Making the most of a "French Laundry" weekend
First, advance apologies if I missed the thread that covered this. I went through a number of them and was not successful in finding an answer.
My boyfriend and I are celebrating a big accomplishment in my life and he wants to take me to the FL (I know, terribly lucky girl!).
We would like to make a three day, two night weekend trip out of this venture to this infamous restaurant. Neither of us has been to the area, including Napa Valley. We would love to explore the area but have heard to stay away from Napa Valley and go to the surrounding areas instead of a wine country experience.
I would love recommendations for bed&breakfasts, other places to eat, sites to see, vineyards to try. Any help would be most appreciated.
PS. Although the FL is on the itinerary, we actually have to budget conscious. . . thanks again!!
Thanks in advance, WS
If you can't get in to FL. Staying in Healdsburg at Hotel Duchamp and dining at Cyrus across the street was a great substitute for us. Cyrus is a close 2nd to FL in terms of gourmet dining and a lot easier on the wallet. But the FL is tthe FL! The Duchamp is a charming little place with 6 uber designed cottages with a large pool and excellent service. We thought it was a great value with the stay 4 pay 3 pricing. Healdsburg is a great town with lots of other excellent dining options and all within a few minutes walk of hotel. I actually like the wine touring in this area better than Napa, more low key smaller boutique style wineries. You can still drive to Napa Valley for a day tour a few wineries hit Greystone cooking store and have lunch in Yountville like we did. Redd was excellent and best value of our trip. Lunch entrees at $14 that I would have been fine with paying double.
" ... have heard to stay away from Napa Valley and go to the surrounding areas instead of a wine country experience."
The Napa Valley wine country is lovely and worth a visit. The place to stay away from is the city of Napa, which is south of the wine region and relatively uninteresting.
I would recommend staying at one of the hotels in Yountville for the evening as after The French Laundry dinner you will be quite full (and possibly a little inebreiated) and walking to your hotel room is just the thing, get a littel bit of exercise before retiring. If you are going in the off season (after September I think) then the Hotel prices go way down and you can even find deals. We usually stay at The Vintage Inn which is just down the street from The French Laundry. As to staying outside Napa Valley, for the evening of The French Laundry dinner I would not recommend it unless you are going to have a driver/cab then you don't have to worry about the trip back and can just relax and enjoy dinner.
As to places to go, if you are a sparkling wine fanatic you should try Schramsberg just south of Calistoga. For great views (and they have picnic tables on the ridge) Pride Mountain vineyards is very nice.
The "season" is somewhat dependent on the weather. A lot of people like to come up for the harvest and crush, which are usually late September/early October, but will vary based on the weather.
Mid-late October is probably your best bet - the weather is usually still nice, and the rates should be lower.
When were you thinking of going?
Getting a reservation at the French Laundry is a huge chore: they take reservations two months to the date in advance, and you have to call first thing, you'll probably get a busy signal, try again, etc. and for a weekend date, the might not have anything left when you get through. They do have a waiting list and sometimes reservations show up on OpenTable (there's a table available at 9:30 tomorrow night, for example). But it's hard to plan a weekend under those circumstances.
If you can get a reservation, great. But if not, you can have a wonderful weekend with memorable meals if you take the money you were going to spend at TFL and spend it at some place like The Farmhouse Inn (both to stay and to dine) *and* Cyrus in Sonoma County.
re: Ruth Lafler
Great point! We will likely be going in the fall, because as you astutely pointed out, reservations have to be made so far in advance.
There is a part of that is inclined to make the dollar stretch more, but with this recent advancement for me, my boyfriend and I wanted to mark it with a special evening at the FL, a place I have babbled on about for years to him. . . lol.
Again, any B&Bs, sights to see, etc. recommendations would be most appreciated!