Draper, and probably a few others. All of the above were good in their time, but they've fallen off the radar in the last 10+ years since they're now a combined mega estate.

          3 Replies
          1. re: SteveG

            Steve, I love that you're a former local boy, and that we share a love of Spring Mountain district wineries and especially Pride. The wines from Spring Mountain Vineyards Estate are wonderful -- with that characteristic clean, direct mountain fruit with its backbone of acidity -- and the grounds of the estate with the Falcon Crest mansion (where the tastings are) are stunning.
            It doesn't feel or seem like a mega-estate, contrary to what you write. Instead it feels warm, real and comfortable but with some elegance.

            I don't understand ljero's loop south from Healdsburg to Glen Ellen and back up to Santa Rosa, but perhaps there is a reason. Differ with you on the Alexander Valley/Jimtown store lunch drive into Calistoga and Napa Valley -- because it is beautiful.

            Were I having a picnic, I'd head straight to Sunshine Market in St. Helena and never D&D. Better selection and cost.

            I'd also be tempted to visit another Spring Mountain District winery. Ljero may unaware of the amount of driving and number of mountains she will be driving in one day.

            Little notes: Prager Ports are not at all Port-like and may be extremely disappointing. Way down on the "no" list for me.

            Dutton-Goldfield's winemaker makes some great swill, and just to be clear, Dutton Estate is a different winery and, unfortunately, the wines aren't as good.

            Small, family-owned wineries: Agree on the visit to Unti, and I very much like Frick. Admire the owner/ winemaker and the wines are unusual, flavorful and very well-priced. Also love Vincent Arroyo in Calistoga, amazing single-vineyard Petite Sirahs.

            If you don't like Brett in your wines, you won't like Siduri's wines, though Adam and his wife are wonderful.

            And all this may have been written much too late...sigh.

            1. re: maria lorraine

              Yeah, Spring Mountain Winery doesn't feel like a mega estate, but they do own something like 2 miles of Spring Mountain Road frontage, and probably have an elevation gain of 1700 feet on the property from bottom to top. Even at $25 it might be a worthwhile tasting, because I'd imagine they'd be pouring quite a few varietals, and within each varietal a few styles from different vineyards on different soils and distinct elevations.

              1. re: maria lorraine

                Maria: thank you for the email! we loved the drive from hburg to a/v rd, down 128 to calistoga--maybe my favorite route to date! we love seeing the countryside, which explains my strange route. we drove out 128, with frist stop that day at Ladera, second at Pride, then drove down 29--picked up picnic goods at The Model Bakery, drove all the way down to Ceja at southern end of 29 (someone had recommended this to us and we were SORELY disappointed), then drove back up Silverado Trail to Sinskey--all the way back up and then crossed over--lots of driving, but it was great.

                I have to tell you, if youhave been been to C. donatiello yet on West side rd, you must go. They moved into the old Belvedere spot recently. Their pinots had been recommended to me at Rochioli/G. Farrell and it was my favorite stop--they are not cheap, but were so elegant. My favorite was the Maddie's vineyard...I liked it better than the Freeman and McDougal dutton I had for the price. Moreover, I really enjoyed Rochioli's single v pinot they are pouring for $48.

                Side notes: We missed Scopa, as it was closed Tue night, but really want to try it--it had a great buzz, and good menu. You have to let me know how it is if you make it there!

                Thanks for everything to everyone!

            2. I tasted some really nice Pinots at the Dutton Estates a month or so ago on the same trip from Sonoma through Glen Ellen etc to RRV. They very much fit the family owned/small production/quality requirements. Definitely go to Iron Horse - the setting is idyllic and if you like sparklings, there's plenty to keep you happy (although I somehow came away with a truckload of a wonderful Merlot).

              Would also commend the girl and the fig choice - had a very memorable meal there on that same trip.

              1 Reply
              1. re: amd43

                not like you need any more options, but I love Vincent Arroyo in Calistoga.

              2. On Saturday, I would drop Iron Horse and add Freeman or Merry Edwards (who have new facilities in Sebastopol). Both require appointments.

                http://www.freemanwinery.com

                http://www.merryedwards.com

                On Sunday, add Papapietro Perry (unless PPP is the abbreviation for them and you've already been).

                http://www.papapietro-perry.com

                On Tuesday, I would also drop Davis Bynum and substitute Arista, very close to Rochioli or Gary Farrell. You may need a appointment at Gary Farrell.

                http://www.aristawinery.com

                http://garyfarrellwines.com

                2 Replies
                1. re: tanglenet

                  Thank you! Unfortunately, I had called on Freeman and they were out of town this weekend/week. Merry Edwards, I am on their list already. We skipped PPP, only b/c we did it last year...although in hindsight, wish I would have gone there yesterday again for some pinot...

                  Tue, we will do G. Farrelll, but have a case of Arista at home--really enjoy their pinots--

                  I love all your recs--we obviously like the same wines, so any others you can recommend?

                  1. re: tanglenet

                    Spring Mountain Winery only does the tour/tasting, which is 1 1/2 hrs and $25. I think for the price, I'd rather do a food pairing...also we have done enough tours this trip so are only looking to taste, which they will not do, unfortunately...hmmm...

                  2. The Davis Bynum brand was sold last year along with the inventory. River Bend winery is the new name for the facility and operated by the Bynum family.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Melanie Wong

                      thanks everyone! the reason for the weird route for saturday, is that we stayed as at the inn at sonoma, in sonoma, so we we making the drive from sonoma to windsor to check in that afternoon....we hose to NOT drive 12 there, and took the lesser traveled roads. we started at: Eric Ross for pinots only and did find one that we liked--they were all much too light, then on to Dutton G: we bought two bottles of the McDougal Pinot (which was not being tasted but was brought out for us from the back)--they are almost sold out, but we bought a few bottles (at $58 each, though), then on to Iron Horse--what a gorgeous view--we really enjoyed the sparkling tasting and I really liked their Brut Rose.then to woddenhead, which was great. I bought a few pinots, zins and syrahs. Our wine dinner at hartford was a lot of fun...gorgeous weather, interesting menu, excellent execution--a great way to start the weekend (maybe too much of a good thing, as I was feeling it the next am). Missed M. Edwrads, but I order off their mailing list and am familiar with their wines.

                      Sunday was a day of wine that was not very good--all were almost too inky/jammy. We started at Fritz as I heard the tour was fun, which, it really wasn't, and I did not like their wines much. I went to the club tasting at Bella, and still love their Lily Hill wines. We had an appointment at A. Rafanelli--I really was expected much more from their wines, and the last appointment was Unti, and again, felt all the wines were harsh, young, and not very enjoyable. for dinner, we headed to Ravenous--mostly for the burger and ambience. I had the burger with gruyere and caesar salad..it was cooked perfectly--very juicy, great flavor. My husband had the cappellini with scallops, mussels, shrimp with a red sauce, which was also great--the sauce was great, it was not fishy and the seafood was not overdone. we shared a tiramisu, but it was a bit dry--the ladyfingers should have been soaked in amaretto..but we loved this place--I was pleasantly surprised. Windsor farmer's market for lunch...the best fresh, warm, smoked salmon.

                      So....today...really want to drive some pretty drives and taste some good wine...have ditched August West, and Frank F. We are starting off in A/V to do the 128 drive. We have a noon aptmt at Ladera and 1:30 at Pride. Otherwise, we have some time--sounds like we should try Spring Mountain Dist winery and Vincent Arroyo? May have to stop at Prager for my husband as he loves port....any final thoughts? we may drive all the way down thru Napa and back up--we'd love an interesting route and some great wine stops...I am really almost zin'ed and syrah'ed out...but, that will have to wait until tomorrow back to pinot country...

                      By the way--anyone been to Scopa in Hburg? It was packed last night and I have not heard anything about it. We have reservations tonight at Willi's, but were thinking of switching to try that, or maybe Cela Luna...

                      Tuesday, we are doing Westside Rd...planned on starting at Hburg to try the Front st vineayrds--do you like them (Davis, Sapphire Hilll, etc)...then on to Rochioli (they are pouring SB and pinot), and possible Gary Farrell, although I have not been enamored with his wines latelym and then Porter Creek (which is what I meant initially when I said Bynum)--any changes to this? looking to take home some pinots I cannot find at home...

                      1. re: ljero

                        Scopa just opened. Try the BiteClub (Santa Rosa Press Democrat) for a quick review.

                    2. Visited C. Donatiello Winery today. Outstanding Pinot and Chardonnay. Truly outstanding. The Pinot was beautifully structured with a nice finish. The gardens are lovely, and the reception was warm and convivial. This is a Russian River winery not to be missed.

                      1. Does PPP mean Papapietro Perry? Because if it does, it is worth going back. If it doesn't, then this is the winery you should visit in Dry Creek Valley for the best tastings of pinot noir. When you are there, visit Kokomo and Peterson Wineries since they all share the same parking lot!

                        I also recommend Palette Art Cafe or Ravenous for dinner or late night fun!

                        When will you be in Healdsburg? Their are many different fun music events going on this summer.

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                        Amphora Winery
                        4791 Dry Creek Rd, Healdsburg, CA