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Napa & Sonoma Mother's Day Weekend

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My husband and I travel to Napa/Sonoma at least once a year, mostly in the summer. We try to avoid tasting on weekends, but we’ve done it and understand the flow of traffic. However, we have never been during a holiday and have no idea what to expect for our upcoming trip over Mother’s Day weekend. Would you kindly look over this basic itinerary and let me know if I need to extend driving time?

We will be staying in Kenwood with friends who are visiting the area for the first time. They are avid gardeners and really enjoy Cabernet Sauvignon. Their only request was to focus on smaller production wineries without wide distribution. I’ve stuck to that, for the most part, but welcome suggestions if there are better choices than those I’ve made.

Saturday: leaving SF financial district at 10:30 to make 12:45 appt at Pride (3:00 at Smith Madrone with hopefully enough time & stamina for Enkidu before they close)

* We are probably leaving at the worst possible time, but have our hearts set on picking up a few things at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market. Is 2 hr 15 min ample time make it to our appointment at Pride (driving through Santa Rosa)?

Sunday: Early Tasting in or near Kenwood. I’m trying to decide between Loxton & Wellington. Other suggestions?

12:45 reservation at Morimoto Napa. Is 1 hour enough drive time?

After such a tight schedule Saturday, I thought I’d leave some time open to explore freely & let our friends choose what sounds best to them. We may wander around Oxbow, possibly taste at Vintner’s Collective, or stroll around Yountville.

Our last stop is Frog’s Leap. We have a 3:45 Garden Tasting reservation. If we were to drive through Yountville, rather than the Silverado Trail, how much time should we add?

Monday we are tasting in Russian River Valley. I know, not for Cabs, but a friend is treating us to a behind the scenes tasting in his vineyard. There will be gardens, goats & chickens. I’m hoping our friends will learn to embrace pinots.

Thanks in advance for your advice!

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  1. The chronicle has a Sonoma feature that this past weekend. Doesn't seem that you have lots of time for straying from your plan. In Kenwood, where you are staying, he really like Mayo (you may have to reserve for the food painting which looked delightful, and inexpensive) and the Kenwood restaurant. Haven't been to either. Yountville is fun, if a bit 'foodie theme park' which at peak hours can be a bit much. Oxbow would be my choice, more substance.

    8 Replies
    1. re: frontzNskrontz

      I agree that our schedule is tight. Worrisome, but hopefully I've allotted enough drive time. Thanks for directing me to that article. We already have reservations for The Kenwood Restaurant Saturday night, but the Mayo tasting looks intriguing. I may scrap my Morimoto reservation and start the day at Mayo. We will certainly be less rushed. This doesn't look like much food, which means we can still nosh at oxbow and possibly just drop by Morimoto for dessert.

      1. re: GoJaneGo

        We did the Mayo Reserve Room wine and food pairing tasting a couple of years ago and it was very good. They did an excellent job of pairing the food tastes with the their wine. Service was excellent. However, it is not a meal. Each food tasting item is a one or two bite hors d'oeuvre. So this is a place that you might want to stop in mid or late afternoon to hold you over until dinner.

        1. re: pamf

          Thanks, pamf. Do you happen to remember how long the pairing lasted? I assume 1.5 - 2 hrs? Any longer and we could be in trouble.

          1. re: GoJaneGo

            I can't imagine that it took more than 2 hours, but we were there on a weekday and there were only one or two other parties while we were there. It is a sit down affair and the server brings out the food in groups of three items, pours the first wine and explains the dishes. So it's two plates for the savory items and then a dessert. Seven wines and perhaps a little extra. You should inform your server about your time constraints and hopefully it will not be too crowded that weekend.

        2. re: GoJaneGo

          I'd say scrap Morimoto and the two-hour round trip. It's very expensive, not as consistently good as it should be for the price, and the green Sonoma countryside is nicer than downtown Napa cement.

          http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/9079...

          1. re: Robert Lauriston

            I have to agree with you about Morimoto. We had dinner there a couple years ago and felt the same. Our friends are curious, though and also would like to get a full picture of everything the valley has to offer. We are always up for a scenic road trip (even the cement in Northern California is worth a look. Does ugly even exist up there?)

            After a bit of deliberation, we've decided upon an early pairing in Kenwood and will drop by Morimoto before our late afternoon tasting at Frog's Leap. I will be sure to post a trip report with our impressions when we return home.

            1. re: GoJaneGo

              Kenwood and Napa are not in the same valley.

              Much of the city of Napa is ugly. The city and developers have spent millions trying to attract the tourists driving past on their way to the wine country, but outside of the redevelopment zones it's a mix of run-down farm-country county seat and exurban sprawl (condos, tract homes, WalMart, Home Depot, etc.).

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                I misspoke. Of course I realize we will be visiting several valleys, counties & towns. I understand the difference between them. My friends want an overview of the area. I'm not a huge fan of the commercialized development in Napa either, but enjoy the town anyway. My first introduction was a street fair attended by "townies" rather than tourists. They were mostly people who work in the vineyards & kitchens, along with their children. It gave me sense of what it means to live and work there & I appreciated the perspective. Ugly is subjective. Your weather is beautiful, the people are friendly. I've never had a bad day in Northern California. It is truly an amazing place.

      2. We were in Northern California last weekend without kids for the first time in 8 years!

        In Yountville we had amazing dinners at Lucy, Redd and Bouchon. I would highly recommend Lucy as one of my favorites. We tasted several wines at Maisonry which represents 20 plus wineries. Cool space/art/ wines.... The area is worth the time. In fact, friends we were with put their favorite meal on the Panini's and wine we ordered from Napa Style. We sat on a picnic table and basked in the sun.

        We had a memorable lunch/reserve tasting at Cade. The views were gorgeous. The guide Mallory was fun and knowledgeable and the food was catered by Meadowood. I don't think you could go wrong there.

        One of the highlights of our trip was a tapas lunch at Bravas off the square in Healdsburg. It was fabulous. We had a large group and they kept bringing out small plates. One was better than the next.... Fun service, good cocktails and a great outdoor courtyard.

        Tasting at Ridge was good with beautiful views.

        Have fun. We were not able to make Pride/Smith Madrone secondary to time and logistics. Hopefully there will be a next time!

        1 Reply
        1. re: shoprdoc

          Sounds like a great time! Lucy hasn't hit my radar. I will definitely add it to my ever-growing California Google Map. Thanks for the recommendation!

        2. If you've got the time, bring a picnic to Quarryhill Botanical Garden near Kenwood/Glen Ellen on Highway 12. You can see a lot during a 20 minute walk, including the new outdoor exhibit of six Bruce Johnson sculptures. http://www.quarryhillbg.org/

          Also, consult a map, it might be more direct to come up 101 to 37 and then up 121/Arnold Drive. (Highway 12 in Sonoma will land you in a traffic jam.) Cornerstone on Arnold has some wonderful gardens and sculpture too.

          Feasts for the soul!

          4 Replies
          1. re: Columba

            Thanks so much for the traffic help! Our first stop on the trip from San Francisco will be Pride on Spring Mountain, rather than the house in Kenwood. I assumed that if we bypass the Town of Sonoma all together we would be better off. That's why I planned taking 101 to 12 (in Santa Rosa) to Calistoga Rd / St Helena Rd. If my first stop is on Spring Mountain, do you still feel like 37 to Arnold is my best bet?

            Regarding the gardens and sculpture: Many, Many Thanks! That is right up my alley & I will need a good walk after all this driving & eating.

            1. re: GoJaneGo

              Goodness, Pride on Spring Mountain is in St. Helena!

              Uncertain of your best route between SF and St. Helena. The route you picked is reasonable, though likely slow on 101 between Novato & SR. Going over the mountain is also slow.

              St. Helena to Kenwood is a trip back over the Mayacamas mountains - either St. Helena Rd. to Calistoga Rd. Or Oakville Grade to Trinity Road. A designated driver needed on these steep, windy mountain roads. So beautiful, so dangerous, so queasy-making. :)

              Bypassing town of Sonoma is wise, unless you've a specific destination there.

              Is there a chowhound equivalent for mapping best driving routes?

              Even this longtime local doesn't have sound advice for you.

              Have a wonderful trip. Be sure to try the strawberry stand in Kenwood or Watmaugh at Arnold - they're at peak.

              1. re: Columba

                Apparently driving direction forums aren't as popular as food & wine. Shocking, huh? I will just allow plenty of time and hope for the best.

                Gardens to stroll, art to view, strawberries in peak season.... You've put a beautiful spin on our foodie road trip. I may need to book an extra night or two.

                1. re: GoJaneGo

                  Oak Hill Farm in Glen Ellen is opening for the season beginning next Thursday. Beautiful bouquets of flowers for your rental. Or packaged products to nipple and ship. Their jarred pickles are yummy. Eggs, carrots, lettuce, greens, parsley and leeks today. Peonies at $2 each and plenty of other flowers and wreaths.
                  http://www.oakhillfarm.net/redbarn

                  Wildwood Farm in Kenwood has some lovely sculptures and maples.
                  http://wildwoodmaples.com/gallery/gal...

                  If it's hot, consider ice cream at VJB Cellars in Kenwood or Michoacana Natural Mexican ice cream and paletas (popsicles) in Boyes Hot Springs. 18495 Hwy 12.

                  Bring layers to wear. Quick changes from still to windy, damp to dry, warm to cool, clear to foggy and everything in between. Evenings are especially variable now.