Napa is one of the favorite vacation destinations. Some people prefer Sonoma, but Napa is my favorite. I love Napa because most of the wineries are located along two parallel streets making it really easy to Uber from place to place (because you can easily spend a couple hundred a day if you hire a driver). Plus Napa has a lovely downtown and you can walk to restaurants at night. I find Napa to be less logistically challenging, and I don’t like dealing with logistics when I am drinking wine all day.
But just in case you want to head over to Sonoma, I am sneaking in my Sonoma recommendations too! If you have the time, spend 2 days in Napa and then another 2 days in Sonoma.
Where to Stay
Napa River Inn – I loved this hotel. It is located right in downtown Napa – meaning that you can walk to restaurants and the Oxbow Market. Wifi and parking are included in the room rate – as is breakfast in bed which is delivered from Sweetie Pies, the bakery next door.
Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn – A grand property with its own luxurious spa, where rooms have wood burning fireplaces. It’s just 10 minutes from Sonoma Square and friendly shuttle drivers will help you get around town.
A Cozy Cottage in Calistoga – This darling little cottage is off the beaten path in the woods and it sleeps 4 adults. My friends and I stayed here when we were in Napa for a friend’s wedding and we didn’t want to leave. Even though it is in the woods we didn’t have a problem using Uber to pick us up. The AirBnB host is offering 30% off to my readers between now and February 28th (holiday black out dates do apply) just reference TheKittchen in your request to book.
Movies to Watch Before You Go
Bottle Shock – This 2008 movie about the 1976 Judgement of Paris wine competition is a fun way to learn about winemaking in Napa. It stars Chris Pine, Bill Pullman, and Alan Rickman and I promise you will love it.
Sideways – This is the movie that killed the Merlot market for a couple of years since one of the characters proclaimed that he hated Merlot. Some studies estimate that it cost the Merlot market $400 million! Meanwhile, the character’s love of Pinot Noir was partially credited with a 16% increase in sales.
Somm – A documentary available on Netflix that follows four people as they prepare for the Master Sommelier exam.
Somm 2: This sequel to Somm focuses on how wine is made and marketed.
Where to Taste Wine in Napa
Robert Sinskey – This might be my favorite winery in Napa. Their tastings are more food-forward and include incredible homemade snacks and cheeses to pair with their wines. I love with POV red wine blend and order it whenever I see it on a wine list.
Stag’s Leap – This is Charles’s favorite winery, and I recommend doing a full tour instead of just a tasting. This winery was founded in 1893 and their S.L.V. Cabernet Sauvignon was another winner at the Judgment of Paris in 1976.
Caymus – The grounds of the winery are beautiful, and their wines are very well respected. I like that they also have affordable wine blends.
Chateau Montelena – If you have seen Bottle Shock you know about this winery that helped to put Napa on the map back in 1976 when their Chardonnay won the Judgement of Paris wine tasting competition. The chateau which was constructed in 1888 really does resemble a castle with its ivy covered stone walls and pond with swans. We only had time for a tasting, but I hope to return to do the full tour. We did a tasting with Amy, who couldn’t have been any nicer!
Cakebread Cellars – Its location along the Silverado Trail makes it a convenient place to stop for a tasting.
Miner Family Wines – You can stop in for a tasting without an appointment and the tasting room on the second floor of the building offers incredible views of the vineyards surrounding the property.
Where to Taste Wine in Sonoma
Scribe – This is the first winery on the drive from San Francisco and it is beautiful. It is appointment only, so make a reservation. This is a newer winery started by two young brothers who you might be lucky enough to meet during your visit.
Francis Ford Coppola – This winery is a bit more touristy than the others since it is also a mini-museum of movie props from Francis Ford Coppola’s movies. There is a pool with cabanas and I hear that is the place to hang out in the summertime.
Domaine Carneros – If you love sparkling wines this is the place for you! The winery is one of the most scenic, and their cheese plates make for an ideal snack.
How to Get Around
Uber – This is the most affordable option and it works very well in Napa – there are plenty of drivers out and about during the day.
Private Drivers – There are a wide variety of services, some will drive your rental car, and others use their own car.
The Wine Train – This train runs 36 miles from downtown Napa to St. Helena and connects dozens of vineyards. There are dining experiences available too. You can make reservations in advance.
Calistoga Shuttle – This on-demand shuttle will pick you up and drop you off at Calistoga wineries – for just $1 a person! The only caveat is that they don’t leave Calistoga.
Where to Eat
Gott’s Roadside – the place to get burgers, fries, and milkshakes to help you shake off any hangover that might occur.
Oakville Grocer – an upscale market and deli with delicious sandwiches.
The French Laundry – one of the top restaurants in the country, if you want a meal to remember this is the place to go – but make your reservation well in advance.
Oxbow Public Market – a market in Napa with lots of food and drink options. Ca’Momi is a great little pizza place in the market, and I also hear that there is a Mexican restaurant with great breakfast tacos.
Sweetie Pies – a little bakery/cafe in downtown Napa next to the Napa River Inn.