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Please vet my wine country itinerary

Hello from Boston!

My husband and I will be in Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino this April and are looking for some feedback on our plans. We are in our early 30s and this is our "last hurrah" so to speak before real adulthood (ie, kids and a hefty city mortgage). So we are trying to strike a balance between a few splurges and not completing depleting our savings account. We have been to Wine Country once before together and I have been there a few times previously with friends. So we are looking to branch out a little more this time. We are mostly into reds, but always like tasting whites since we don't drink them so often. In terms of buying, $50 to $60 would be our max this time around. We welcome any feedback, so thanks in advance for your help!

Here goes!

April 17th: Arrive SFO
Drive the costal route to Mendocino

April 18th: Mendocino

Mendocino Headlands/Fort Bragg
Any suggestions for Dinner? I've checked a few places out online, but nothing really speaks to me. The high end places seem stuffy, and the casual stuff seems very crunchy. Crunchy is okay with me (being a vegetarian), but my husband is a devoted carnivore.

April 19th: Drive from Mendo, hitting a few stops and overnighting in Healdsburg

Greenwood Ridge Winery (heard they make some good Zins, but looking for further feedback. Fife is a possibility too, but I have not liked the last two "Redheads" I've tried and it would be a bit out of the way.)
Lunch at Libby’s (Philo)
Wilson Winery (one of our favorites from a past visit)
Preston Winery (if we have time)
Dinner at Cyrus

April 20th: Overnight in Healdsburg

10:15am Tour: We have rented a car service for this. Based on our Zin interest, they've recommended we choose from the following. Any advice on the best three or four? Ridge is a must for us! And we have been to Mauritson, Seghesio and Unti perviously. Rafanelli seems impossible to get into.

Ridge Winery
Mazzoocco Winery
Quivera Winery
Fritz Winery
Montemaggioro Winery
J. Rickard Winery

Any recs for a casual dinner? I've heard totally mixed reviews on Ravenous and Zin.

April 21st: Overnight in Healdsburg

Canoe Trip on Russian River, Picnic Lunch from Oakville Grocery

Dinner at Scopa, Healdsburg

April 22nd: Drive from Healdsburg to Sonoma to overnight, hitting RRV on the way

Hartford Family Winery
Lymnar Winery
Merry Edwards (should hear back tomorrow about appointment confirmation. Really excited about this one! Its been recommended to us by several wine distributors in MA.)
Siduri Winery, Sunce Winery or Martinelli Winery (any thoughts on which one to visit? I know we would need an appointment at Siduri.)

Dinner at Estate, Sonoma

April 23rd: Overnight in Sonoma
We spent some time in Sonoma last year and were not blown away by anything close by (Kunde, Gundlach-Bundschu, Ravenswood, Deerfield etc), but we did like a PN we had from Buena Vista. Any others that we should not miss?

Olive Oil Tasting at “The Olive Press” (Hopefully, not too touristy?)
Buena Vista
Lunch at The Girl and the Fig or El Dorado Kitchen (We love both of these!)
Jack London State Park

Dinner at Rin’s

April 24th: Overnighting in Yountville

Pride Winery at 10:30am (reservation confirmed - inconvenient drive from Sonoma, but problem getting appointment at any other time.)
Lunch at Taylor’s Refresher
Joseph Phelps at 1:30pm (reservation confirmed)
Silverado Winery

Dinner at Bouchon (I've heard mixed reviews, but it seems like there are diverse opinions on every place in Yountville. Since FL is not an option this year, Bouchon seems like a good option. We'll perhaps opt for the bar, though we do have a reservation.)

April 25th: Overnight in Yountville

Grgirch Hills 10:30am
Pine Ridge

Any recs for Lunch or other must taste wineries? We would love to do Shafer or Frog's Leap, but can't afford any more splurges.

Dinner at Ubuntu (I'm a vegetarian and am so excited for this meal!)

April 26th: Return Home

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  1. you are right that there are many many amazing things to do, see and eat, but you you may be trying to do too much here.
    do you need to have so many different sleeping places? packing and unpacking takes time and energy. do you have a favorite wine/winery? go there. see what else they make. take your time.
    one more thing: bouchon is in no way a FL substitute.

    6 Replies
    1. re: sarapeater

      Hi sarapeater,
      Thanks so much for your quick reply. Sleeping places are already locked in - I am a regular business traveller, so the packing/traveling issue does not really phase me so much on vaca or otherwise.
      Ideally, we want to do 3 or max 4 wineries each day, with a few days of non-wine tasting interspersed within. Favorite places are already there, and there will no doubt be some spontaneous diversions from this itin. But I am interested in board help on what specific restaurants/wineries to scrap or substitute on our tentative itinerary. No doubt, Bouchon is no FL. I think Cyrus will be our big meai. But we'd love to hear about any other recs in Yountville. Thanks again for your feedback! Great to remember to take it easy on ourselves!

      1. re: pickyeater08

        Mendo dinner-- our favorite is Cafe Beaujolais.

        Besides Greenwood Ridge, Toulouse, Esterlina (by appt.), Goldeneye, and Roederer Estate are also good options, esp. if you like pinot and sparkling wine (Roederer).

        Close to Preston in Dry Creek Valley is Bella, which makes some great zins, including a late harvest which is delicious.

        Of your wineries on 4/20 I've only been to Ridge and Quivera, and think they'd both be good choices. You're right, definitely keep Ridge.

        4/22: Hartford and Lynmar are two of my favorites in that area. Of the other ones, I've tried Siduri and Martinelli--I would pick Siduri. Martinelli was disappointing for me.

        Favorite Sonoma wineries: Chateau St. Jean (it's a bigger one though), Tin Barn (close to the Napa/Sonoma border near Carneros). I don't think you'd be disappointed by Buena Vista, though, or Bartholomew Park which is nearby.

        I'd recommend Ad Hoc instead of Bouchon. A prix, fixe menu but it's consistently delicious, which isn't something I've been able to say about Bouchon.

        Don't worry about missing FL. You're going to Cyrus after all!

        1. re: two_drifters

          Thank you so much for all the info! Much appreciated. Ad Hoc sounds great, my only concern is that I am a vegetarian and I'm not sure if there were any non-meat options on the prix fixe. Know anything about that from previous visits? I don't seem to be able find anything on the web.

          1. re: pickyeater08

            Look into Redd in Yountville. It is upscale but quite casual at the same time. They will handle a vegetarian dining with a carnivore very well.

            1. re: pickyeater08

              Whenever I've been to Ad Hoc, they've always asked if there are any questions or concerns about the menu, which gave me the impression that they had a backup plan. If you're interested, I'd just give them a call and ask how they handle vegetarians... (it would be my pick over Bouchon, too!)

              1. re: cyberroo

                Seriously, if you must do a Thomas Keller restaurant, call Ad Hoc, see if they have a veggie option. I am NOT in the Bouchon camp. You can get French bistro food anywhere. This isn't anything unique to the area. It is a chain, really. Same formula in Vegas.

                Just up the road from Bouchon is Brix. Lovely food from their own gardens by a chef who is actually in the kitchen, not just the cook of the moment like at Bouchon. Website and linked reports (mainly mine) here.
                http://www.chow.com/places/31850

                Fabulous cheese plate by an new local cheese producer. If you get there during happy hour it is 1/2 price. Wonderful cocktails too. Beautiful view of hills and vinyards. At Bouchon, you see the road outside and a crowded, claustrophobic restaurant if sitting inside with no view. Skip it.

                -----
                Brix
                7377 St. Helena Highway, Napa, CA 94558

      2. For a real zin find, drive up to Talty Vinyards in Dry Creek, just slightly north of Healdsburg. The owner/vinyard manager/wine maker is incredibly nice and the wines are wonderful -- much more finesse than many zins. Call to make an appointment. You're basically visiting a small tasting room right next to the wine maker's family's house.

        Also, Hartford sells out of its zins quickly, and I'm not sure they have much of a selection of zins in the tasting room. They usually have more pinots and chards. Also agree that Martinelli has been disappointing. They rarely taste their better wines. If you like pinot and/or sauvignon blanc, Rochioli is a nice place to visit -- tasty wine and pretty views from the patio. Bring some food for lunch (from Oakville Grocery?), buy a bottle of wine, and have a lovely picnic. Enjoy your trip!

        1. The original comment has been removed
          1. We are leaving Napa today. You will love the Pride tour. If you like "big" cabs, our favorites on this trip were Regusci and Pina. I think Regusci has some cabs at your price point.

            1. I agree, skip Bouchon. Ad Hoc could be a problem for a vegetarian but you won't know until the day of. Redd in Yountville is excellent. I think you should also consider, in Yountville, the newly opened Bottega. I haven't been yet but my wife and everyone else we know who have been all think it's terrific. Michael Chiarillo is the chef/owner and he has a great reputation.