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Sonoma/Napa/Healdsburg/SF Short List - Input Appreciated!

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After many hours on the boards here, we've pared down our list of restaurants for our upcoming trip - 4 days in Sonoma/Napa; 3 days in SF. We're staying in Sonoma proper and on Nob Hill in SF.

We're looking for good food at all levels with a focus on local ingredients. For wine, we want to stay away from big names/crowds. We're pretty open to most types, though I tend towards pinot noirs (as you'll see in our list below). We will buy a case or two (total) over the course of the trip with an average of $40-50/bottle.

We have too much on here for our time and I appreciate any options/suggestions you have on the following:

Sonoma/Russian River (Sunday/Monday):
Freeman
Lynmar
Littorai
Paul Hobbs
Sojourn
El Molino
*Farmhouse Inn

Napa (Tuesday):
*REDD
Garguiolo
Wineries we are open - I pulled the following from other posts:
Gargiulo
O'Shaugnessy
Dunn
Outpost
Cade
Ladera

Healdsburg (Wednesday):
*Smith Madrone
J Vineyards
Skewis
Copain (picnic)
Stonestreet
Arista
*Scopa for dinner

SF (one of these will be on our 10th anniversary, the other on my SO's birthday):
Rich Table
*Cotogna's
State Bird Provisions
SPQR
*The Alembic

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  1. Going from bottom to top:

    The Alembic: You may have read, but it's super small. It's basically a long bar with a few tables. Drinks are excellent and food is good. I think the rest of your choices are solid - I'd pick Cotogna over SPQR for Cal-Italian.

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    On wineries generally. I hope y'all are game for epic wine tasting! I love to do this - but you can tire out, and you are planning 3 solid days of it. I'd advise not scheduling more than 3 appointments in a day. If you have time, stop by a winery that is not appointment only (or for example, if you are on Howell mountain, and you end up with extra time, just ask the winery if they have any recs - sometimes they'll call ahead to some wineries for you to see if anyone is available).

    Healdsburg:
    In my opinion, either forget Smith Madrone in the morning, or spend the day on Spring Mountain and get to Healdsburg around 4/5. It's a half an hour trek up to Smith Madrone, then half an hour back down, than an hour over to Healdsburg. It would be sad to have so much of the prime wine drinking window (11 am to 3 pm) spent driving.

    I would drop Skewis (no grounds) and maybe Arista too. You already have a full Pinot day the first day, plus Copain has Pinots.

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    Tuesday. I think going up Howell mountain is a good choice. I'd be worried about getting Cab'd out. So, I would absolutely pick Outpost (which does Zins and other varietals) and two others.

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    I think you have great choices for Sunday/Monday. To prevent getting Pinot'd out - I would put Paul Hobbs as a must do. They have grounds and do both Cabs and Pinots. In the alternative, Sojourn also does pinots and cabs (but they don't have grounds you taste in a living room essentially).
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    1. without knowing your palate and preferences, can only describe our own impressions of course -- you could have completely different ones. that said, we thought the food at the Farmhouse Inn to be fairly generic/culinary academy stuff, using ingredients flown in from faraway despite its location, and you could be dining almost anywhere ; a good meal but nothing memorable.[the majority of people who eat there seem to love it , and you might too]. after giving Scopa a couple of tries, decided that cooking in the similar (Calif-italian wine country) genre at Diavolo in Geyserville (just up 101 about fifteen minutes) has more depth, and we always visit the latter when we visit the area, if just to take home the artisanal sausage, pancetta, or the superb tripe. Scopa has a narrow space and always has a bustling 'buzz', which many find appealing no doubt, but we enjoy conversing at normal volume. for us, a similar contrarian comparison between Cotogna and SPQR -- the former seems to have more fans, but the cooking at the latter for us has more personality. Cotogna is a larger, Financial District venue (a sibling of the more deluxe Quince next door and the same word in Italian) while SPQR is like a neighborhood (lower Pacific Heights)trattoria. but if foods from a wood burning oven appeal to you, Cotogna is the choice.

      1. as far as using great local producers for ingredients, you won't find anyone in Healdsburg who surpasses Mateo Granados.(wine country-Yucutan-Iberian cuisine) there are several threads about him and his restaurant on this board. enjoy your visit.

        1. To give a bit more about our dining tastes - if any of you are familiar with DC, our tastes tend towards Jose Andres' places, Central (before it went downhill a bit), Restaurant Eve and it's less-elite sisters, Pizzeria Paradiso, Brasserie Beck, Lyon Hall, Bibiana, Rasika, Teaism, Palena, Tosca, Ray's the Steaks, Montmarte (just to name a few). My favorite cocktail in the area is My Mom's Manhattan at Lyon Hall.

          Komi and Little Serow are on our "next" list.

          2 Replies
          1. re: rebecky75

            if you mean Eve in Alexandria VA, we went once and liked it. have been to two of Andres' places and enjoyed both -- his Bazaar in Beverly Hills is unique and worth trying. if you like Teaism, the teas at Red Blossom on Grant in SF are superb, they'll give you a tasting of whatever you wish to try, but they do not have food.

            1. re: rebecky75

              Sadly, I know of nothing on the left coast that comes close to Ray's the Steaks.

            2. Refined plan for Wine Country:

              Sunday - arrive, get settled, explore downtown Sonoma
              Monday - Littorai, Paul Hobbs, Lynmar Dinner TBD
              Tuesday - Gargiulo, Pride, Arroyo, Dinner at REDD
              Wednesday - Loxton, Copain (lunch), J Vineyards, Dinner at SCOPA

              2 Replies
              1. re: rebecky75

                Re: Loxton - an EXCELLENT choice. My parents met Chris Loxton a number of years ago at a tasting event in Chicago, and now order several cases of his wines a year. Great stuff!

                1. re: thelegalfoodie

                  Count me as a Loxton fan as well...