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Guerneville as location for Russian, Sonoma and Napa?

Hi all,

I am travelling through wine country at start/mid August and am looking for somewhere to base myself, plus two others. Would Guerneville offer a reasonably good location to enjoy the food and wine of the area, stretching as far as Napa? Will have a car and am happy driving after tastings, I do spit, but don't want it to be too remote.

Apologies if this should be in California board, still finding my bearings on CH for this part of the world.

Thanks in advance

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  1. You are on the right board!

    Guerneville is really really far from Napa. Depending where you are going, the time of the year and day, etc. it could be up to a two hour drive. It's also on a very twisty road to get over the hills separating Sonoma from Napa...

    10 Replies
    1. re: goldangl95


      That was my fear, windy and a fair way. Obviously trying to way up the cheaper side of accommodation, ie Guerneville, Cloverdale etc, vs the ened to drive to places to try wine and eat good meals. Would possibly be happy missing Napa, although am keen to try some of their wines (maybe a venue in SF has good tasting opportunities?)

      1. re: stanleyk

        Could you stay in Santa Rosa? I realize its not pastoral/romantic, but there are cheaper accommodations there. Also around Glen Ellen? Still might be a twisty road depending where in napa you are trying to go though...

        1. re: goldangl95

          Santa Rosa could be an option. Haven't given much thought re which wineries in Napa to get to, that is a whole different ball game! So much research, so little time!

          1. re: stanleyk

            You could skip Napa entirely -- there's more than enough in Sonoma County, and it's more relaxing, less expensive, and less touristy.

            1. re: Ruth Lafler

              Are you more into the wine experience or the food experience? You could skip Napa and taste exceptional juice all over Sonoma, Russian River, et al, but food-wise, the best restaurants have situated themselves in the Napa Valley.

              You will spend more time looking for good food in the other locales, I believe, and Napa lends itself more to better cuisine because of the tourist draw (this, coming from a local who lives and eats in Napa, but drinks from the other valleys).

              1. re: CarrieWas218

                Carrie and I are both residents of Napa Valley, and we love Sonoma for its rustic and beautiful wine tasting also.

                As far as Napa Valley being called touristy, I don't think the statement is quite fair, even though it's partially true.

                It is true that the wineries along Highway 29 (and less so for Silverado Trail) -- the two main traffic thoroughfares of Napa Valley -- are commercial and cater to tourists, but get away on the hundred of back roads, and Napa Valley looks and feels pretty much the same as the wilds of Sonoma County. Even on those big roads, what you see are vast expanses of green vines, an undulating countryside and remarkable beauty. It's not touristy like Fishermans Wharf or Times Square is touristy.

                The businesses along highways are commercial. If the more commercial wineries along Highway 29 and Silverado Trail are the only ones you're visiting, that's a very limited exposure and of course you'll think Napa Valley is touristy compared to Sonoma County. Ruth has such a good palate and mind, and I appreciate her presence greatly on Chowhound. I'd love to show her (and others) the back roads of Napa Valley so they could understand what I'm saying...sigh.

                Knowing the inner landscapes of both counties well, the bigger difference to me are the wines. I adore many of the Pinots and most of the Zinfandels of Sonoma County; they're better than Napa Valley and there are more of them. Napa Valley has tons of Cabernet, not found much in Sonoma County. Chardonnay is about equally split, and I like those from both counties.

                1. re: maria lorraine

                  We'll have to make a date. Actually, I've been on some of the back roads (I LOVE back roads), but I'm mostly posting with an eye to short-stay tourists who likely won't wander far off the beaten track -- heck, most people don't even make it over to the much nicer and more scenic Silverado Trail! Now that Yountville has become such a foodie hot spot, I'm guessing a lot of people don't even make it as far up the valley as the much more charming St. Helena!

                  1. re: Ruth Lafler

                    In fairness to people these days, the traffic in and out of St. Helena can be crazy on Hwy 29, so I would completely understand if people just went around or stopped short.

                    1. re: goldangl95

                      Two suggestions:

                      First, use Silverado Trail, parallel to Highway 29. No stoplights, no slowdowns.

                      Second, on Highway 29 north, the only bottleneck is south of St. Helena, and you simply make a small jog left before the bottleneck and a jog right after the bottleneck, as the attached map shows. Locals know how to drive to avoid weekend traffic. Besides, this way is prettier anyway.

                  2. re: maria lorraine

                    Maria Lorraine is as eloquent as usual! I tend to generalize about the touristy nature of Napa since that seems to be what 80% of who the posters are...

      2. Guerneville is a good place to get away from it all, but there's not a lot of great food there.


        It's the opposite of a central location for exploring Sonoma wine country. Santa Rosa is convenient to both Russian River and Sonoma,not bucolic but it has its funky charms.

        5 Replies
        1. re: Robert Lauriston

          Thanks all!

          I would say I am into both, but having sampled some pretty great food around the world, and having missed out on TFL (Which I am still smarting over) and knowing very little about RR and Sonoma wine then that would probably beat the food aspect, just! We are in SF for two nights after Sonoma area, so happy to hit up some of the more fine dining there.

          I don't need anywhere to be overly central, am happy driving an hour or so after tasting, with three of us then at least one of the days I won't need too.

          Have found what looks to be a good place in Cloverdale, from another CH thread, so may end up there after driving down from Mendocino (coast road) and up to RR from the coast (River Road, if my bearings are correct)

          1. re: stanleyk

            It might be a slight exaggeration to say that Cloverdale combines the lack of charm of Santa Rosa with the inconvenience and lack of local food options of Guerneville.

            Mendocino to Cloverdale via the coast and along the Russian River is three hours if you don't get stuck behind a slow truck. If you're interested in wineries, route 128 through Anderson Valley has a lot of good ones.

            1. re: Robert Lauriston

              Noted thanks, may well see what Guerneville has to offer then, seems ot be a lot of choice, although possibly not in my price range.

              Anderson Valley could be good choice having spent previous few days driving the coast down from Portland

              1. re: stanleyk

                If you're looking to save money, Santa Rosa is probably your best choice. It's a central location for visiting several wine regions but as the main shopping / business city for Sonoma and Mendocino counties it has relatively inexpensive accommodations and cheaper and more varied food than the more picturesque small towns.


                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  Many thanks Robert, really appreciate the input. I may just have found a cottage within budget in Sonoma, so hoping is available (possibility online calendar not up to date) and that we can do RR or AR on route to Sonoma, spend a day there and then ehad over the hills to Napa (still hoping my name will be pulled for one of two nights on the resrvation list at TFL).

        2. No problem ever with sharing a tasting. Or with a designated driver taking a seat at a tasting by appointment.

          1. What others said about G-ville is true. I would suggest Santa Rosa as there are more hotels there and you may find more accommodation bargains. It's a good spot centered between Dry Creek, Healdsburg, Sonoma and to some extent Napa. Cloverdale is hotter than blazes most of the time, a good ten to fifteen degrees hotter than just a few miles south. Welcome! And do visit the coast if you can spare the time.

            1. If you are going to be in SF, my advice is to concentrate on Sonoma Cty. It's easier to reach the area. Going North-South in the Napa/Sonoma/Mendocino counties is MUCH easier than going East-West, especially at the height of tourist season. Be aware that Sonoma is less predictable on weather than Napa, being closer to the coast. Be sure to check Weather.com's 10-day forecasts for all the zipcodes you will be in: there can be a 25+ degree difference in temps within a 1-hr drive! If it's heavy fog, that means wind, and winds can make it very chilly at night.

              We always split our Wine Country trips because we prefer to concentrate on one county. I disagree that Napa has better restaurants, actually. They are more concentrated within a smaller geographic area, but Sonoma has some excellent ones that are well worth the time (we visit 3-4x/yr, for 3-5 days at a time).

              Everybody has their favs, ours are:
              1) Bistro 29/Santa Rosa. Best French bistro in Sonoma, and right behind our first love, Andre's Bouchee/Carmel.
              2) French Garden/Sebastopol. Lovely DR, great seafood, excellent service. Farmers market Tues/Sun afternoons.
              3) Willow Wood Café/Graton. The soft polenta is out of this world. The gingerbread was homemade and right out of a Dickens novel.
              4) Depot Hotel/Sonoma. Just off the Square, less tourist traffic.
              5) Yanni's Sausage Grill/Penngrove. The best cheap eats you can find in Sonoma Cty. But there's less than half a dozen seats and it's super-small. John makes his own sausages and does the cooking. His Greek chili is spectacular over a grilled sausage with fresh bread from Full Circle Baking Co., right down the street.
              6) K&L Bistro/Sebastopol. Ranks well below the top four with us, but they have a place in our hearts because they did the best Crepe Suzette we'd had in forty years, and it's my DH's fav dessert!

              We prefer to stay at the Sheraton Sonoma County (Petaluma). Easy access to the general area, on the road to Sonoma's Square, good mid-priced hotel, wired free Net access, lots of parking. We've stayed in Santa Rosa at the Hilton Vineyard Creek, which is very lovely, but they charge for net access per person which we found ridiculous.

              You might also check the Best Western in Geyserville. They aren't fancy, but have very good rates and are conveniently located for the area, right off 101.

              5 Replies
              1. re: tre2012

                It sounds to me like stanleyk (who as noted in other topics is coming from the UK) is planning on covering a whole lot of ground: Oregon, Mendocino, Russian River, Sonoma, Napa, San Francisco ...

                How many weeks do you have for all that?

                1. re: Robert Lauriston

                  You're not wrong Robert!

                  At present we leave Portland on the 10th August, through Willamette for the day and south we go. We leave SF on the 18th to head a bit further down towards Monterey and Santa Cruz, probably more wine tasting around there too. I think we are giving ourselves around 3 days to get from Portland to Sonoma. Traffic wary of course, but 5 hours ish a day isn't too bad, am an early riser so can cover distances in the morning, and spend some time on route stopping off and seeing places, ie Redwoods, some coastline and hopefully some wildlife too

                  Thank you all for such great replies, this is why I love CH so much, just hope my feedback does it justice

                  1. re: stanleyk

                    Wow, I wish you luck on such a tight schedule! We drove from Oakland through the PNW and back, taking 5-1/2 weeks....and it really wasn't enough time. The stretch from Portland to the Wine Country is long even if you take Interstate 5 through most of it, let alone taking some of Hwy 101/1 along the way.

                    Do keep an eye on the news - this is our fire season, and it's shaping up to be a bad one.

                    1. re: tre2012

                      Obviously you do the trip very differently in three days rather than 5.5 weeks, but that doesn't mean it can't be done, and done enjoyably. Part of it is making the drive itself part of the experience, which means *not* taking I-5. I assume that since stanleyk mentioned five-hour drive days and seeing the Redwoods and going through Mendocino that he has something like this in mind: http://goo.gl/maps/BH07 or this: http://goo.gl/maps/Ws0V (personally I think the Oregon Coast is worth the extra couple of hours, but YMMV).

                      Looks good to me!

                    2. re: stanleyk

                      If you're driving down from Portland, Anderson Valley would be a great place to stop over.

                2. You should be clear when posters mention "Sonoma" The county of Sonoma is large.

                  If you can come to the town of Sonoma I'd recommend it. It's right near Napa and there are enough wineries to keep you busy.

                  The dry creek region is near Guerneville and you could also spend a day tasting in that area. Come to Sonoma soon and enjoy our farmers market. You can enjoy fresh local produce and even uncork a bottle of wine in the park. It's one of the best farmers markets in Sonoma County. Simply because you can have beer and wine and buy veggies at the sametime in public place :)

                  In Sonoma there is the EL Pubelo hotel which is a budget inn...nothing great but it's the cheapest gig in town.

                  Healdsburg is close enough to Guernville and they have some fine food. Also they have bear rebpulic brewing if you need to get some beer in after all that wine...just avoid the food at bear republic it's junk.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: DillMuncher

                    "In Sonoma there is the EL Pubelo hotel ..."

                    I don't think I would book a room in a hotel with that name.
                    On the other hand, this might work:


                  2. While Napa clearly has the highest profile restaurants and the most diversity, dont overlook the fact that Healdsburg has become quite a food destination of its own with Cyrus, Barndiva, Dry Creek Kitchen, Madrona Manor and many others. Last week I had a fabulous meal at Scopa on the main square. Healdsburg is very close to Santa Rosa if you use that as a base and much less congested than Napa. It is also centered between 3 great wine regions the Russian River Valley, Dry Creek, and the Alexander Valley.

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: slipson

                      Just a minor quibble. Healdsburg and Santa Rosa are not that close - they are more than 20 mins apart, and that section of the 101 can get very very traffic-y.

                      1. re: goldangl95

                        I should have said relatively close compared to Yountville or downtown Napa which are pretty far if coming from Santa Rosa.

                        1. re: goldangl95

                          Healdsburg is 15 miles north of Santa Rosa. Takes about twenty minutes. I rarely hit traffic north of Santa Rosa. And they opened the third lane of traffic on 101 North from Cotati to Santa Rosa.

                          1. re: MikeW

                            *shrug* we probably go at different times. Either going there or going back I always get re-routed on some crazy route by my traffic phone app. It's probably because I don't live in the area so I'm adding to the holiday/weekender traffic like everyone else.

                      2. I'll revive this as I have a strong hotel recommendation for this area, for out-of-town visitors. When I was working, the Wine Country was just a day trip for us. However, now that we're retired, we travel regularly through Monterey, Sonoma Cty, Napa Cty, and Mendocino several times a year, staying from 3-7 days and eating our way around various locales.

                        We have been trying different hotels over the last three years. In mid-May we stayed at one of the best we've ever encountered at any level, yet it has a reasonable 3-star price (remember that prices go up everywhere in summer!).

                        It's the Hampton Inn in Windsor. The staff told me the hotel was full (its average occupancy rate is well over 90% at ALL times, so I'd suggest booking as early as possible). But you'd never know it by the incredible quiet in our room! We were in a universal access room with walk-in shower, #150. This is a new hotel and extremely nice. The staff is eager to please. The breakfast buffet is generous and surprisingly good quality.

                        The room itself was terrific. High 10' ceilings with great soundproofing. We never heard anyone except one guy talking on his cell phone in the hallway. The air conditioner unit was quiet (being new) and the hotel layout is very good. It's two stories tall and U-shaped, with the pool and patio area filling the middle. Parking is all around it, so you're never far from your car. Wireless Net is free, although speed was only average, occasionally stuttering as usual on big websites like Wall Street Journal.

                        The location off 101 is very good, although it's better for Russian River, Healdsburg and SRosa instead of the southern end of Sonoma County. It's also convenient to Hwy 128/Anderson Valley area, and far less expensive than staying in Healdsburg.

                        Note that even with the finished freeway expansion of 101, it's often a commute nightmare around SRosa (everywhere else is usually OK). Weekends are almost as bad. We try to take 116 or Redwood Hwy whenever going south around SRosa.

                        We had no issues with traffic even on the weekend with the Tour of CA bike race going on; most of the county's visitors come from the southern end of Sonoma/Napa. We ate mostly in Healdsburg and Sebastopol, but had Sunday brunch in Glen Ellen before leaving. We took a gorgeous back road from Windsor going in/out to completely avoid 101, and the road was virtually empty.

                        How good is this hotel? It's almost the equal of the Andaz in Napa, which is twice the price. It's better than the Hyatt Vineyard Creek/SRosa where you have to pay $10 for each Net connection. It far exceeds any of the other moderate-rate hotels we've tried throughout Sonoma and Napa.

                        If you are wine-tasting or dining in the area, we can't recommend this hotel highly enough. It's well-located for the north end of Sonoma Cty and reasonably priced.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: jaiko

                          What's the restaurant scene like in Windsor?

                          1. re: Robert Lauriston

                            We live in Windsor and I can honestly say there are five restaurants that are excellent. Some of the best food in each ethnic category that we have sampled.

                            Chinois Asian Bistro

                            Ume Japanese Bistro

                            Tomi Thai

                            Himalayan Restaurant

                            Saigon Bistro

                            If you are up in the area, pick out a restaurant and enjoy!