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Carneros Wineries and Restaurant Suggestions?

My boyfriend and I are visiting Carneros at the end of April for the weekend (3 full days) and would greatly appreciate some food and wine suggestions! We love unique, off-the-beaten-path places. Love places like Quivera and Fieldstone wineries to name a couple favorites.

Please no heavily traveled, tourist attractions a la Coppola. We are very laid back, go with the flow, deep appreciation for all fine wine and gourmet, well done food. We are not snooty or fussy nor will we come bearing cameras, fanny packs or sneakers, I promise.

Here is what I have been recommended thus far. Feel free to yay or nay any:

Wineries: Bouchaine, Domaine Carneros, Schug, Gundlach Bundschu, Gloria Ferrer, Anaba, Cuvaison, Artesa, Batholomew Park, Nicholson Ranch, Acacia, Sojourn Cellars, Scribe, Buena Vista, Truchard

Restaurants: Boon Fly Cafe, Farm at the Carneros Inn, The Girl and the Fig, Angelo's Wine Country Deli

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  1. On Food:

    Don't Miss El Molino Central if you like Mexican!

    On Wineries:

    Here's a recent thread on this:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/834840

    If you want to avoid the well tread, touristy wineries I would cut:
    Gundlach Bundshu
    Schug
    Gloria Ferrer

    I really liked Sojourn Cellars. It's by appointment, and it's a wine tasting room in town - as opposed to on a vineyard. As a warning, they release their wines young (there's still tons of oak, tannins etc), and so their wines are not released ready to drink.

    In Sonoma (the city), I would consider adding:
    Adobe Road
    Roessler - depending...when we went last, they were out of a lot of their wines

    If you are crossing over to the Napa side of Carneros, (e.g. Domaine Carneros) consider:
    Etude
    Adastra (appt. only)

    8 Replies
    1. re: goldangl95

      Thanks! I do love Mexican, so I will add El Molino Central to my restaurant list.

      I did see that thread, but wanted to concentrate on Carneros exclusively.

      I was on the fence about Gundlach, Shug and Gloria Ferrer, and as you confirmed, I have cut them and replaced with Etude and Adastra - they look amazing and right up our alley.

      Glad to hear your thoughts on Sojourn, I've heard great things as well, definitely a keeper.

      If time allows, I would love to check out the tasting rooms you suggested in Sonoma.

      1. re: goldangl95

        I don't find Schug to be touristy is a bad way at all. I like their Carneros Chardonnay much more than most versions of Chardonnay (I drink mostly reds). I'd skip their reds; they seem to be an afterthought at this white-wine-centric winery.

        1. re: Malcolm Ruthven

          I agree. Schug is uneven. I've lumped them in with Gloria Ferrer and Bezinger on a few threads now, but they are much smaller than the other two.

          They are uneven though, by most standards, so it makes it hard to recommend to the once in awhile visitor. I do appreciate that they appreciate their white varietals. I would love and encourage more wineries to do so, if I had any such influence!

          1. re: goldangl95

            Schug isn't uneven if you stick to their whites :-) I've aslo found their small tasting room to fun, usually with interesting people there.

            Benziger? Don't get me started about how much I've always disliked their wines, so much so that I now refuse to taste them at all. I've also never liked the sparkling wine at Gloria Ferrer. It's a gracious place with a nice view, and sometimes I'll take visitors there because of that, but that's all I can say good about it.

          2. re: Malcolm Ruthven

            I haven't tasted it lately, but Schug's Pinot Noir used to be one of the most interesting in Carneros. I don't remember ever being impressed by any of their other wines.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              It used to be rather Burgundian, fine indeed. Don't know if the current releases are like that, though.

              1. re: maria lorraine

                Or Spatburgundian. The founding winemaker Walter Schug is from Assmannshausen and got his start there. I believe Schug still sells a significant percentage of its wines in Europe, particularly Germany.

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Yes, Pinot Noir is his passion. But when he can get quality fruit, Cabernet Sauvignon is his forte'. Not surprising, as he is the winemaker who set Joseph Phelps on the path to greatness with that grape variety. However, he has not been hands on for many years.

        2. My wife and I really liked our experience at Roche - they have a tasting room just off the square in Sonoma (northwest of the square). They usually offer barrel samples, to get you excited about their reserve program - and with us, it worked ! It's always more fun to drink wines from the barrel. Nice discounts on some nice wines.

          The Girl and The Fig is just down the street, and that's highly recommended as well. We also had a great time at La Salette, which is also just off the square, on the east side.

          We also visited Schug which is southwest of Sonoma, in Carneros proper (I guess on probably it's westernmost side) and it's also worthwhile - fun and interesting people (a common trait in this area, I think) and wines.

          If you want a break from food and wine, and enjoy contemporary art or just like something quite unique, you owe it to yourself to check out the DiRosa art collection and tour - it's smack dab in the middle of the Carneros region, halfway between Napa and Sonoma.

          http://www.dirosaart.org/about/the-co...

          Have fun !

          1 Reply
          1. re: mikester

            I highly recommend Cline and their sister winery across the way, Jacuzzi. Go for the Cline Mourvedre and Jacuzzi Primativo. I can't disagree more with Mikester...we went to Roche in Dec. 2010 and the wine varied from mediocre to just plain bad, but was made hilarious by the tasting room carnival barker who rudely gathered everyone around for barrel tastings and tried to boast about this nasty juice being the best Pinot noir they've ever made and we should all buy futures. Big waste of time! Now me and my wine traveling party have a saying: "Roche is Roach!" and when we've gone on further wine trips the worst wineries contend for our nomination of the "Roach winery"! ....we also went to Buena Vista--historic winery, nice scenery, decent wines, ALL way overpriced for the value.

            If you have the time, concentrate your trip on getting further up north and spend more time in the Russian River Valley and environs. Dutton Estate and Thumbprint Cellars for sure!!

            Richard
            www.vines-and-steins.com

          2. Truchard is outstanding all the way all around -- superb Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay.
            Second Adastra, especially for the small-lot Pinot Noirs. Lovely old barn setting.
            Bubbles: La Reve at Domaine Carneros. Do not miss the Di Rosa Preserve across the street,
            Artesa: interesting architecturally, wines are fairly good.
            MacCrostie makes a buttery Chard -- not my style, ordinarily, but this one is excellent.
            Bouchaine is coming out a long sleep, and my guess is that they are producing good wines again,
            but I haven't tasted firsthand.

            I personally highly dislike the wines of Roche, Cline, Jacuzzi, and Nicholson Ranch. I think you come to Chowhound to avoid places with wines like that. Sorry to disagree with other posters who care for the wines of these wineries -- I do not. I find the wines have off-flavors, and are otherwise poorly made. The low-quality of these wines becomes all the more apparent when you taste the really beautiful wines that are available from other wineries in the same area.

            Boon Fly -- see my other posts on this place. I always prefer the bar, except for Sunday brunch.
            Yes, also to Farm.

            Carneros straddles both Napa and Sonoma counties, and is very near the southern end of the main stretch of Napa Valley. It's a bit silly to limit yourself to Carneros only, unless you really want to laze about close to your lodging -- and I'm all for that sometimes. Be sure to drive the back roads of the Carneros to see the breathtakingly pretty vineyards there. Not that they're more beautiful than those of Napa or northern Sonoma County -- they just have a charm all their own.

            In the city of Sonoma, read the recommendations of other wineries on this SF board in the city of Sonoma (differentiating the city of Sonoma from the huge county also called Sonoma). You could venture forth to Glen Ellen slightly north of Sonoma and say, Yountville, on the Napa side, and still stay pretty close to the Carneros. Once you hit Napa/Yountville and Sonoma/Glen Ellen, many other wineries and possibilities open up, but for that, I'd ask you to read the many threads and posts that have already been written.

            3 Replies
            1. re: maria lorraine

              Will Second skipping Roche, Cline, and Jacuzzi. I'm not familiar with Nicholson Ranch.

              1. re: goldangl95

                We are wine club members at Acacia and Étude. Highly recommend both.

                1. re: scullymika

                  I have made tasting appointments at both. Can't wait!

            2. Some of those you list are very touristy and big.
              Étude is one of my favorites, especially if you like pinots.
              Michael mondavi is a small and nice winery- great patio out back to sit drink and over look the vineyards.
              Restaurants:
              -harvest moon cafe- great courtyard out back- must sit outside
              - cafe la Haye
              -el dorado kitchen

              4 Replies
              1. re: Hckarawan

                Which ones would you consider "touristy and big"? With so many great small production wineries to chose from, I'd like to cut those heavily traveled ones out. I have since cut Shug, Gunbun, Gloria Ferrer, Anaba and Nicholson Ranch in favor of Etude and Adastra.

                  1. re: maria lorraine

                    Thanks Maria Lorraine for all of your great reccommendations and insight! I've also made a visit to MacRostie a must on our trip as well as a tour of the Di Rosa Preserve. We have chosen to explore Carneros exclusively this trip as we prefer to spend a good deal of time in each unique region.

                    1. re: Acire

                      Di Rosa is a GREAT place and so different than all the wineries that most people center in on.

                      I'm not that big on Schug, finding their Pinots to have deteriorated in the past few years in quality.

                      For bubbly, I will take Domaine Carneros (owned by Taittinger) over Gloria Ferrer's product.

                      I also bring people to Artesa, just for the ambience, architecture, and art - not so much for the wine...

                      Also a big fan of Bartholomew Park for their hiking trails and history.

              2. A big thank you to everyone for all of the great recommendations! I know we will have a great time, largely because of them. Here is the itinerary (Feel free to critique):

                Friday
                Artesa - 10 am
                Bouchaine - 11 am
                Di Rosa Preserve - 12 - 1 Introductory Tour
                Domaine Carneros - 1:15 pm
                Lunch at the Boon Fly Cafe - 2 pm
                Soujourn Cellars - 3:30pm - 4:30 pm appointment
                Dinner at The Girl & the Fig - 9 pm

                Saturday
                Acacia - 10 am -11am appointment
                Truchard - 12 pm - 1pm appointment
                Lunch at El Dorado Kitchen - 1:15
                MacRostie - 2:15
                Etude - 3 pm - 4 pm appointment
                Dinner at Farm - 9:15 pm

                Sunday
                Scribe - 11am - 12 pm appointment
                Adastra - 1pm - 2 pm appointment
                Lunch (TBD)
                Cuvaison - 4 pm - 5 pm appointment

                If we have time:
                Bartholomew Park
                Buena Vista

                10 Replies
                1. re: Acire

                  I think you will spend more than an hour at DiRosa... Have asked how long their introductory tour is? The last time I went, I was there for 3+ hours (but I am an admitted art junkie).

                  1. re: CarrieWas218

                    Yes, the introductory tour is 1 hour long. If time allows, I would love to explore more.

                  2. re: Acire

                    I think you are mostly fine as your by appt wineries have an hour buffer. Just be aware that driving around wine country can take awhile, and tastings during popular times and good weather are rarely efficient.

                    Where I see this might being an issues is jumping from Di Rosa to Domaine Carneros to Lunch @ Boon Fly Cafe all within 2 hrs of each other.

                    1. re: goldangl95

                      Agreed. This day is much too tight:

                      Artesa - 10 am
                      Bouchaine - 11 am
                      Di Rosa Preserve - 12 - 1 Introductory Tour
                      Domaine Carneros - 1:15
                      Lunch at the Boon Fly Cafe - 2 pm
                      Soujourn Cellars - 3:30pm - 4:30 pm appointment
                      Dinner at The Girl & the Fig - 9 pm

                      You will want to linger at Di Rosa. Four major buildings of art, on an interesting estate.
                      I'd give it at least two hours.

                      You are underestimating tasting and driving times. It takes more than 15 minutes to get from DiRosa to Domaine Carneros (don't forget you have a walk from the parking lot at each spot). I'd figure a half-hour commute. You don't want to seem rushed during your tastings (you'll miss a lot when you are) or when driving on your vacation, nor do you want to be late, so please revise.

                      Here's what I'd do:

                      Bouchaine 10 am -- should be a short tasting about 30 minutes
                      Artesa - 11:00 am -- very close to Di Rosa, unusual building and tasting, 45 minutes
                      Di Rosa Preserve - 12 - 2 Introductory Tour, an hour tour, an hour to wander around.
                      Lunch at the Boon Fly Cafe - 2:15 pm
                      Domaine Carneros - 3:30 pm -- This will be a longer tasting, close to an hour, especially if outside.
                      Soujourn Cellars - 5 pm appointment
                      Dinner at The Girl & the Fig - 9 pm

                      1. re: maria lorraine

                        Friday is the day I had the most difficulty arranging. I see that indeed I was underestimating travel time. I do prefer your advised itinerary, however Bouchaine does not open until 10:30 am, so I presume I would just have to visit Artesa first to save some time, but allot ourselves a bit more time there. I do think visiting Domaine Carneros after lunch would be ideal, unfortunately, the latest I could push the appointment at Sojourn would be 4 pm (one hour tasting; they close at 5). I definitely do not want to be late to any appointments or have to rush, so worst case scenario, though I would hate to, I could cut one of the wineries.

                        1. re: Acire

                          I'd skip Bouchaine (not high priority) and schedule Sojourn in there. Or, find a window in another day and schedule Sojourn then.

                          Please schedule enough time to linger a bit and enjoy the scenery and air, or to linger over your tasting (in case some special bottles are pulled out at the end).

                          By the way, after a morning and afternoon of drinking, your dinner is scheduled quite late. Are you planning to crash for a few hours and then drive to Sonoma in the evening?

                          1. re: maria lorraine

                            I think I will skip Bouchaine, as you suggested, if need be.

                            I made dinner reservations later in the evening to give us a few hours just to hang out at our cottage ( we are staying just a couple of miles away from downtown) and freshen up, possibly nap.

                        2. re: maria lorraine

                          Maria Lorraine is a very wise woman... You should listen to her recommendation and her timeline is spot on!

                          1. re: CarrieWas218

                            Thanks, Carrie. We should really get together and so some tasting ourselves.

                    2. Had a fun trip up to Sonoma recently that included a stop in Carneros at Robledo Family Winery, owned by Mexican-American grape growers turned winemakers (a Latino Horatio Alger story if ever there was one), followed by lunch and much buying of tortillas at Tortilleria Jalisco in Sonoma. Both places are fun, informal and offer a real taste of Sonoma style. No fancy decor and accouterments, but plenty of local character.

                      1. Just wanted to give everyone a quick recap of the weekend we spent in Carneros (April 27th - 29th). We had a great time to say the least!

                        Friday
                        Left the peninsula around 9am and reached Carneros in about an hour and fifteen minutes. Our first stop was:

                        Buena Vista - It was neat to check out one of the oldest wineries in California, rustic tasting room. Enjoyed one of my favorite chards of the trip. Also to note, a great red blend.

                        Bouchaine - Neat little tasting room, nice grounds, excellent chards, including a favorite of mine called "a mouth full of butter".

                        Di Rosa Art Preserve - Well worth a trip here. Took the one hour long introductory tour. Beautiful grounds, fascinating art.

                        Boon Fly Cafe - Excellent lunch; gourmet, artisan food.

                        Sojourn Cellars - Private tasting. Wonderful, big pinots and cabs.

                        The Girl & the Fig - Delicious dinner, unique plates. Great place for lunch or dinner.

                        Saturday

                        Acacia - Tasted a lot of great wines, purchased a great collection of their reserves.

                        Domaine Carneros - Had some time before our next appointment, so we stopped by. It's a grand and beautiful place, rather touristy, but it was nice to enjoy the weather and some bubbles on the balcony.

                        Truchard - Definitely a favorite of the trip. Outstanding wines and grounds, as Maria Lorraine described. Had a semi-private tour of their wine cave and vineyards, did some barrel tasting as well. Bought quite a few bottles including an excellent cab franc that we actually very much enjoyed last night.

                        Artesa - Quite a well traveled winery, lots of people snapping pics and what not. Sculptures and grounds were architecturally stunning. Did a reserve tasting and rather enjoyed it.

                        El Dorado Kitchen - Lunch was perfect, lots of classic and gourmet dishes to choose from.

                        MacRostie Winery - Another favorite of ours. Tasting is in a warehouse in an industrial looking complex which was different and rather refreshing. Exquisite and unique chards.

                        Farm at the Carneros Inn - Simply amazing. Every course was absolutely delectable. A very memorable meal to say the least. Ambiance is fabulous. Highly recommended.

                        Sunday

                        Etude Wines - Had a wonderful semi-private wine and cheese pairing. Really excellent wines all around. It was a fun experience to test each paring.

                        Scribe - Really rustic, yet beautiful setting. We had a private tasting at an old wooden picnic table outdoors. Another fantastic experience in which we left with plenty of wine

                        Adastra - The most favorite of ours. This is the first winery we have actually ever become members of. We had a private tour of the barn, grounds, pond and vineyards by the owner, who felt more like an old friend we were visiting. This was definitely one of those rare experiences one would have at a winery. The tasting was conducted in his kitchen. The wines really speak for themselves. Quite an amazing time that I will not forget.

                        Boon Fly Cafe - Lunch for the second time here. Since we were close and had such a delicious lunch on Friday, we decided to dine here again. Great decision.

                        Cuvaison Estate - Our last stop of the trip. Wines were good, though nothing we thought stood out, perhaps because it followed Adastra. We tasted outside overlooking gorgeous vineyards. Great ending to an amazing time in wine country.

                        Thank you SO much to all of you for your great advice and recommendations! Special thanks to Maria Lorraine and Goldangl95. Without you, I know we would not have had the wonderful trip that we did.

                         
                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Acire

                          Great trip report! Glad the wineries worked out.

                        2. Since I read this whole thread with avid interest when planning our two days in Carneros, I thought I'd link to the write up I just posted (also includes some DCV): http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/981653. We were a lot less ambitious with a much less refined palate than OP, and we were really appreciative of all the guidance from the community through this thread!