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Jan 30, 2013 09:29 AM

Memorial Day Weekend in Napa

My wife and I will be driving up from San Fran on the Friday leading to Memorial Day weekend. I hear traffic can be quite hairy on Fridays let alone a holiday weekend. How long (realistically) will the drive take to downtown Napa?

We enjoy good wine and good food but are by no means wine experts. I'd like to do some tours/tastings that are fun and scenic and plan on buying some wine for home up to $50-60 per bottle. I'm not a big crowd kind of guy but I realize that may be par for the course on a holiday weekend. I'm perfectly happy making reservations for a more private experience.

My basic itinerary (based on the many recommendations on this board):

Friday afternoon: arrive in Downtown Napa and perhaps visit one winery (Hess Collection, Sinskey, Paraduxx, or Far Niente). Dinner at Bistro Jeanty or Redd

Saturday am: Visit Spring Mountain area wineries (Pride, Terra Valentine, Duckhorn, Smith Madrone, Schramsberg) - probably will do 3 of these
Saturday Lunch: perhaps picnic at Pride or hit Goose & Gander
Sat afternoon: Frog's Leap or Quintessa followed by Auberge du Soleil for the view and some bubbly
Dinner: Bistro Don Giovanni or Bottega

Sunday: brunch at Ad Hoc or Brix then hit Solage Spa followed by an early dinner at Zuzu prior to heading back to SF for the red-eye back east.

Any thoughts/suggestions/tips would be greatly appreciated.

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  1. On your Saturday day: Duckhorn is not on Spring Mountain and is pretty far from it (e.g. could take half an hour) so I'd move that to the afternoon or scrap it. You should expect an hour and a half each of the Spring Mountain wineries you've listed (Pride, Terra Valentine, Smith Madrone and Schramsberg). They all have long tasting/tour type formats.

    As a result I'd pick two for before lunch not three and that's only if you either do a 10 am tasting or can handle a late lunch (e.g. after 1 pm).

    I would fit at most 4 wineries in a day. The palate gets tired out and especially with the long format/hosted tastings - I find myself dumping less and sipping the wine as we converse.

    1 Reply
    1. re: goldangl95

      Much appreciated thanks. I'll pare back the morning hit list.

    2. Both Redd and Bistro Jeanty are excellent. Can't go wrong with either, and in fact maybe try both. Can't speak to BDG or Bottega.

      I love Ad Hoc, but I was last there about 2 years ago.

      Have never been to Quintessa, but it's been rec'd by other vineyards I like, so probably a great choice.

      I'd agree with goldang, 4 wineries in a day is probably max. Especially if you are driving and don't want to rush around.

      1. Is $50-60 a bottle within reason for the vineyards I've chosen? I'd love to bring wine home but don't want to do a tour only to find out that all bottles are over $100.

        1 Reply
        1. re: weaverke

          Don't know specifically for each vineyard, but I believe Sinskey, Frog's Leap and Quintessa should be. Some others in that price range are Elyse, Nyers, and Failla.

          You can always go to the website for each Vineyard to get an idea of the price range.

        2. Realistically, the drive to Napa from San FranCISCO on a Friday, holiday weekend will be about two- to two-and-a-half hours. The bottleneck will be leaving the city and then again in American Canyon.

          I like your itinerary and have these thoughts:
          Friday dinner - Redd is the more specular while Bistro Jeanty is French comfort food.

          Saturday: If you hit Goose & Gander for lunch, both Bistro Don Giovanni or Bottega will be a let-down. BDG is great Italian food, but G&G is far more interesting. Bottega is just heavy and over-wrought - skip it.

          Sunday: Brix's Sunday brunch is legendary for its monstrous amount of food, making a small-plates dinner at Zuzu a great option before heading home! Because of that, I would suggest adding a sparkling tasting in on Sunday after the spa...

          1 Reply
          1. re: CarrieWas218

            Perhaps Schramsberg after the spa? Could be a nice way to finish off the long weekend. thank you.

          2. Far Niente & Quintessa are on the high side. I'd skip Paraduxx...was not impressed with their wines.

            3 Replies
            1. re: ceekskat

              Dissenter to Ceekskat on Paraduxx... One of my favorites in the valley (I like the Paraduxx offerings over the Duckhorn).

              Agree that Far Niente and Quintessa are expensive.

              1. re: CarrieWas218

                May be because it was the same trip we did Shafer, Pride & Karl Lawrence? :-)

              2. re: ceekskat

                Third Quintessa being on the high side (and really not many offerings). On Spring Mountain you'll be fine it'll be more like $75 (prices just keep going up) but you're not going to hit the all the bottles offered are in the $120 category up there.