Welcome to this multi-part blog highlighting our recent trip to wine country: Napa and Sonoma Valley May 2021. We all know that cheese and wine go hand in hand so it's only natural that we spent a week exploring and learning all we could! Let me tell you the secret sauce to Napa Valley - GO DURING THE WEEK - it will not disappoint.
For part 1, I want to go over our itinerary and our team of TRUSTED vendors we hired for a seamless trip. Let it be known that there are HUNDREDS of wineries to explore across the trail so what and where we chose are just the tip of the iceberg. There are large commercialized wineries to small family-owned estate vineyards. Choosing where you go is completely up to you and your crew of wineos.
We flew into San Francisco - whoever rents the car make sure they are a confident road warrior!
Coming from Florida we landed pretty late and stayed the night in San Fran - you could powerhouse through this and drive in the same night (we did this for my bachelorette trip in 2019 so it is doable!)
Traveling with the BEST workout and wine partner is a plus - Emily booked us an early 8:30 AM SoulCycle class - this really helped debloat from the plane, and I definitely was so happy when we finished!
By 11 AM the morning work traffic is gone and it's the perfect time to check out and hit the road - the drive only took us about an hour to get to downtown Napa!
1 Winery - we couldn't waste a day so we found a winery near our hotel to kick the trip off with Sodaro Estate Winery: 24 Blue Oak Ln, Napa, CA 94558 (located in Coombsville located to the right of the trail and south towards downtown Napa - 15 min drive)
Hotel: The Archer - perfectly placed for walking through downtown Napa, great amenities, and a beautiful rooftop bar (Sky and Vine) and gym!
Dinner: we walked down the street to a Mediterranean place - Tarla Grill
Places close by 9 PM in Napa so hit the hay and prepare yourself for a marathon, not a sprint
Wednesday: Napa Valley
We tackled 4 wineries each day - our first tour began between 10:30/11 AM
AXR - boutique hidden gem, young winery, amazing experience
Brian Arden (lunch pairing) - seed to table style winery, one of a kind lunch experiences
Schramsberg - bubbles! Book this to start the day
*Deli Stop* @ Vsatuii
Turnbull - amazing but sadly wouldn't let us bring our cheese in and did not offer food with a tasting
Jessup *impromptu stop before dinner because Emily was a wine club member!)\
Dinner: Bottega Napa Valley (I ordered the short ribs and WOW mouth watering falling off the bone perfection)
Thursday: Sonoma Valley
Hitting day 2 strong with another 4 wineries lined up all thanks to the referrals from the owner of Wine Tasting Driver - Gary
Lasseter Family Vineyards (French Style) + cheese plate = the perfect location
Kenwood Vineyards - sadly wouldn't suggest this for a tasting I'd prefer spending money on the more boutique experiences
VJB Vineyard & Cellars - lunch and tasting *also felt like we could have spent money and time at a different winery this was also a bit touristy*
Gloria Ferrer - BUBBLES on the patio - perfection + ordered a cheese plate
Friday: Artesa & Back to SFO
Heading home is never easy - so we ended our trip on a high note with Artesa (this is a winery that could easily kick-off or end a trip to wine country as it's right upon entering or leaving)
How did we get our wine home??? Buffalo's Shipping Post - this is on your way out of Napa, the staff is so friendly, and all 12 bottles of my wine arrived home in FL safely! I did pay the $233 3 day shipping but at that point what was another bill for that wine I bought LOL Emily did ship 6 bottles ground and they too arrived safe and sound.
Saturday: Home Sweet Home
We jetted out on the 8 AM flight from SFO and landed at the perfect time of 6 PM in RSW - coming home on a Saturday is sure to ward off Sunday Scaries and let us assimilate back to not drinking wine daily :)
Thanks to Delta for always having enjoyable flights - Emily and I are forever #deltaloyal
Vendors we have come to LOVE and TRUST:
Car Rental: Budget - hate to brag but the Budget at the SFO airport hooked us up with a 50% DISCOUNT we didn't even notice until the end of the trip! Talk about customer service. Our Toyota 4 Runner was perfect and carted us and our wine around the valley seamlessly.
Private Driver: Wine Tasting Driver - you can't do Napa or Sonoma without a driver. This service allows you to seamlessly move from each stop, while they drive YOUR car. I would buy wine, place it in the trunk, and the driver stays while you go off and taste away. No waiting on Ubers or running late - these guys even text you to get a move on when time goes down with the wine. Tell them that Ali Eck (Grazing Haus) sent you their way! Gary will be sure to take care of you and your friends.
Hangover Secret: Cheers - I discovered cheers online and have been their biggest cheerleader - take 3 pills before bed and I can promise you you'll wake up recharged and ready for another day in wine country
Delta: I mean call me what you like but I was raised Delta loyal and I'll forever be #deltaloyal - my flight cost me 25K miles - a FREE TICKET - whoever you fly stick with one company and you'll start to reap the benefits of being a brand loyal customer. I also have their credit card which helps my miles triple with every purchase.
Hotel vs. Air Bnb: The Archer Hotel is a full-service 5 stars hotel - clean, beautiful, and stunning views from its rooftop bar, pool, and gym are one of a kind. Yes, we paid a premium but for us, it's something we don't mind splurging on. Now if we went with a larger group a house would have been the choice. Either way, I suggest staying in downtown Napa - it's close to coffee, water, and tons of dining!
Velow is a map of Napa Valley and it's wine regions. I personally intend to print one and bring it with me. There are so many factors that land, wind, rain, humidity play into wine making, a map would have been this pen and paper girl's dream (now I know).
Thanks to Jessup Cellars for this image.
The next part of this series will dive into the pros and cons of the different styles of wineries and also how to make the most of your time while staying in Napa.
Ali & Emily