HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >

Floridians coming to Cali for the first time.

i
IDGuofM Mar 31, 2012 10:37 AM

Hi, my wife and I are coming out for our honeymoon and are overwhelmed with how much there is to see and do out there. We're spending 2 days in San Fran, and 5 in Napa Valley. We always appreciate the honesty of these boards so any help would be appreciated. First, we're looking at going to The French Laundry, any comments from people that have been there recently would be great. Any thoughts on other places to eat while we're out there? We're not picky so any and all of your local favorites are welcome. We're interested in doing wine tastings both free and ones that cost, but which ones do you guys think stand out among others? Also, my wife would like to visit a winery that allows us to have sort of a picnic lunch while we're there, any recs? Finally, being it's a honeymoon, what can you recommend that's really romantic that maybe I can surprise her with? I know this thread is vague and I asked a lot, but any help you can give would be so appreciated. Thanks in advance!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
Delete
  1. j
    Janet RE: IDGuofM Mar 31, 2012 11:16 PM

    The link below will help with your Wine Country questions.

    http://www.napavintners.com/maps/maps...

    This is the best site I have ever found.

    1. g
      goldangl95 RE: IDGuofM Mar 31, 2012 11:57 PM

      Sticking to Wine Country recs for now:

      First, hopefully, you are aware of the issues trying to get a reservation at the French Laundry - it is quite the circus (unless you have a connection or are staying at a hotel in Napa with a concierge desk with a connection)

      Board favorites in Napa:
      Redd
      Ad Hoc - though some rare negative service reviews have been popping up lately
      Cindys Backstreet Kitchen
      Oxbow Market (for cheese purveyors, bakeries etc.)
      Bottega

      You may also want to try Redd Wood - the casual sister restaurant of Redd.

      As to wineries, do you have any concerns about prices? Napa can get rather expensive. If not, I would say the wineries on Spring Mountain have amazing views and excellent wines. They are all appointment only. Pride has beautiful picnic grounds. Smith Madrone and Keenan are excellent. I've heard good things about Relic Wines and Terra Valentine but haven't been yet. Spring Mountain does not get as crowded as some of the other Napa AVAs.

      There's at least 200 wineries in Napa County making good to great Cabernet Sauvignon, so some understanding of your preference in varietals (cabernet, chardonnay etc.) and experiences (tours, pretty grounds, meeting the winemakers) would help us narrow it down. There's everything from large, manicured estate wineries to wineries that don't have a tasting room and shrug at the fruit flies. There's also wineries that are more "reasonably priced" at $40+ a bottle to wineries at $140+ a bottle.

      Also, with Napa, there's always the prestige factor. There's cult/boutique wineries that people chase after, there's the big luxury brands everyone has heard of, there's the small wineries completely flying under the radar etc. It's helpful to know what type of wineries you want to target.

      2 Replies
      1. re: goldangl95
        i
        IDGuofM RE: goldangl95 Apr 2, 2012 03:36 PM

        Thank you for taking the time to reply. We hadn't heard of Redd and it looks great! As for wineries, typically we drink Cabernet Sauvignon so those that offer Cab's are more what we're looking for. Price is somewhat a factor, but we'd prefer to stay away from anywhere that shrugs off fruit flies. We're not so much concerned with going to those with prestigious names unless they live up to their reputation (My father in law enjoys Darioush but I've been reading that it's one that we should avoid). We look forward to more recommendations. Thanks again.

        1. re: IDGuofM
          g
          goldangl95 RE: IDGuofM Apr 2, 2012 04:06 PM

          Napa is the land of Cab Sauv. My suggestion, if you truly like wine, and spending whole days tasting it appeals to you, is to do one "big name, established, napa wineries" day and another "off the beaten path" day. My suggestions are also based on scenic/less traffic-d areas. (Though with places like Darioush - "less traffic" is a relative term).

          Some suggestions for the established winery day:
          Silverado Trail-ish:
          Darioush (it was suggested and yes it is flashy and has a valet - but their wines are very good, and it's worth just to see Napa in its full opulence)
          Pine Ridge
          Chimney Rock
          Caymus (Appt needed)
          Chappellet (Appt Needed)
          Joseph Phelps (Appt needed)
          Duckhorn

          Off the beaten path (all appointment only):
          Spring Mountain (as I suggested before) OR
          Howell Mountain (I have not personally visited, though I do like wines from Howell mountain very much and hear good things about the tasting experience):
          O'Shaugnessy
          Dunn
          Outpost
          Cade
          Ladera

      2. CarrieWas218 RE: IDGuofM Apr 1, 2012 10:05 AM

        Some honeymoon recommendations for romance in the Napa valley there are balloons that you can take over the valley (early in the morning and GORGEOUS) and perhaps consider a day spa; either in Carneros or a mud bath in Calistoga.

        Also, you MUST have a glass of Champagne at Meadowood during sunset. You could eat there as well but it is very expensive and early reports of their menu change has not been great, but it is still a stunning setting and worthy of a stop.

        Restaurant-wise, my favorites (I'm a local) include Grace's Table, Oenetri, Brassicas, Bouchon, and JoLe.

        1 Reply
        1. re: CarrieWas218
          i
          IDGuofM RE: CarrieWas218 Apr 2, 2012 03:40 PM

          Thanks for the reply. The balloon trips are a great idea that I hadn't thought of. We'll also check out Meadowood (regardless of if we eat there or not). Thanks again!

        2. i
          IDGuofM RE: IDGuofM Apr 2, 2012 03:45 PM

          It's come to our attention that more than a few people are upset at the shortening of California and San Francisco in my original post. Just know that we were unaware that this was insult to some of you that live out there. We had never heard of anyone taking offense to either "Cali" or "San Fran" and if we had we would have avoided the terms. We are only looking for local opinions on great wine and food, which we are glad that others have been happy to provide. We hope no offense if taken.

          17 Replies
          1. re: IDGuofM
            d
            danieli10 RE: IDGuofM Apr 2, 2012 03:53 PM

            Not so much an offense as a sure sign that you are tourists! I must admit, originally being from the Midwest, I usually chuckled at the bristling that goes on over "Bay Area" v. City v. Marin or wherever else anyone was living or from in Northern California. Saying Cali and San Fran, though, sure sign of not from around here.

            1. re: IDGuofM
              h
              hyperbowler RE: IDGuofM Apr 2, 2012 04:23 PM

              Don't worry about it--- no one (maybe St. Francis... :-) ) would be offended by these terms--- I think they were trying to steer you away from committing a shibboleth when you visited

              Janet's link above looks great. Another search utility for picnic places is: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/listing...

              This post has tons of great ideas, some of which I'm stealing for an upcoming trip: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/784690

              1. re: IDGuofM
                m
                MagicMarkR RE: IDGuofM Apr 3, 2012 04:50 PM

                Offense, really? My grandfather, who was born in SF in 1903 always called it "Frisco" (as they did in his day), which now gets a laugh and a roll of the eyes. You only say you are staying in Napa Valley, which is a pretty big place (and to locals is not to be confused with the City of Napa, which is at the south end of Napa Valley --just so you do not start insulting them too :-) ). Also you may want to look into Sonoma county as well (which for my $ is a bit more interesting than Napa). Renting bicycles in Healdsburg -a sickeningly charming and romantic little place- is a lot of fun: you can bike up Dry Creek Rd and stop at some nice little wineries, if memory serves. No doubt you can find similar in Napa Valley, tho the traffic is heavier and more dangerous. You also do not mention when you coming, but if it is summertime, I'd save winery visits for during the week: crowd are horrendous on weekends, and also, wineries are going to be up and functioning during the week, which makes it a lot more interesting, especially if you are contemplating a tour about how wine is made.

                1. re: MagicMarkR
                  i
                  IDGuofM RE: MagicMarkR Apr 3, 2012 05:10 PM

                  Thanks for the reply. We're staying at the Best Western Elm House Inn on California Blvd (we basically just took advice from tripadvisor). We plan on renting a car in SF and driving to Napa, but will probably look towards cabs or other way to commute to the wineries and restaurants most of the time we're out there since we'll be drinking. A few people that I know have been telling us the same thing about Sonoma so it's definitely something I'd like to look more into. Is it convenient to spend one day in Napa and the next in Sonoma? Or are they too far apart to be worth it? We're coming in mid August and we'll be staying Thur and Fri in SF, Sat-Wed in Napa. We'll take your suggestion about skipping wineries on weekends and see if we can plan some other fun activities for those few days. Thanks again for the response and for your opinions and recommendations.

                  1. re: IDGuofM
                    g
                    goldangl95 RE: IDGuofM Apr 3, 2012 05:24 PM

                    I would hire a car for the day as your means of transportation to wineries. Sonoma (depending where in Sonoma you are travelling to) is about an hour away from Napa, so you can definitely do a Napa day and a Sonoma day.

                    I don't know if the differences will be worth it to you or not. Sonoma is markedly more reasonable in price. Sonoma, however, in August is as rabidly busy as Napa (though admittedly not as rabidly busy as wineries off of Hwy 29 in Napa).

                    If you do head to Dry Creek, one lovely cab producer is Sbragia. Ridge makes a fantastic cab.

                    In Napa, if you stick to the mountains or to appt only wineries, you will have as pleasant an experience as the open to public wineries in Sonoma.

                    1. re: goldangl95
                      CarrieWas218 RE: goldangl95 Apr 3, 2012 06:30 PM

                      Second hiring a car if you don't want to do your own driving; the cost of taxis in between wineries will become cost-prohibitive ($40 here and $50 there will add up...)

                      Considering your Sat-Wed in wine country, I wouldn't bother with one city for the entire stay - consider Saturday, Sunday and Monday in Sonoma and then head over to a Napa location for Monday night and Tuesday night. There are far less people at the Sonoma wineries on the weekends (although still do-able!) and that will save you visiting Napa wineries during the week when they are less busy.

                      1. re: CarrieWas218
                        m
                        MagicMarkR RE: CarrieWas218 Apr 4, 2012 09:38 AM

                        I'd keep the rental car up in wine country, as the rest of my comments to follow make clear. I would suggest, though some may disagree, that you can only do so much wine tasting before it becomes boring/tiring. Honestly, I find that 3-4 wineries in a day is my max, and doing that for more than 2 days in a row can also be tiresome: a) your body just gets tired from all that wine; b) your tastebuds lose the ability to make distinctions in wine. So, you might consider say, a day dedicated to wine tasting, say along the Silverado trail in Napa or some of the wineries tuck in near Mayacamas, and then the rest of the time, mybe limit yourself to a couple places on your drive to do other things. The nice thing about Sonoma, in my opinion, is that there is a bit more to do outside of the wineries. if you have a rental car (which I think you would want/need), you can make your way to the Sonoma coast which is so beautiful; Guerneville and floating down the Russian River on inner-tubes; look into other sorts of tastings at farms that do more than just grapes.

                        However, if your preference is to gorge on wine the whole time, well then yes, driving is something to be avoided. Maybe you could find a small winery tour in that case.

                    2. re: IDGuofM
                      wolfe RE: IDGuofM Apr 3, 2012 06:35 PM

                      Consider the possibly of an early Saturday morning stop at the Ferry Building Farmers Market on your way to Napa.
                      http://www.ferrybuildingmarketplace.c...

                      1. re: wolfe
                        i
                        IDGuofM RE: wolfe Apr 6, 2012 08:18 AM

                        Looks like a great reason to get to Napa early on Saturday. We love markets like these. Thanks for the suggestion!

                        1. re: IDGuofM
                          wolfe RE: IDGuofM Apr 6, 2012 08:31 AM

                          The Ferry Building is in San Francisco and I thought you could hit before driving north. So actually Napa will be a little later but notice where the FBFM is on this non- alphabetical list.

                          http://www.foodandwine.com/articles/2...

                          1. re: IDGuofM
                            g
                            goldangl95 RE: IDGuofM Apr 6, 2012 08:47 AM

                            If you like markets like the Ferry Building (SF), but it ends up not working with your schedule, Oxbow Market in Napa has a similar feel/idea.

                            1. re: goldangl95
                              Robert Lauriston RE: goldangl95 Apr 7, 2012 09:43 AM

                              The Oxbow development is an $11 million attempt to knock off the Ferry Building by the guy who was project manager for the retail portion of the Ferry Building project.

                              They reportedly have a little farmers market there on Saturdays but why go to the little knockoff when you'll be near the big original?

                              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                                g
                                goldangl95 RE: Robert Lauriston Apr 8, 2012 11:15 AM

                                Oh I agree that the Ferry Building is something a step above from anything else in the Bay Area or Wine Country.

                                It may be a stretch, however, to call it an original and everything else a knock-off as I was under the impression that the Ferry Building took many of its ideas from Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston.

                                1. re: goldangl95
                                  bbulkow RE: goldangl95 Apr 8, 2012 11:52 AM

                                  Even more from Pike's Place marketplace. I certainly remember when they were building the Ferry Building, people talking about Pike's Place as inspiration.

                                  http://www.pikeplacemarket.org/visito...

                                  1. re: goldangl95
                                    Robert Lauriston RE: goldangl95 Apr 8, 2012 12:08 PM

                                    The Ferry Building Marketplace is the original only in the sense that the Oxbow market is its clone. There's little or nothing original about the FBM compared with markets such as Pike Place and Granville Island, which Steve Carlin has mentioned as models.

                                    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/535707

                                    1. re: goldangl95
                                      m
                                      ML8000 RE: goldangl95 Apr 8, 2012 12:41 PM

                                      The original farmer's market is Alemany, it was the first in California. Not gourmet but it is the godmother of all others.

                                      1. re: ML8000
                                        Robert Lauriston RE: ML8000 Apr 9, 2012 08:46 AM

                                        The first farmers market in California was at Duboce and Market in 1943, it moved to Alemany a few years later. But Pike Place Market had been in operation for over 30 years by then.

                                        http://foundsf.org/index.php?title=Fa...
                                        http://www.seasonalchef.com/brucato.htm

                      2. a
                        artemis RE: IDGuofM Apr 3, 2012 05:45 PM

                        My DH and in-laws are from Florida. I've been to your state many times at this point. At the risk of overgeneralization and telling you things you already know, your citrus and most of your seafood is better, though I really prefer dungeness to stone crab. However, our vegetables are better - much more vine-ripened, local/fresh, heirloom than what I seem to be able to find in Florida, try as I might. Also, I have yet to encounter a real tomato in Florida. Not sure when you're coming out here, but hopefully we'll have some real hot weather before you do, so the tomatoes have a chance to ripen properly. My DH nearly fell over tasting a real tomato for the first time.

                        Please get a driver on wine tasting day, though you should set the itinerary for the most part. The cops (appropriately) set up DUI checkpoints sometimes and they are not kidding around about 0.08% BAC.

                        4 Replies
                        1. re: artemis
                          i
                          IDGuofM RE: artemis Apr 6, 2012 08:17 AM

                          Excellent points. Although we differ in our opinion of crabs, we can completely agree on produce. It's one of the main reasons I'm excited about this trip. I hear people often talk about how great a tomato or fennel can be when grown properly and I'm excited to taste as much local fresh produce as possible. At the advice of this thread we are also looking at getting a driver. Just wondering, if we only do 2-3 wineries in a day, is a driver still worth it or should we lean towards a cab? I don't know how expensive fares are out there but we would attempt to plan for places in similar locations to save on money. Thanks again!

                          1. re: IDGuofM
                            a
                            artemis RE: IDGuofM Apr 6, 2012 09:08 AM

                            Taxis are rare in Napa, I believe, so you may be late for your winery appointments if you rely on them. I expect they will also be expensive, to take advantage of people accidentally too drunk to drive and who lacked the forethought to hire a car. You really don't want to worry about that on your honeymoon, IMO. Call several companies (I have no recommendation personally, as I've never done it) and ask them what their rates would be so you can shop around.

                            2 wineries seems a little low to me - I think the sweet spot is 3-4 wineries, one before lunch and 3 after. No more than 4. Our favorite cabs are from Chappellet.

                            I strongly suggest Brix for a buffet brunch. It's a must-do for me and the DH every time we're up there, as long as it's not both cold and raining. They have tons of wonderful food and a glorious local cheese spread (you really won't be hungry until dinner), but my favorites there are anything with the perfect vegetables and fruits that they always seem to have. Great sourcing, and they treat the produce with respect. The tomatoes will be glorious in mid-August. Good timing!

                            Additional activity suggestion: rent bikes and ride around for a few hours (maybe on the Silverado Trail aka "The Trail"). You will really get a sense of wine country on a bike that you can't get in a car.

                            1. re: artemis
                              Civil Bear RE: artemis Apr 6, 2012 05:08 PM

                              I assume one would probably need to be in pretty good shape to ride bikes through the valley with half a heater on. Just something to consider...

                              1. re: Civil Bear
                                m
                                ML8000 RE: Civil Bear Apr 6, 2012 07:31 PM

                                Technically you can get a CUI (cycling under the influence) citation in CA. Rare but it happens, you really have to be causing trouble and be noticed.

                        2. s
                          snowbordinglife RE: IDGuofM Apr 3, 2012 08:04 PM

                          If you can get into French Laundry it is a must , my wife and I had dinner there about a year ago and it was one of the best meals I have ever had. If you can't get in Redd is good, Ad hoc is fun. Graces Kitchen is great for breakfast. The oxbow market is fun also in napa. In SF for fancy I would recommend Gary Danko which is good and Benu( I have not been but has been getting rave reviews) the ferry building is great if you are there on farmers market roli roti is a must and worth the line for a porchetta sandwich. If you are looking for something more casual flour + water and mission street food are wonderful. If you like sushi, sushi zone is one of the best in town but show up earlier or expect to wait.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: snowbordinglife
                            i
                            IDGuofM RE: snowbordinglife Apr 6, 2012 08:13 AM

                            Awesome recommendations! You pretty much nailed every place we are looking at (Gary Danko, Benu, Redd) and the porchetta sandwich looks amazing so we'll definitely be looking for that. We are going to the French Laundry if our reservations go through. It's a lot of money, but it's a bucket list thing that we'll regret if we pass it up. We'll also try and check out the oxbow market as well. How many wineries is enough? I know this is a question that has a different answer for everyone, but in your opinion, how many can you do in one day before you've either had enough to drink, or you just want a change of setting? I was thinking 2-3 in a day is sufficient, but I'm looking for more opinions. Thanks!

                          Show Hidden Posts