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Napa/Sonoma Itinerary help, please!

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Heading to Napa/Sonoma this week for a first-time visit with my husband, my parents and my brother. We are celebrating my parents' 40th wedding anniversary. Here's our itinerary, which I'd love some feedback on, and a couple of suggestions. I've spent a lot of time reviewing information here, but need a little bit of help on some specifics.

Day 1: Drive in a.m. from SFO through Napa to Yountville. We may stop in Napa to walk around a little bit - is there a better section we should park/walk for an hour or so to shop and people watch?

Lunch in Yountville @ Bouchon bakery (or are we better off eating somewhere else and coming here for goodies after lunch?).

Looking for a tasting somewhere along the 29 to the Oakville/Dry Creek/Trinity Rd. cutoff toward Glen Ellen- please suggest a stop that is both scenic and doesn't require an appointment. Considered Hope & Grace right in Yountville, but it seemed a little touristy and not quite what we're looking for as a first stop on our trip. We have cab lovers and chardonnay lovers in the group, so the particular wine isn't as important as that it's a pretty stop with a reasonable tasting fee and no appt. required. We're staying in Sonoma and doing a Sonoma tour on Day 2, so just wanted to do one Napa tasting.

Is the Oakville/Dry Creek/Trinity Road route really tough to drive?

Stop in Glen Ellen to poke around - I don't know much about this town - anything we can't miss?

Drive to Sonoma, check in to Inn at Sonoma.

Dinner at Cafe la Haye - suggestion for drinks afterward for the "younger" members of our group?

Day 2: Breakfast at Inn.

Private Platypus tour.

Dinner in town - plan to not make a reservation since it's tough to tell how people will be feeling after a day of tasting (!). Suggestions for walk-in (it'll be a Thursday night) type, casual but really yummy place in Sonoma?

Thank you, in advance, for your help!

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  1. Regarding Day 1: Consider a stop at Artesa Winery on the South end of Napa as you enter the Valley for beautiful views of the surrounding area if it is clear. The Oxbow Market in Napa is a fun place to walk around and people watch, but Yountville is probably a more fun place for walking. I would have a more upscale lunch than Bouchon Bakery . . . it would be fun to get treats at the bakery after lunch. Consider Bistro Jeanty.
    The drive over Trinity Road is fine as long as it isn't bad weather. It turns into a tiny back road which is very pretty and a fun way to cut over to Sonoma.
    Dinner at Cafe La Haye should be good. There are lots of margarita/tequila options at the Mexican place across the street on the corner for the youngsters.

    2 Replies
    1. re: vday

      I like Bouchon Bakery - good take-out. The weather has been unseasonably warm and dry -picnic weather. We hope it will rain soon.

      A good place for a picnic is Quarryhill Botanical Garden, on Highway 12 just east of Trinity Road. Blooms currently include magnolia, camellia and some early rhododendrons. www.quarryhillbg.org/

      Drive over the hill is lovely, just take it slow. And don't drink and drive! It's narrow, steep, and windy. Inebriated passengers might think twice and choose to drink on the Sonoma side of the trip. :

      )

      Glen Ellen has some wonderful takeout food downtown at Glen Ellen Village Market and desserts at Hop Kiln Tasting Room - http://hkgtastingroom.wordpress.com/

      The chocolate shop at Jack London Village makes us happy too.

      Maya Restaurant on the corner of First Street East and Napa is closed indefinitely due to a fire.

      You are coming during olive season - plenty of festivities - http://www.sonomavalley.com/OliveFest...

      Enjoy your trip and do drive safely.

      1. re: Columba

        Thank you, both! I will carefully consider the planned cut off...may be hairy for one of our "less hardy" members! Especially excited to learn that it's olive season...I will do some reading on that!

    2. Sadly in Napa you can't avoid the touristy bits if you want to stay close to the main roads and not make an appointment. The wine and service can be excellent along the main roads - but by definition if it's on a major thoroughfare - there's going to be lots of people. You just kinda have to roll with it or skip it.

      Not quite on the way, but no more than a 2 mile detour: Pine Ridge. Silver Oak. Whatever Coppola's Rubicon vineyard is called at the moment. Peju.

      In Glen Ellen, you should stop by Audelssa. Haven't been there myself since usually in a rush, but people keep recommending it, and we enjoyed wines by the same winemaker at Sojourn Cellars.

      5 Replies
      1. re: goldangl95

        Oxbow Market in Napa is great for a drop in lunch and browsing the market. Lunch at Hog Island Oysters or C Casa (upscale tacos) is lively in fun.

        In Yountville, Bouchon Bakery is closed for repair after a recent fire. You may wish to visit the brand new effort by Richard Reddington, Redd Wood. It's a pizza and Italian oriented stylish but casual place.

        In Sonoma, El Dorado Kitchen is great for cocktails, less so for dinner. The Girl and the Fig is fine for lunch, particularly on a sunny day on the patio. Both are right on the scenic central Plaza.

        Have fun.

        1. re: cortez

          Super bummed about Bouchon. It was a highlight for my mom - any other great bakeries we could hit? Thank you, goldangI95 for the winery suggestions, and cortez for the lunch ideas. We'll probably spend more time in Napa now and may even eat there before exploring Yountville since the bakery is closed.

          1. re: lakesregionnh

            Comparable to Bouchon in Napa is Sweetie Pies; I highly recommend their Morning Bunz and Sticky Pecan Roll. They have a ganache-filled shortbread that is quite decadent and beautiful miniature cakes. Many will also recommend Model Bakery (near Oxbow) but I prefer them for their bread products versus pastries.

            1. re: lakesregionnh

              Downtown Bakery in Healdsburg, Artisan in Sonoma, Della Fattoria in Petaluma, and Ponsford's Place in San Rafael are good bakeries.

              I don't think the city of Napa is worth more than a brief stop on such a short trip. Recent redevelopment projects have added tourist destinations but the city is not what made Napa Valley world-famous.

              1. re: lakesregionnh

                If you are going to be spending more time in Napa, I would recommend picking one of the wineries off of the Silverado Trail which runs parallel to the 29. While still busy, it is not the parking lot the 29 can be in peak season.

                Pine Ridge is there. Also Chimney Rock, Darioush, Frog's Leap. Silver Oak is between the 29 and the Silverado Trail.

                Also, as an FYI, for future trips the bustling "cute" winery town of the Napa region is St. Helena. It's a little too far north to be convenient for your trip. Yountville is quaint but very tiny.

          2. I would recommend Barndiva in Healdsburg for dinner - definitely need to make reservations in advance. Stop for a beer at Beer Republic in downtown Healdsburg- great to break up all the wine drinking.

            Rochioli is a favorite winery of mine - known for their pinot noir. I am also a fan of Woodenhead - pinot noir and zinfandel.

            1. While Healdsburg has amazing food, drink, and scenery, it is at least an hour's drive from Sonoma, most of it on the two-lane Highway 12. Dark and dangerous driving with lots of oncoming headlights.

              Since Sonoma has it's own charms, I suggest focusing there on this trip and returning later to enjoy Healdsburg, the Russian River, the Sonoma Coast.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Columba

                Thank you, all! I'll report back when we return. I think we will stop for a snack at Oxbow Market and wander over to Sweetie Pies, then hit Peju and check out Yountville. Still considering the windy Trinity road route. Hoping for good weather!