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Oct 10, 2012 07:50 PM

Nor Cal tips

I know this has been beaten to death in this form so I will try and keep this brief; I will be traveling to San Fran and Sonoma for 6 days (3 in each Oct 22-28th). Thought I would look to the experts for a couple of inquiries I had.

First is the idea of appointments, I am not all that familiar with the idea of creating appointments at the wineries. Is this for tours, tastings, pairings, or all of the above? I grew up just south of Toronto in a small wine region, never made a reservation outside of dinner.

Second which of the wineries are recommended? I would prefer a couple off the beaten path, and a stable or two that represent the region. From patrolling the forms, and small list is below I would anticipate one day in Sonoma, one in Napa. Definitely prefer informal and unstructured, grab a bottle and take in the scenery type places (3 or 4 maybe in each locale). Alternatively if there are any other local attractions I would love a little diversity.

Far Niente
The Hess Collection
Sojourn Cellars
Robert Sinskey
Palmaz Winery
Adobe Road
Cake Bread
Gundlach Bundschu


Finally I know I may be pushing my luck a bit, but looking for a hip and innovative place to grab dinner either Friday or Saturday in San Fran (Preferably not Michael Mina level pricing). We are staying in Fisherman’s Warf but happy to travel. Finally any street food I shouldn’t miss out on? Its my first time there and I am super excited.

If you are looking for any tips for Toronto info I am happy to help as well!!!

Thanks in advance,


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  1. I cannot vouch for the quality of the wines at The Hess Collection (although I would think they are at least good to very good), but the winery is located in a very pretty spot and houses a gallery of worthwhile modern art. If that appeals to you, it is certainly worth a visit.

    1. Hello to a fellow Canuck! What fun to be going to SF for the first time. We go twice a year from Vancouver to sample the Bay Area's many offerings. Just wanted to put a word in for the Friday Night Off the Grid food cart event at Fort Mason It's a great way to try a bunch of different trucks and carts in one place. Beer and cocktails also available, so very civilized. Just be sure to go early to minimize lineups. Have a great trip.

      5 Replies
      1. re: grayelf

        Love a good food truck. Definitely will be there!!


        1. re: LLukEE

          I flee in terror now from off the grid. After GF had a 45+ minute food ordering experience. It's so crowded no one goes there anymore.

          Go down to the StrEAT food park instead, almost any day, check which trucks are there or just show up

          1. re: bbulkow

            As I posted elsewhere, the Treasure Island flea market has many of the same trucks, all with short waits. (Only one weekend a month, though.) I would never wait 45 minutes at a food truck!

            1. re: bbulkow

              Bbulkow - can I ask how long that was? I only just introduced my BF and his children to OTG three months ago and we haven't had a wait longer than 10 or 15 minutes. And considering the kids are less patient, less than that as they choose places with no lines.

          2. re: grayelf

            second the food truck experience at Fort Mason - hopefully the weather holds up while you're here...

          3. Your best Friday night dinner choice would be Off The Grid at Fort Mason (if it is still going at that point in the year - I'm not sure when they shut down for the winter). That is the largest enclave of food trucks in the city.

            On your wine list. I would avoid Darioush. The rest are fine. But you say you are going to Sonoma but most of the wineries on your list are in Napa; what is your itinerary plans? It could be a lot of driving if you don't map out your desired wineries and figure out which day to take on Napa.

            On the Napa side of the valley, eateries worth considering include Oxbow Market, Oenetri, Zuzu, Bistro Jeanty, and Cook.

            7 Replies
            1. re: CarrieWas218

              LLukEE is in luck as Oct 28 appears to be the last Fort Mason gig of the OTG year:

              1. re: CarrieWas218

                I would totally agree the list of wineries, is wayyy to intensive to tackle all. My thoughts were to spend one leisurely day in Napa, one in Sonoma and let the travel days happen organically and check out some of the pacific coast ocean views. Off the top of my head;

                Napa Day-
                Sleep in ;-)
                Drive to Far Niente (heard it is stunning).
                Lunch at the Oxbow Market
                Drive to Palmaz Winery (sounds like an impressive lay out)
                Maybe an hour hike in between to take in the vista's.
                One more winery (quick, easy, and unpretentious to fill the hotel with famous Napa Pinots. (looking for recommendations here))
                Head home to avoid over consumption of the varietals!!

                Sonoma Day-
                Spend some time exploring the town.
                Rent bikes and patrol the country side stopping at a few wineries and possibly a picnic or lunch within a winery (also looking for any reco's here). We are staying at the Sheraton in Petaluma, and from what i hear it is a bit off the beaten path.

                I am just spit balling idea's out here and would love some input, to get more of a local flare than falling into line with the masses. Even though it is my first time I really don't want to attempt to tackle 5 wineries a day and feel rushed. Which is why the appointment thing rattles me a bit (that and my propensity to be late for everything!!!)

                Also love the food truck idea, i am meeting up with a couple of college buddys that will be all over that!!.

                Thanks for all the suggestions,


                1. re: LLukEE

                  If you want a more relaxing time, then don't worry about appointments. Deal with wineries that handle walk-ins (which, frankly, are a LOT).

                  The problem with your Napa itinerary is that you are back-tracking (assuming you are staying in downtown Napa). You'll drive up valley for Far Niente (it IS stunning), but then back south for lunch and back north again for another tasting somewhere. This is counter-intuitive, I think. Consider some place like Brix or Bistro Don Giovanni for lunch which is closer, or some place in Yountville (Bistro Jeanty is my favorite, Reddwood gets a lot of good reviews).

                  For Sonoma, you can get picnic supplies at Gundlach Bundschu and they have picnic tables. I believe Ravenswood does as well and they are all bikeable distances from one another and do not require appointments.

                  The problem is your Petaluma spot. THAT is a drive from Napa (about an hour). If you haven't already booked hotels, I'd suggest getting a new spot that is more central.

                  1. re: CarrieWas218

                    Unfortunately the hotel is already booked but do not mind a little driving at all. The Napa itinerary definitely sounds a little disjointed. If you were to recommend one winery in Napa or Sonoma to book an tasting appointment with which would your suggest? Far Niente sounds like a front runner to me. And if it helps at all I only said Oxbow Market because it sounded like a forum favorite.

                    Thanks for all the help!!


                    1. re: LLukEE

                      One suggestion to smooth out your itinerary is to head to Oxbow in the morning and put together a picnic to take with you.

                      Hall and James Cole are both on your way back to downtown Napa and take walk-ins. Might be a good choice for your third winery on your Napa day.

                      1. re: LLukEE

                        My vote would be for Paraduxx. Not only is the wine phenomenal, it is the most idyllic spot to relax and do wine tasting right. Never any crowds. Personal attention. Sitting among the oaks. Did I mention the wine? You won't be disappointed.

                        1. re: sfphilosophygirl

                          I love Paraduxx as well but call ahead because we have gone by there twice and they have been closed for private events.

                2. Food in SF -- not MM. Definitely Baker and Banker. Very SF, very good.