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Napa Itinerary - Ready for Feedback!

Have been furiously researching and planning and would love any feedback on our Napa itinerary! My husband and I will be there in late March/early April for about 3 days staying at the Harvest Inn in St. Helena (then Sonoma for 5 days, but I'll keep that separate). We were in Napa for the first time last winter and are looking primarily to hit new places, though we may return to a couple wineries whose clubs we joined.

We drink mostly reds (I love the big ones, my husband appreciates some of the more subdued styles) and lots of cab, zin, syrah and interesting blends. We really love pinots but assume we will have more of those when in Sonoma. We also love white, but not chardonnay. We have found we can pretty comfortably do 4 tastings a day if we share at least one or two of them.

Sorry for all the detail, but if it's helpful to understand why some of these are not on our list, we have previously dined at: Redd. French Laundry, Oenotri, Mustard's and Brix. And we have done tastings and/or tours at Shafer, Phelps, Chappellet, Sinskey, Domaine Chandon, Stag's Leap, Cakebread, Chimney Rock, Duckhorn and Schramsberg.

So, without further ado...

FRIDAY (MARCH 29) - begin at SFO, end in St. Helena
11:00 - land at SFO
drive to Napa
1:00ish - lunch at Grace's Table (or Angele?)
3:00 - tasting at Hendry
4:00 - tasting at Trefethen (no appt needed, so only if we feel up to it)
drive to St. Helena
Dinner - Goose and Gander

SATURDAY - Spring Mountain
Breakfast - at the Inn (it's free)
get picnic food in St. Helena (Dean & Deluca or Sunshine?)
10:30am - tasting at Smith Madrone
12:00 - tasting and a picnic lunch at Pride
2:00 - tasting at Robert Keenan (or Schweiger?)
3:00 - tasting at Terra Valentine
Dinner - Cook

SUNDAY - central Napa County (*this is where I could really use some help - there are about 20 wineries I would love to squeeze in but have to choose!)
Breakfast - at the Inn
10:30 - tasting at Corison (we were booked here last time but had to cancel, so this is a must)
12:00 - tasting at Elyse
Lunch - picnic?
3:00 - tasting at Frog's Leap
4:30 - tasting at Miner Family (or any other suggestions??)
Dinner - Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen

MONDAY- finish Napa and head to Sonoma
Breakfast - at the Inn
10:00 - tasting at Shafer (we love it and are list members)
maybe a quick stop at Cliff Lede before lunch
Lunch - French Blue or Farmstead on the way north?
2:00 - maybe Von Strasser or Larkmead on the way to Healdsburg?

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  1. Have backup plans if it's not picnic weather.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Robert Lauriston

      Good call - thank you! I assume that time of year can be hit or miss?

      1. re: kristinndc

        On average it should be fine, but there's a chance it could be rainy or cold.

    2. I think the one thing that stands out for me is dinner at Cindy's Backstreet... It has never been a huge favorite of mine and the few times I have gone has been for lunch only - I think it would be a waste for dinner considering how many other great eateries are in the 'hood (Terra comes to mind, specifically).

      Also, based on my recent review of French Blue, I would pick Farmstead for lunch instead:
      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/889194

      1 Reply
      1. re: CarrieWas218

        Thank you! Will definitely take a look at Terra (probably the bar side).

      2. Enjoy your trip, and please follow up with your review, as I am "furiously researching and planning" our trip in late April.

        4 Replies
        1. re: pagesinthesun

          Will do - we leave Friday and we are very excited!

          1. re: kristinndc

            The current weather prognosis is for showers and thunderstorms so I would nix all your picnic plans...

            Did you make dinner reservations?

            1. re: CarrieWas218

              I know, weekend weather not looking good :( We'll have backup plans (or eat picnic food in the car!). Our dinners in Napa will be at Cook, Bar Terra (thanks for your rec!) and Goose & Gander. Lunch at Farmstead one day, and the jury's out on our picnics. Fortunately, weather looks like it might get a bit better for our Sonoma leg next week.

              1. re: kristinndc

                For either tomorrow or Sunday, try Elizabeth Spencer. Prefer their cabs over Elyse (I enjoy the rhone blends & zin at Elyse). Been a while but I think I prefer them to Trefethen too. If you go to ES, see if you can still taste '09 Napa Valley cab...enjoyed it at rest. recently. Easy access right off 29 @ Rutherford road & no appt. necessary.

                Also, just went to Phelps last week. Loved the '10 cab...peppery with dark fruit.

        2. If you are looking for big reds Conn Creek is a great place to taste. Another favorite of mine is Heitz Cellars. Both places are highly underrated IMO. Otherwise sounds like a great trip!

          1. How was your trip? I am planning mine now and would love to get your feedback!

            1. Sorry for the delay! Still trying to get caught up after an amazing 8 days in wine country. Here's a trip report for the Napa portion. I'll try to follow up with a Sonoma report soon.

              Day 1
              Landed SFO, got car and headed to Napa. First stop was Grace’s Table – perfect start to the vacation. Seemed to be full of locals, food was excellent. Started with beet salad and cornbread, then fish tacos (amazing!) and pork tamales.

              Stopped at Elyse for our first tasting. Was low key and not super memorable, but the pourer was friendly. Didn’t really love the zins they’re known for, but really enjoyed the Grenache, syrah, petit sirah and port. Bought 3 bottles.

              Next stop Robert Sinskey – remembered why it was a favorite on our last trip. Beautiful spot, sun shining, wisteria in bloom. Started with a delicious rose (bought 2 bottles). I loved the POV and my husband preferred the Marcien, both loved the cab, neither loved the pinot. Yummy homemade bites as always. We are already club members, so the free tasting was a nice bonus.

              Dinner at Goose and Gander. Cool atmosphere, food was good, but we just weren’t wowed – probably partly because we were tired and jet lagged and we didn’t have huge appetites. Had jalapeno poppers, citrus salad, burger and hanger steak. All was good and probably would have been a lot more enjoyable on a different night.

              Day 2 – Spring Hill day
              Started at Smith-Madrone, which was a real highlight. Wines were good (really loved the Riesling and enjoyed the cab, particularly the reserve) but the company and conversation were what made it. Charlie started the tasting with us – they had lost our reservation but graciously took us anyway and ended up spending 2 hours with us. Had wonderful conversation about winemaking, restaurants, politics and then were joined by Stu and got into a fascinating and lively gun control debate. We agreed to disagree :) Just a great visit with 2 lovely people.

              Continued to Pride Mountain, where we had a nice tour and tasting in the caves and got to barrel taste several, including the merlot. Our pourer, Jason, was really engaging and took lots of time with us. We bought syrah and merlot and are excited to order the viognier later this spring.

              Had a great picnic from Sunshine Foods at Pride’s picnic spot with a breathtaking view.

              Moved on to Behrens Family, tasting with Robin in a converted airstream trailer. It was very intimate, just us and another family for a wide-ranging tasting of 7 wines over 2 hours with lots of good conversation, funny stories and history of the label. Bought several bottles. Really loved the Drinkward-Peschon, the wife's label.

              Dinner at Cook- very cozy place, great local vibe. Had excellent mozzarella and mushroom/sunchoke soup, then short ribs with rosemary risotto (yum) and tagliatelle amatriciana. Brought our Pride Mtn syrah. Lovely meal.

              Day 3 – Easter Sunday, so many places were closed. Good excuse for a relaxing day.
              Only tasting was Jos Phelps, which was lovely as usual. Rainy day but the sun broke through while we were there so we got to enjoy some wine on the beautiful terrace. We are in their club and had reserved a picnic table but canceled because of the rain - wish we had stuck to our original plan once we saw the sun! Pourers were friendly and engaging. Got to compare current Insignia with the 2005 – 2005 was incredible. Unfortunately, they weren't pouring Backus that day, but the older Insignia was a nice replacement.

              Lunch at Gotts – got caught in a downpour but it was a lot of fun. Ahi burger, bacon cheeseburger, garlic fries and black and white malted shake. Just as delicious and decadent as you would think.

              Dinner at Market – great spot, clearly a local favorite. We were ready for a short break from wine so enjoyed yummy cocktails, and then a Miner Family sangiovese, which was delicious (made me sad we hadn't made it to Miner to taste, but they were closed for Easter). Shared a bunch of small plates – lobster spring roll, tuna tartare, mac and cheese, risotto cake and tenderloin medallions. Everything was excellent, nice vibe, friendly staff.

              Day 4
              Morning tasting at Shafer, which was delightful. Doug Shafer offered a free bottle to a man celebrating his 70th birthday with his family in Napa, and then when we said it was our 10th anniversary, they gave us a free bottle of Hillside Select (!!). We bought Relentless and merlot. Lovely place. It was our second visit and I know we'll be back. I also bought Doug Shafer's new book for my husband, who said it was a great read.

              Very quick stop at Cliff Lede, which we’d been wanting to check out. Very nice wines, cool spot. Especially enjoyed the Breggo pinot and the Cliff Lede sauv blanc.

              Lunch at Bouchon, using a gift certificate from the in-laws. Had money to spend so enjoyed kind of a blow-out. Was not expecting much, but extremely pleasantly surprised. The som was super helpful and we had an unbelievable Kenzo sauv blanc. One of the best white wines I have ever had. Lunch was fantastic- endive salad and cod fritters, followed by petrale sole and roasted chicken. Dessert was to die for chocolate peanut butter bouchons and the som brought us a couple of glasses of a sparkling dessert wine on the house. Really great meal.

              Final tasting in Napa was Corison, which was lovely. Galen poured for us, and we had a great time with him. Joined the club. Had lots of interesting stuff.

              1 Reply
              1. re: kristinndc

                Thank you for reporting back! It sounds like you had a fun and very productive trip.