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Help! Overwhelmed by Sonoma/Napa Information

CarlieInLA Feb 7, 2011 12:39 PM

We are off to Napa/Sonoma next weekend with SIL. I have been to Napa many times for wine tasting. This time I wanted to try Sonoma. We are staying at the Silverado. I have been researching the board and I am having a hard time finding recs for Sonoma Wineries that aren't totally spread out all over the place.

I realize Sonoma is a large place, so to narrow it down, we were looking to stay around the Glen Ellen, Boyle Hot Springs area due to driving distance from hotel. We love Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Sav Blanc, Cab. Our favorite wine area is Paso Robles. I came a across a few names:

Gundlach Bundschu
Valley of the Moon

Also, please help me narrow down some dinner choices. We love adventurous food, my SIL and fam not so much. They are from Ohio and more steak/potato types. Hoping to find a place to please all.

Here is what I have narrowed down to:
Jole (although drive might be too far)

Any help with wineries/food is greatly appreciated!

6534 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

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  1. v
    vulber RE: CarlieInLA Feb 7, 2011 12:45 PM

    would definitely recommend gundlach bundschau, valley of the moon not so much. it's more for italian wines, but i always enjoy stopping off at Jacuzzi.

    bouchon and redd will likely not please steak/potato types; even if bouchon may have the best steak frites around, they will be shocked at the price ($34.50).

    They will mostly find all of those restaruants to be way too fancy.

    Instead, I would recommend Rutherford Grille. It's not incredibly adventurous, but the food is all very well-executed, and on top, there's no corkage. Definitely need to make a reservation though. For a little bit more adventurous, you could try Fig Cafe.

    6 Replies
    1. re: vulber
      CarlieInLA RE: vulber Feb 7, 2011 02:20 PM

      Thanks for the info! Although my fam are steak/potato lovers, they do like fancy places. So we are not opposed to that! Part of the issue is my SIL is allergic to shellfish. So that narrows her choices quite a bit. Since it is a weekend getaway, price isn't a huge factor. Although we aren't looking at the French Laundry level.

      I saw Fig cafe, I was thinking that might be a good lunch option. For dinner we prefer to stay closer to our hotel, on the Napa side.

      The French Laundry
      6640 Washington Street, Yountville, CA 94599

      1. re: CarlieInLA
        JasmineG RE: CarlieInLA Feb 7, 2011 03:14 PM

        Your family will definitely like Ad Hoc. It's basically comfort food, with a Thomas Keller twist, so it's a little fancy, and with top ingredients, but still fried chicken or barbeque, etc.

        Ad Hoc
        6476 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599

        1. re: JasmineG
          CarlieInLA RE: JasmineG Feb 7, 2011 08:38 PM

          Thanks Jasmine. I thought about that, but with a seafood allergy, a tasting menu option only probably won't work.

          Has anyone been to Oenotri? How is that place?

          1425 1st St, Napa, CA 94559

          1. re: CarlieInLA
            bbulkow RE: CarlieInLA Feb 7, 2011 08:51 PM

            Actually, the reverse. When you reserve and mention the allergy, you know you'll be getting dishes especially created and designed for you. Different from a fixed menu like chez pannisse downstairs, where they simply won't make modifications.

            1. re: CarlieInLA
              JasmineG RE: CarlieInLA Feb 7, 2011 09:52 PM

              Exactly what bbulkow said below, they're great with substitutions at Ad Hoc (even down to the cheeses, I went with a pregnant friend once and they brought a different cheese for the cheese plate that worked better for her needs). I'd make the reservation and mention the allergy, they'll accommodate her just fine.

              Ad Hoc
              6476 Washington St., Yountville, CA 94599

              1. re: JasmineG
                CarlieInLA RE: JasmineG Feb 8, 2011 07:50 AM

                Thanks all, but as I mentioned in my original post, we have some picky eaters. They don't like mushrooms, tomatoes, eggplant, ect. A pre-fix is not going to work for us.

                I think I have narrowed down to :

                Any feedback on those specific restaurants?

                Also any recs for Sonoma wineries please???

                1425 1st St, Napa, CA 94559

      2. d
        DavidT RE: CarlieInLA Feb 8, 2011 09:37 AM

        The website of the SF Chronicle (www.sfgate.com) maintains a list of wineries that is sortable by location and other parameters. If nothing else, it is a good resource for general information.

        Here is a link to the roster of wineries within a 10-15 miles radius of the town of Sonoma:


        If you are willing to make the drive, the Dry Creek Valley, west of Healdsburg, is an excellent place for winery touring. For starters, it is a beautiful spot. You will also find a significant number of wineries there, all within about 5 miles of each other.

        3 Replies
        1. re: DavidT
          DavidT RE: DavidT Feb 8, 2011 10:40 AM

          Here is a link to the website for Dry Creek Valley wineries:


          1. re: DavidT
            kskreider RE: DavidT Feb 8, 2011 11:06 AM

            Dry Creek is a hike from Napa but it is where you need to be for the best local Zins. Head south on Westside Road along the Russian River for some of the best local Pinots.

            I personally like Wilson on Dry Creek Road. Seghesio is another great Zin-ery. The really good Pinots can be hard to come by since most are sold via list only. Some places will do private tastings if you call ahead (and buy). Think Rochioli, Dehlinger, William-Selyem, etc.

          2. re: DavidT
            Robert Lauriston RE: DavidT Feb 8, 2011 11:06 AM

            Dry Creek is great, but there are more good wineries in the immediate environs of Glen Ellen than anyone could taste through in one weekend. There's no no reason to schlep all the way to Healdsburg. Here's a pretty comprehensive map of Sonoma wineries, as you can see there are 30 or so in the Glen Ellen / Kenwood area.


          3. Robert Lauriston RE: CarlieInLA Feb 8, 2011 10:31 AM

            Wellington's my favorite in the Glen Ellen area. Arrowood, Coturri, Kunde, and Sky might be to your taste. The Family Wineries tasting room in Kenwood is a convenient way to taste a lot of stuff without having to drive around.

            Vineyards Inn, while off the tourist radar and drawing mostly a local crowd, is a great restaurant for both adventurous and timid eaters. We were staying nearby last summer and ended up eating there three nights in a row.


            For breakfast or lunch on the way too or from Glen Ellen, Fremont Diner (just the other side of Sonoma) is hard to beat.

            Family Wineries Kenwood
            9380 Sonoma Highway, Kenwood, CA 95452

            Wellington Vineyards
            11600 Dunbar Rd Glen, Ellen, CA

            Fremont Diner
            2660 Fremont Dr, Sonoma, CA

            Vineyards Inn
            8445 Sonoma Hwy, Kenwood, CA 95452

            1. ChefJune RE: CarlieInLA Feb 8, 2011 11:43 AM

              If you are tasting in Sonoma, why are you going all the way over to Napa for meals? There are lots of stellar restaurants in Sonoma County. It all depends upon where you're staying.

              I can recommend Mosaic, Zin, Willi's Wine Bar, Zazu's

              and I think you'd enjoy tasting at Iron Horse. They're famous for their sparkling wines, but also make a delicious like of still wines that mostly fly under the radar.

              Ridge Lytton Springs is famous for Zinfandels. And I'm a huge fan of Silver Oak - the Sonoma branch.

              Sonoma Pinot Noirs are largely not nearly as fruit forward as those from Paso, so you may not care a lot for them. However, my personal favorites are made at Vision Cellars in Forestville. And those folks are a most congenial lot. They love visitors.

              Willi's Wine Bar
              4404 Old Redwood Hwy, Santa Rosa, CA 95403

              2 Replies
              1. re: ChefJune
                Robert Lauriston RE: ChefJune Feb 8, 2011 11:59 AM

                Willi's is great, but there's really no need to drive that far. There's plenty within five miles of Glen Ellen to keep you busy all weekend. And, seriously, if you're staying in that area, Vineyards Inn is a must.


                Olive & Vine
                14301 Arnold Dr Ste 3, Glen Ellen, CA 95442

                Kenwood Restaurant
                9900 Sonoma Hwy, Kenwood, CA 95452

                Cafe Citti
                9047 Sonoma Hwy, Kenwood, CA 95452

                Doce Lunas
                8910 Sonoma Hwy, Kenwood, CA

                Sante Restaurant
                100 Boyes Blvd, Sonoma, CA

                El Molino Central
                11 Central Avenue, Boyes Hot Springs, CA 95476

                1. re: ChefJune
                  Melanie Wong RE: ChefJune Feb 8, 2011 12:46 PM

                  Mosaic is no more.

                  Mosaic Restaurant
                  6675 Front Street, Forestville, CA 95436

                2. myst RE: CarlieInLA Feb 8, 2011 11:59 AM

                  Gundlach Bundschu
                  Buena Vista
                  Gloria Ferrar
                  Viansa - not my favorite, but close to Gloria Ferrar

                  These are all on an easy route in Carneros/Sonoma and Fremont Diner is nearby for one of your meals

                  In Sonoma/Kenwood my guests usually enjoy
                  Chateau St Jean
                  Mayo Family for tasting (food pairing need to reserve)
                  Jack London State Park is nice for a stroll too, usually see wild turkeys and plenty of quail.


                  Chateau St Jean
                  8555 Sonoma Hwy, Kenwood, CA

                  Fremont Diner
                  2660 Fremont Dr, Sonoma, CA

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: myst
                    Robert Lauriston RE: myst Feb 8, 2011 12:07 PM

                    Have you had good wine from Viansa recently? To me it's more of a gift shop / deli / tourist trap. In that area I'd rather Schug or Cline (kind of a tourist trap, but they do make some good wines).

                    1. re: Robert Lauriston
                      myst RE: Robert Lauriston Feb 8, 2011 12:10 PM

                      Viansa is not one I personally enjoy (I grew up in Sonoma) but it is close by and I often have visitors wanting to go there....I think it is on the bus route.

                      Many of the places I like are not much "fun". Milat, Seqouia Grove etc...
                      I also like Cline wines...

                      But it reminds me how much visitors rave about V. Sattui, somewhere that locals never go.....

                      1. re: myst
                        CarlieInLA RE: myst Feb 8, 2011 02:08 PM

                        We do not want to go on the bus route!! Please let me know about good wines, we don't really care about the gift shop. V. Sattui is my worst nightmare.

                        1. re: CarlieInLA
                          myst RE: CarlieInLA Feb 9, 2011 08:28 AM

                          Yes, then skip Viansa. But the other Carneros wineries are worth the trip. Sometimes it is hard to gauge whether visitors want "an experience", amazing views, neat buildings, or just the wine.....

                          When I have guests I try to mix it up so they get a little of each...and some good wine wineries have you tastes wines so young that you can't really appreciate them in a tasting anyway......

                          1. re: myst
                            ChefJune RE: myst Feb 10, 2011 11:39 AM

                            Viansa has changed a lot since the "old" days when it was really Vicki and Sam. We used to love it. :(

                            Sharp Cellars in Sonoma makes some memorable Zinfandel, and also delicious sausages. Flies a bit under the radar. http://www.sharpcellars.com/

                  2. CarlieInLA RE: CarlieInLA Feb 8, 2011 12:15 PM

                    Wow! Thanks so much everyone! I will be doing some major research based on all the recs. We are actually staying in Napa, but my SIL will be there for a few days before doing the Napa side. We have done it many times so we wanted to taste in Sonoma this time. Vineyards Inn looks interesting, but we will only be around for lunch. I have a reservation at Girl and the Fig for a possible lunch option.

                    I have read a lot about Healdsburg but the drive is just too much from Napa. We will have to book a separate trip another time just for this area!

                    For dinner we are going to stay on the Napa side where our hotel is. I am still tossing around ideas, but liking Oenotri the more I read about it.

                    Thanks again everyone, and any further info is greatly appreciated!

                    Vineyards Inn
                    8445 Sonoma Hwy, Kenwood, CA 95452

                    1425 1st St, Napa, CA 94559

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: CarlieInLA
                      Robert Lauriston RE: CarlieInLA Feb 8, 2011 12:23 PM

                      Vineyards Inn is open continuously from 11:30 am to 9 pm.

                      Vineyards Inn
                      8445 Sonoma Hwy, Kenwood, CA 95452

                      1. re: Robert Lauriston
                        CarlieInLA RE: Robert Lauriston Feb 8, 2011 12:32 PM

                        Thanks for the info, I looked on their website and couldn't find any hours. Might be a good option.

                      2. re: CarlieInLA
                        vday RE: CarlieInLA Feb 8, 2011 08:47 PM

                        Oenotri is getting good reviews from friends in town. Both times I've tried to stop in midweek for dinner it's been too packed to get seated without a long wait. They do lots of seasonal dishes and word is they do them very well. If you get there, please report back:-)

                        1425 1st St, Napa, CA 94559

                        1. re: vday
                          cortez RE: vday Feb 9, 2011 02:03 AM

                          To the OP.

                          Oenotri is good, solid Italian fare in a lively atmosphere. Been packed since it opened.

                          If your in that downtown neighborhood, you may wish to try Tyler Florence's new rotisserie, also very popular. Has a Southern accent on popular dishes. Also a lively and fun place.

                          Morimoto and Ubuntu are also right there as well. But, they may be a little adventuresome for the in laws.

                          Agree with poster above on the Rutherford Grill. If you want a straightforward steak or prime rib experience with an excellent, well priced wine list, this may be your place.

                          Lastly, the Valley of the Moon trip is fun and scenic but not worth it for wines alone. The wineries are farther apart and not at the same quality level of those near your hotel. I'd save the Sonoma wine tour to a future stay based in Healdsburg. That town has good hotels, fine restaurants, a beautiful central plaza and good wineries nearby.

                          Ubuntu Restaurant & Yoga Studio
                          1140 Main Street, Napa, CA 94558

                          Rutherford Grill
                          1180 Rutherford Rd, Napa, CA 94558

                          1425 1st St, Napa, CA 94559

                          610 Main Street, Napa, CA

                          1. re: cortez
                            cortez RE: cortez Feb 9, 2011 06:29 AM


                            For very unusual wineries near your hotel, you might consider:

                            Kenzo, extravagant Cab produced by Japanese video game magnate. He hired the top architect, vineyard manager, caterer (Thomas Keller), etc to create this dream estate in eastern Napa

                            Jarvis, his winery buried in a high tech cave, another hi tech millionaire created this High quality estate

                            Darioush, looks like a Disney dream of Persopolis comes to Napa. Never mind that. This Persian entrepreneur makes some terrific wines. His $50 merlot will make you forget all those tasteless Merlots you've probably had.


                            1. re: cortez
                              CarlieInLA RE: cortez Feb 10, 2011 10:15 AM

                              Thanks Vday and Cortez, we have our reservation at Oenotri and I will be sure to report back!

                              1425 1st St, Napa, CA 94559

                        2. c
                          chowtogo RE: CarlieInLA Feb 9, 2011 04:20 PM


                          There are so many great wineries in the area it is overwhelming. You'll find some great Pinots down along the Carneros area, and a favorite of mine is Schug. In deciding wineries you might want to consider if you're just looking for really great wine or if you want a great view and place to visit. The two don't always go together. Schug, for example, is nothing to marvel at, but it's a nice Pinot spot.

                          Also, how far do you want to travel? There is so much right around Sonoma that you don't need to go very far, but as some people have already alluded to, there's some great zins up in the Russian River area.

                          You can do a simple tour of Sonoma and see Buena Vista (owned by the "big guys"but a nice visit for the historical element), Gundlach Bundschu, Schug, and then head up Rte 12 for great views and a few more lovely stops (someone mentioned Wellington, another small one I also like, but they have port which I'm fond of).

                          Or, you can walk around Sonoma Square and visit some of the wineries right off there. Depends how much time you have. Wines are generally more expensive than in Paso Robles, so keep that in mind when you choose where you're going.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: chowtogo
                            CarlieInLA RE: chowtogo Feb 10, 2011 10:15 AM

                            Thanks Chow! Since we have some out of towners, its probably good to have a mix of good wines and nice views. I will take your rec on Schug and have also heard Gunlach mentioned several times so I think we will head there too. Wellington also seems nice and we do love a good port!

                            1. re: CarlieInLA
                              Rosedale RE: CarlieInLA Apr 22, 2011 04:50 PM

                              Ran across your post while planning my trip. Any chance you have a recap?

                              1. re: Rosedale
                                wolfe RE: Rosedale Apr 22, 2011 05:00 PM

                                Short report.

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