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How Do You Eat, Drink, and Be Merry...On a Budget (Trip to Santa Rosa/St. Helena)?

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My friend and I are doing a girls' trip to Napa. Our first stop will be Santa Rosa where we'll be staying for a day before we head out to St. Helena for 3 days. A couple facts about us:

- This will be our first trip to the Napa area.
- We're looking to spend under $15 for each meal. We have a little wiggle room to splurge on a meal or two if it's something special.
- We enjoy Riesling and Pinot Grigio. I know. We should probably expand our horizons and educate yourselves while in the Napa area. Any wineries that you would recommend for "beginners" like us?

Overall, we're looking to eat, drink, and be merry on a budget during our brief stay in Santa Rosa and St. Helena. We've already marked Gott's and Ad Hoc as places to eat. Any other suggestions out there? Appreciate your help!

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  1. Addendum to pick up some fried chicken. Redd has a decent happy hour.

    Pinot Grigio and Riesling are pretty hard to find in Sonoma/Napa compared to Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

    Riesling - you have a better shot of getting decent wine than Pinot Grigio (call ahead to make sure they're pouring Riesling if it's important to you):
    Trefethen
    Chateau Montelena
    Navarro
    Smith Madrone

    These may have Pinot Grigio (but I'd call ahead if it's really important to you), and I wouldn't take these as necessarily representative of Napa quality:
    Swanson
    Mondavi
    Clos du Bois

    1. There are only a few places where you can eat in Napa for $15 (none of them are in St. Helena, but in downtown Napa):

      Grace's Table Happy Hour (3:00 to 6:00) where their appetizer menu is 50% off and you could get three really great courses from $3 to $6 each.

      Oxbow Market - You could eat here every day and try something different while staying in your budget. I would recommend Ca'Momi pizza as well as the the fact that you two could share a grilled cheese at Hog Island and each get a bowl of chowder or stew (the grilled cheese is amazing AND filling). Also, C Casa makes these tremendous tostadas with interesting ingredients like duck confit or buffalo; very inexpensive AND original!

      Bistro Sabor - Contemporary offerings of Latin American with fresh ingredients. My favorite is the mushroom and asparagus taco as well as stunning churros.

      Biscuits - for breakfast, this place will fill you up with very different chicken-and-waffle or freshly-made biscuits with savory additions.

      Morimoto - okay, here me out on this one... This restaurant typically sets people back $200+ a person for dinner. But, if you go for lunch, you can have a $25 bento box that will give you the Morimoto experience without breaking the bank. Definitely worth the splurge on this one.

      Lastly, on the wine... Yes, you need to expand your horizons on wine choices because you are severely limiting yourself if you only try to find Riesling and Pinot Grigio. I would recommend tasting the Sauvignon Blanc at St. Supery, for starters. It is also a great first-timer place. In downtown Napa, there are two collectives you can taste at; Vintner's Collective and Backstreet Wines - both can give you a wide variety of tastings from lots of smaller wineries without having to drive around as much.

      1. The taqueria at Lola's Market in Santa Rosa is cheap and good, and the portions are huge.

        Riesling and Pinot Grigio are not common in Napa. If you're on a budget and not interested in Napa-style red wines, why not stay in Sonoma County? The wines are more diverse, the prices are lower, it's less touristy, and what tourists there are are spread out over a much larger wine country.

        1. I agree with Robert that you might consider staying in Sonoma County.

          For your tastes and experience level and on a budget, I'd suggest doing the tour at Korbel. The tour is free, sparkling wine is fun, and learning about and comparing the different types of "Champagne" will help you decode the labels next time you go to buy a bottle.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Ruth Lafler

            Korbel's deli is surprisingly good and cheap and has a great view over the vineyards.

            http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6507...

          2. In Sonoma County, J Winery and Inman winery make Pinot Gris from Russian River Valley fruit. P. Gris is the French name for the same grape as Pinot Grigio. Sometimes wineries choose to use that name on the label to indicate that the style is different than the lighter/blander style associated with Grigio. Inman's Pinot Gris was the first California wine to make it onto the Slanted Door's wine list.

            1. I'd give Stony Hill a call to set up a tasting. They are small and do wonderful, European style whites, including riesling. I think the tasting is free, but it is a little bit out of the way.

              I'd also recommend Heitz Cellars. Nice tasting room and it is free.

              1. If you don't mind a very quick drive south of Santa Rosa, the sausage sandwiches at Yanni's in Penngrove are absolutely amazing. But it's a small place with only 3 seats inside and 4 seats outside. Lunch only, check Yelp for the days - I think they're closed Sun/Mon and maybe Tues.

                One of the better delis is the Browns Valley Market in Napa, outside the downtown area. Excellent sandwiches, yummy little artisanal chocolate selection, and La Foret Chocolates is in the same strip mall, right around the corner. You might end up spending more on chocolate than on a sandwich, LOL!