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A little board stalking....but need some Napa help still, please!

Have spent a couple weeks stalking this board for my upcoming San Fran/Napa trip in 2 weeks. Am super excited even with it being my third trip to Napa valley but my first time planning so not sure about drive times/traffic/ambition (plus I thought someone had mentioned construction on St. Helena Hwy)...so here goes.

Criteria: am a red lover (Zins & Cabs) but need some white recs for a little rounder itinerary. Still have space for two or three more tastings. I'd prefer to stay away from the mass market guys (e.g. Cakebread, Paraduxx, Far Niente) since I can easily purchase big producers here in Bermuda, so looking for small/mid sized wineries that are harder to source (e.g. went to Ballentine, Conn Creek, Lava Vines, Honig, Frank Family, Del Dotto, St. Clement).

Monday am - pick up rental car downtown SF, any breakfast recs around the Omni?

Lunch: I wasn't sure about drive times/traffic out of downtown SF so booked a 1:30pm lunch at Redd. If we head to pick up the car around 10am, I'm guessing we may be early?

3pm - appointment at Robert Biale (based on stalking since I've never tasted anything from them but someone mentioned Zin and Petite, yum!).

Check in Westin Verispa.

Dinner: 8:15pm at Ad Hoc (I've eaten there when it first opened and really enjoyed it) but reading some reviews leads me to question this reservation. Maybe if we're in Napa early, hit Grace's table for happy hour? (plus we're waitlisted for FL all 3 nights, I was blown away by my previous meal with gf's so want to take the BF for a similar experience.)

Tues: breakfast and lunch provisions from Oxbow, picked up tour of Sonoma (no recs necessary, I've left it in the hands of the tour company which I've used before with great success). No dinner plans. Maybe Zuzu or Hog Island?

Wed: Napa Valley Biscuits for breakfast (I thought about stopping at Bouchon for pastries, is it less insane on a weekday since on a weekend I waited 30+ minutes?!?!?)

11am - Smith Madrone appointment

Lunch - debating Goose and Gander or Gott's for burgers.

Free afternoon, considering hitting Ballentine again since I did enjoy their zins from my last visit (plus they were super nice).

Dinner: ???? (not feeling the love for Bottega, Bouchon, Cindy's)

Thurs: Sunrise balloon ride

Lunch: Addendum takeout for drive back to SF, squeeze in one more winery en-route back to SF?!? We need to be back around 4/5 to return the car, check in to Fairmont and make it to Coi for 7pm.

Any help to fill in some blanks would be greatly appreciated! Thanks so much for your help in advance.

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  1. Nice plan. Only suggestionbis to reduce your driving a lot by not returning to Yountville for dinner on Monday or Tuesday after being up that way for lunch. Similarly, Addendum on way back to SF on Thursday is in the wrong direction causing you to backtrack.

    Alternatives: on Monday and Tuesday and even Wednesday night, have dinner near the Westin on foot, eg Hog Island, La Toque, Oenotri, Morimoto, Angele, for example. No need to drive again.

    On Thursday, don't go back to Yountville. Consider lunch at the Fremont Diner between Napa and Sonoma and a tasting at Sojourn in the town of Sonoma near the Plaza. Need a reso at Sojourn for the sitdown tasting. It's a relaxing spot on your way back to SF. If you need one final winery, check out Rams Gate near the raceway formerly known as Infineon. 30 minutes to the Golden Gate Bridge from there.

    1 Reply
    1. re: cortez

      Thanks for the advice re: backtracking Thursday. I hadn't really thought about the timing with the balloon ride being so early and even with breakfast after at Domaine Chandon, they probably still won't be open yet.

      Will most likely walk, like suggested for dinners (assuming that I don't miraculously get a FL reservation). I'm gonna axe Morimoto out of the list, I've been to his NYC branch and although good wasn't totally impressed by the price point. Plus I went there last time I was around, fun but pricey.

      Don't suppose you have any thoughts on wineries with good whites?

    2. We are staying at the Westin Verasa June 26-29, please let me know how it is.

      I have a lot of the same questions as you:

      http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/903714

      Mark Adamowicz

      2 Replies
      1. re: markadamowicz

        The Westin Verasa has been a nice addition to Napa Valley hotels in that it offers more big city amenities (bar, small restaurant plus prime restaurant -- La Toque) in a neighborhood walkable to the Oxbow Market and downtown Napa. Although the city of Napa takes a lot of shots on this board, the restaurant offerings there have improved geometrically in the last 5 years.

        Friends of ours who have been to the Verassa tend to come in modestly sized groups, eg wedding parties or management offsites. Because it is larger than most Napa Valley properties, it attracts conference business. That said, the design is not "big box" but a fairly attractive adaptation of the arts & crafts bungalow tradition. Quite well done.

        The hotel is also convenient to the Silverado Trail which is much preferred to highway 29 which is under eternal construction in St Helena.

        Sum: the Veresa is not a romantic alternative to Auberge or a cozy B&B. But, it is attractive and in a good location. Feedback has been quite positive from my 3 sets of friends who have stayed there.

        1. re: markadamowicz

          Sure not a problem. I've been following your thread intently to help in my planning as well. So thanks for letting me piggy back! :)

        2. Word of warning: If you hit Grace's Table for their happy hour, I doubt you will want to leave and go to Ad Hoc (unless you have great will-power!).

          I rate Zuzu far above Hog Island, but that is just because what Zuzu offers is far more interesting and diverse. Hog Island has a fairly limited menu and the space can get very loud. But I love their chowder and can make a meal out of it (with a grilled cheese sandwich).

          Agree that waiting for pastries at Bouchon is insane and I love Napa Valley Biscuits. For your Wednesday dinner, consider Cook or JoLe - agree that Bottega, Bouchon and Cindy's are all meh).

          After your balloon ride, consider Boon Fly for brunch and it will bring you through Carneros where you could hit Taittinger before going back to San Francisco.

          4 Replies
          1. re: CarrieWas218

            I hadn't planned much driving in the evenings since I'd rather be able both of us to enjoy. I have zero problems spitting during the day. Zuzu appeals with the tapas theme but love oysters. Maybe happy hour oysters first? Any recs on outstanding bites at Zuzu?

            Am torn, looking over Boon Fly and Fremont Diner, both look really laid back and menus look good. Preferences?

            Am not a big bubbly person, so Sojourn appeals to me more than Taittinger.

            1. re: bdachow

              At Zuzu, I never leave without eating the Boquerones and the Tunisian Brik.

              Other favorites include Tortilla, Lamb Chops with Moroccan glaze, and Bacalao.

              During my last visit, the only mis-step was the Squid (which I adore) with Chorizo and that was only because the chorizo over-powered the squid.

              1. re: CarrieWas218

                Oooohhh....bacalao! I hope they're able to overcome the bad memories of the BF, he's Portuguese, not fond memories. :)

              2. re: bdachow

                Boon Fly vs Fremont Diner? No loser there for breakfast/brunch.

                Boon Fly (confession, I live 100 yards from the Boonfly): full bar w delicious Bloody Mary's, wine and beer. Favorites include eggs Benedict w jalapeno hollandaise, green eggs and ham, flatbread w smoked salmon, breakfast flatbread with over easy eggs and bacon, oatmeal, hot Boonfly donuts. 50s music, crowded, fun.

                Fremont Diner: refurbed diner between Napa and Sonoma. Counter, limited tables with picnic tables outside. Southern accented food with delicious, authentic ingredients. I love the biscuits with shrimp and grits, brisket hash and huevos ranchero. Charming, funky -- bring your dogs. They smoke their own pork, bake their own pastries and lay their own eggs. Sonoma country meets Louisiana!

                Love them both!

                N.B. For a hidden white wine gem tasting, check out HDV on Trancas Ave in Napa (limited hours w reso necessary). HDV combines Napa's Larry Hyde with Hubert de Villaine of Burgundy fame. Their $50 Chardonnay is absolutely wonderful. Winemaker Stephan Vivier is talented and charming. Excellent Syrah and Pinots as well. An absolute favorite in hidden Napa.

            2. Napa Valley Biscuits update here:
              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/905121

              1 Reply
              1. re: grayelf

                I saw that thread and am keeping my fingers crossed that they'll be back up and running when i'm there next week! Is it bad to change your screen saver to be a countdown to vacation? :)