San Fran/Napa in April 2013
I'm planning a trip to San Fran/Napa in April 2013 for my 40th bday. Itineraries? Ideas? Probably going to stay 10 ten days. Also considering a hot air balloon ride. Any input welcome!
Definitely a wine ethusiast but not a wine snob. Mostly into the reds but like to try new things, too. Like to stay at nice properties (not 5 star but a good solid 3 or 4)....love the idea of the quaint independent properties, too. Also open to vineyards south of San Fran. Thank you so much for your response and input!
there are huge gaps between "wine enthusiast," "serious wine person," and "wine snob." Being "into reds but like to try new things, too" also leaves the door wide-open for suggestions, and without a more specific framework, it's actually quite difficult (for me, at least) to make specific suggestions.
My problem is that hot air balloon rides -- although they can be quite fun, shared with a significant other -- and "quaint independent properties" speak to me more of "tourist" than "wine enthusiast." Is this your first trip to San Francisco/Napa? Have you ever visited wineries before anywhere? Where? What kinds of wines -- specifically -- do you enjoy when at home? And where is home?
I know this might seem like answering your questions with nothing but questions, but I'm serious when I say that the more information YOU can give US, the more specific our suggestions and recommendations can be . . . .
zin1953 - I live in Michigan. I am a seasoned events planner for an AMLaw 100 law firm, well traveled and do not consider myself a "tourist" traveler, except that I have not spent much time in CA wine country. Hence my message. For California, I like Rodney Strong, Chateau Montelena and Norman (which I know is south of SanFran). Also, just drinking a 2009 Dynamite Merlot, which is quite good. As far as the balloon thing goes, I was just looking for something cool to bring in my birthday. I have been to San Fran several times for work but haven't had time to do the "tourist" things you reference.
The balloon rides are EARLY in the morning - they tend to lift up around 7:00 a.m. while the thermals are developing and land around 8:00/8:30. it can be a beautiful way to see the valley. Although in April, it can be really cold and overcast in the morning so the balloons fly less than they do in the fall.
Budget hotels in Napa can be had in American Canyon, if you don't mind the 10-mile drive into the valley. Otherwise you are going to be spending in the $200/$250 range for a hotel in Napa (but check out TravelZoo for deals).
Let us know food options and we can go from there on restaurant choices in wine country...
Well, let's point out that AmCan is a 10-mile journey (roughly) from NAPA . . . not Napa Valley. (I know you know that.)
Continue north from the City of Napa for 10 miles will get you to Yountville; 10 miles more, and you get to St. Helena; and 10 more will get you to Calistoga.
Well, I have no idea what an "AMLaw 100 law firm" is, but I get the idea that you consider yourself well-traveled.
The hot-air balloon rides ARE fun -- well, can be -- but as Carrie points out, they *do* take off early. Also, reservations are a must.
I am presuming you'll have a car . . . nothing is walking distance in Napa (or Sonoma), and cabs are out of the question.
Just to give you an idea of distances . . .
-- Downtown Napa is roughly 50 miles from San Francisco.
-- Rodney Strong is in Healdsburg (Sonoma Co.), and is some 67 miles from San Francisco; 52 miles from downtown Napa.
-- Chateau Montelena is in Calistoga (Napa Co.), and is some 75 miles from San Francisco; almost 30 miles from downtown Napa.
-- Norman Winery is 217 miles away in the opposite direction (south).
Since you'll be here for approximately 10 days, you may want to visit *both* Napa and Sonoma, as well as San Francisco -- say three days in each. Also, there are a number of wineries just across the Bay from San Francisco in and around Oakland/Berkeley, so if you decide to forego Sonoma, say, you can still spend a pleasant afternoon wine tasting in the East Bay.
There are, of course, plenty of wineries to visit, and I'm happy to make suggestions. How technical/general do you want your visits to be? Are you interested in any specific varieties/producers of wine? How many people are coming with you (if any)? Generally, how much do you spend on a bottle of wine?
I know it's hard to put actual numbers down (it makes it seem like this board is perhaps overly curious) but dollar amounts are super helpful. With the influx of IPO money, weather factors in 2010 and 2011, and other factors I am unaware of, wine has become ridiculously expensive and Napa Valley does not have very many hotels (resulting in ridiculous prices).
This was a money isn't a problem suggestion list for Napa:
Wineries with great architecture/views in Napa:
A recent Napa itinerary:
Once you have some ideas. Do come back, it's easier to give suggestions once we have an idea. Napa Valley has hundreds of wineries, but in comparison a limited number of hotels.
Napa's not really a budget area for hotels. Although distances are shorter than in Sonoma Cty, it's still better to know what city you're staying in, and concentrate on working that area thoroughly, with side trips further out as you have time.
Also true of SF. Where you stay has a HUGE impact on how much you can accomplish in a day.
V2V is April 26-28. I go with a group of friends from time to time. Might be worth looking into, to see if that is something you'd like to go to. You essentially pay for a day pass to visit and taste several Stags Leap District wineries. There is usually a pretty good dinner with copious amounts of great wine to drink as well. It's not for everyone....