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Help on the best drive (scenic) from Sanfran to Napa?

missy1974 Jun 24, 2013 07:04 AM

On this drive what are the best places to stop for wine, food, etc. Don't mind driving most the day this maybe only visit to Sonoma during our trip.

  1. g
    goldangl95 Jun 24, 2013 07:47 AM

    So the fastest drive to Napa is not scenic and unless you get very convoluted - I can't imagine making it scenic.

    The drive to Sonoma can be. What I often do with visitors is take them over the Golden Gate bridge and stop at Tomales Bay (oysters) or Pt Reyes Station (some cute food places, cow girl creamery etc.) - sometimes there is a farmer's market going on. Pick up picnic supplies.

    From there, depending how early you started out you can picnic in Pt Reyes or head straight to the Russian River/Sebastapol (Sonoma County) wineries.

    1. soupçon Jun 24, 2013 07:55 AM

      Can't comment on the stops, but the most scenic, if arduous, route is to cross the Golden Gate Bridge on Hwy 101, through Sonoma via Hwys 37-121-12) to Trinity Road, across Trinity Road/Oakville Grade then south on Highway 29 through Yoiuntville to Napa. The visual highlight is when you reach to top of the Oakville Grade via the very windy Trinity Rd. (not recommended for the carsick-prone) and see the Napa Valley spread out before you.

      9 Replies
      1. re: soupçon
        missy1974 Jun 24, 2013 08:13 AM

        Trinity Rd is the Rd I would like to take but it is hard to find on any maps online. My parents took this drive several yrs ago. I would love to go to a winery in the area before leaving Sonoma and maybe in the Healdsburg area how far in Healdsburg from the Trinity Rd turn?

        1. re: missy1974
          Robert Lauriston Jun 24, 2013 08:24 AM

          Healdsburg is about 45 minutes north of the start of the Oakville Grade route between Sonoma Valley and Napa Valley.

          1. re: missy1974
            wolfe Jun 24, 2013 08:31 AM

            Google finds Trinity quite well. Kenwood winery is 5 miles north of it in Sonoma and Far Niente is close to the Napa Oaklville Grade.
            Recent visitor to FN.
            "The day started perfectly with FAR NIENTE. What a gorgeous winery! The tour was informative and the wines were sublime, as usual. I was in heaven. We enjoyed it so much we asked them to make reservations for us at their sister winery, Nickel & Nickel." http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9052...

            1. re: wolfe
              missy1974 Jun 24, 2013 11:36 AM

              Thanks this helps!

            2. re: missy1974
              goldangl95 Jun 24, 2013 08:47 AM

              Healdsburg would be an epic detour on an already epic detour day.

              You have two options you can do the more oceanside route or focus on the Oakville grade.

              I would recommend just setting your sights on Oakville grade unless you want a really tiring route. Take 101 - 37- 121. You still get the Golden Gate Bridge.

              Stop in the city of Sonoma for lunch. Lots of good recs on this board including super casual like El Molino Central to more formal such as El Dorado Kitchen or The Girl and the Fig. Sojourn (appt only) is a good tasting room in Sonoma itself if you like full bodied reds.

              From there, take the 12 up to Trinity Rd. Wineries worth stopping at that are somewhat on the way are Hanzell (apt only), Mayo Family, Audelssa (just a tasting room).

              You could also hit wineries once you are on the Napa side of the Oakville grade. Far Niente (appt only) and Paradigm (appt only) are options right off the Oakville Grade.

              If it's still light out, I'd take the Silverado Trail down to Napa (the city) not Hwy 29. This is admittedly a litlle nonsensical but the Silverado Trail is scenic. If you woke up at the crack of dawn, there may be wineries still open on Silverado Trail when you get over there. There's tons of posts about wineries on the Silverado Trail.


              The other way is the ocean way.

              e.g. Golden Gate Bridge/Pt Reyes Station/Tomales Bay/Sebastapol/Russian River Valley trip (as outlined by me above and Robert below). This leaves you about 40 minutes west of Trinity rd.

              There's tons of posts on this board about wineries in the Sebastapol/Russian river area.

              1. re: goldangl95
                missy1974 Jun 24, 2013 11:38 AM

                Thanks I think we will focus on Oakville grade. I think I was trying to fit to many places in one day. I would like to go to Far Niente is it better to do it on way in (how would I know what time to make appt.) or make appt for another day while we are in Napa. We are in Napa for 4 days.

                1. re: missy1974
                  goldangl95 Jun 24, 2013 11:44 AM

                  It's easy to know what time to make an appt if:

                  1. If it's a weekend, and you leave by 10 am
                  2. If it's a weekday and you leave at 7 am or before OR after 10 am.

                  Otherwise expect unpredictable traffic. Make the latest appointment you can and if you have extra time shop in Sonoma the town, or stop at another winery on the 12.

                  It's not like the trinity rd/oakville grade is that long. Even if you are very slow it won't take more than an hour - and getting to Sonoma the town takes about an hour at non-trafficky times.

                  If you end up leaving super early, Ram's gate winery opens pretty early and is on the way to Sonoma.

                  1. re: goldangl95
                    missy1974 Jun 24, 2013 12:07 PM

                    We will be leaving from Mill Valley my husband and I are going to hike muir wood the day we fly in. We will be driving into Napa on a Tues. Thanks I will make the last appt of the day. Thanks again as you can tell 1st Napa trip.

            3. re: soupçon
              Windy Jun 24, 2013 02:19 PM

              Aside from Trinity Road and Oakville Grade, this is an easy drive rather than an arduous one. I always enjoy 101 to 37 to 121 to 12, with stops at DiRosa preserve for art and Domaine Chandon and Cline.

            4. Robert Lauriston Jun 24, 2013 07:56 AM

              Is your final destination the city of Napa or somewhere in Napa Valley?

              4 Replies
              1. re: Robert Lauriston
                missy1974 Jun 24, 2013 08:03 AM

                We will be staying in the city of Napa.

                1. re: missy1974
                  Robert Lauriston Jun 24, 2013 08:22 AM

                  If you want to drive all day, Highway 1 up the coast, potential stops in Point Reyes Station for picnic supplies, Marshall Store for oysters, Terrapin Creek in Bodega Bay for lunch, wine tasting around Sebastopol / Graton / Forestville, stop by Bud's Custom Meats in Penngrove, more wine tasting around Kenwood / Glen Ellen, lots of places to eat and shop in Sonoma proper, Fremont Diner on the way to Napa. That's about five hours total driving.

                  Or after Kenwood / Glen Ellen take the Oakville Grade to Yountville.

                  Personally I'd stay around Sonoma, the city of Napa would be kind of a letdown after most of that trip.

                  1. re: Robert Lauriston
                    Windy Jun 24, 2013 02:21 PM

                    Yes, unless you have a required destination in Napa, Sonoma is prettier and closer to where you'll be. The Carneros district of Napa is very close to Sonoma though.

                    Note that Napa and Sonoma are the names of both the large counties and the cities that make up the county seat. The cities (towns, really) are quite close to each other.

                    1. re: Windy
                      Robert Lauriston Jun 25, 2013 07:53 AM

                      The border between Sonoma and Napa counties runs down the middle of the Carneros district. Without traffic, the cities are about half an hour's drive from each other.

                      Sonoma was always a charming town with historic wineries. Napa was a working-class county seat best known for its large state mental hospital until the city and developers spent millions trying to build things to attract the tourists who were driving past on their way to the wine country.

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