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First decent vacation in 18 years, need advice in Sonoma / Napa.

Discussion in 'California & Nevada (Northern)' started by jm3, Jun 9, 2009.

  1. jm3

    jm3 F1 Rookie

    Oct 3, 2002
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    #1 jm3, Jun 9, 2009
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2009
    So, it has been 18 years since my first son was born until now, when the last son is old enough for summer camp. For the first time in recent history, I will be able to spend an entire week just with my wife, because all three kids are having summer fun away from their parents.

    This will end in either divorce or great memories, hopefully the latter.

    In answer to your first thought:
    No, we cant go to Italy and visit the factory. My wife specifically wants to be near the kids 4H camp in Sonoma County (Angwin) so that we can be nearby "just in case". No Maranello trip, no Austin trip, no Vancouver Island trip.

    I need advice on how and where to have a good vacation in the Napa/Sonoma area. I am very familiar with the area. Wine tasting is not a priority, as we live right near Shenandoah Valley and are Zinfandel fans, so the thought of paying a bottle of wine worth of money to sample BV Coastal Merlot in a crowded room parked next to an idling diesel tour bus is unattractive. I don't know if there are any Sonoma Napa wineries left that aren't tourist traps, but if you know of a cute up-and-coming winery, and I'm sure there are quite a few, that would be fantastic.

    I would be very interested in a great, off the beaten path B & B, any little places to stay. We have never been to "The Geysers". I bet my wife would like that. Sonoma Mission Inn? Been there done that, something less touristy would be great.

    Any "must-do" restaraunts? French Laundry is out of the question time wise, and I think maybe that ship has sailed anyway.

    Mountain Bike trails? Real good ones? Annandale Park? I was planning on using the 308GT4, because it has seats in back just in case there is a swine flu outbreak at the summer camp and we need to speed over there and rescue the 2 kids. (my wifes idea, remember these are her babies). I probably could rig a decent bike rack on it. That will be a sight. Maybe we'll save the bikes for another trip, or we could come back home (2 hours) and swap to the jeep.

    Any ideas or advice would be appreciated, along with any stories of what you would do or did in the same situation.

    Thanks, Jay
     
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  3. Perfusion

    Perfusion F1 Rookie

    Oct 16, 2004
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    Aaron
    A way to combine a little biking + wine @ "off the beaten path places" (while not having to rig up something on the gt4 to bring your bikes along) could be to do the "Cool Wine Tour" through the Calistoga Bike Shop. The wife and I did it a couple months back and it was an absolute blast. We had lunch @ Solage in Calistga - very good... If the French Laundry isn't doing it for you, you could always try Bouchon in Yountville - TFL's little brother, I suppose...
     
  4. verdegrrl

    verdegrrl Formula Junior

    Sep 3, 2008
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    We're fond of the Bodega Bay and Tomales Bay area. Usually very quiet and oysters abound. If you like very rustic, the Timber Cove Inn up the road has never disappointed us as a stop on the way to Eureka and points north. Even the food is decent if you don't mind the slow service.

    http://www.bodegabay.com/index.shtml

    http://www.tripadvisor.com/Hotels-g32091-Bodega_Bay_Sonoma_County_California-Hotels.html

    http://www.timbercoveinn.com/

    If you like more privacy and more control, then maybe a vacation rental is the way to go. We've used vrbo countless times - never had a bad experience. Just watch out for unreasonable cleaning fees at a few places.

    http://www.vrbo.com/vacation-rentals/usa/california/wine-country/sonoma-county/bodega-bay

    Oh, and I should mention that there are some simply fantastic driving roads in the area. ;)
     
  5. nerd

    nerd F1 Rookie

    Oct 12, 2003
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    I can offer suggestions for Napa, but you won't likely want to commute from Sonoma to eat and taste wines. Just in case:

    Best food from 2008 trip was Martini House: http://www.martinihouse.com/
    Best food from 2007 trip was Redd: http://www.reddnapavalley.com/
    For great simple foods, I recommend Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen: http://www.cindysbackstreetkitchen.com/

    French Laundry is a must visit, but still hard to book. You can snag the rare table on Open Table, stay at the Meadowwood and have them book for you, or show-up and get lucky. FWIW, I have an apology letter from Thomas Keller resulting from our last visit. He's a perfectionist, and the meal badly missed the mark. Still, its a must do.

    Favorite small wine makers from whom we buys several cases every year: Salvestrin: http://www.salvestrinwinery.com/ and Bremer Family http://www.bremerfamilywinery.com/
     
  6. butcher

    butcher Formula 3

    Oct 19, 2008
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    I used to live in Napa a few years ago. I'd second the recommendation for Martini House in St. Helena. You have to order the Kobe burger and pair it with a nice glass of Cabernet and eat in the cellar room. Guaranteed, The best burger you'll ever have in your life. Martini House is a place where a lot of locals hang out because the food is good and it is somewhat off the beaten path. Best winery to visit has to be Far Niente in Oakville, where the Cabernet and late harvest Dolce are amazing, but expensive. They are only visited by appointment, but their is a carriage house or barn that you visit that is filled with several exotic and vintage cars (ie.: a one off ferrari barchetta, a porsche 959, one of the first production miata's ever made). There's also a large azalea garden to view. former Indy and F1 racecar driver Mario Andretti has Andretti Vineyard in the town of Napa. Mumm Napa in Rutherford/Oakville off siverado trail offers a free tour of sparkling wine making that is pretty informative and ends with a gallery full of Ansel Adams photographs that are definitely worth checking out. Most beautiful Garden's and grounds on a winery is probably Ferrari-Carano winery in Healdsberg, Sonoma, just awesome! Too many great restaurants to recommend, really.
     
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  8. frefan

    frefan F1 Veteran

    Apr 21, 2004
    7,288
    Been there 5 times already this year, was just there last week for the wine auction

    Bottega in Yountville is the hot new restaurant
    http://www.botteganapavalley.com/
    http://www.michaelchiarello.com/mcBio.html

    Bardessono is the hot new hotel, also in Yountville
    http://www.bardessono.com/

    Normally I stay at meadowood in rutherford but yountville is just a few miles south and north of napa

    Personally I don't care for Sonoma much, all the happenings are in Napa/Yountville/St. Helena/Calistoga along 128

    Martini House, Red and Cindy's all great
     
  9. vincent355

    vincent355 F1 Veteran
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    Apr 8, 2003
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    Angwin is just above St Helena in Napa County. I used to live there.

    Try the wine country inn or harvest inn in St helena,

    Food:

    Bistro Jeanty in Yountville is one of my favorites
    Go Fish in St Helena

    Super casual but fun is Taylors in St Helena and Buster's BBQ in Calistoga

    Favorite winery: Dutch Henry - the way Napa wineries used to be, family owned and fun. Bring some sandwiches buy some wine enjoy the scenery and bocce court.
     
  10. jm3

    jm3 F1 Rookie

    Oct 3, 2002
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    Thanks everybody, some genuine good advice here.

    Jay
     
  11. EssenceofImagery

    May 2, 2009
    12
    Sonoma County, CA
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    Gregory Smith
    www.vincentarroyo.com

    He makes a wonderful selection of wines, usually on a futures basis - but it's that good. He also has a quaint cabin on the property available for rent. It's not too far from Angwin, should the need arise - simply hop on the Silverado Trail at its beginning in Calistoga, and hop on the gas. Definitely not a tourist trap, it's off the main path, and spending an evening with Vincent is definitely worth it. He's been known to break into the library, and what you'll find in there is simply...

    ...you'll find out if/when you stay there.
     
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  13. frefan

    frefan F1 Veteran

    Apr 21, 2004
    7,288
    The whole napa area is a mecca of fantastic food and wines. You could literally throw a dart at a 20 mile google map radius and you simply cannot have a bad experience anywhere unless you are very very unlucky. Some may be more expensive than others but its all good.
     
  14. Sunracer

    Sunracer Formula Junior

    May 18, 2005
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    Pierre Beniston
    Check out Artesa in Napa co., an architectural stunner..nothing like any of the other wineries in the area. http://www.artesawinery.com/about/ built into the hillside it is a worthwhile visit, wine interest or not.


    Also, near there is a great modern art collection on a beautiful setting both indoors and out, visits by advance appointment only:

    http://www.dirosapreserve.org/

    PB
     
  15. walldo1

    walldo1 Rookie

    Jun 10, 2009
    2
    We live in Calistoga and we have a small medical clinic in St Helena. Lots to do here. I would stay at Meadowood, or some friends of mine have two small inexpensive cottages here in Calistoga. You will be about 5 miles from the kids. If you like wine plenty of that. Bikes in Calistoga. Horse back riding in the state park. Hiking multiple places. Tons of food. nwall4@comcast.net if you want any further details. Call me at my clinic (707)963-4399 and my wife and I would be happy to get you started. Norman and Arlene Wall
     
  16. vincent355

    vincent355 F1 Veteran
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    I'll vouch for Norman.

    Really, one trip is not enough...you'll have to come back. I see many more 4H camps in your future.
     
  17. vincent355

    vincent355 F1 Veteran
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    BTW, welcome! and good first post.
     
  18. Prancing Horse

    Prancing Horse Formula Junior

    Nov 2, 2003
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  19. Wolfgang5150

    Wolfgang5150 F1 Rookie

    Oct 31, 2003
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    Trying to plan a trip for my wife & I; maybe for next year though. One goal would be to eat at the French Laundry. Anyone eat there? Tips on getting a reservation?
    Thanks
    KEVIN
     
  20. Vraiment

    Vraiment F1 Rookie

    Jul 7, 2009
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    FL rez is simple. Call three months to the day you wish to dine. They will give you options at that point.
     
  21. Mule

    Mule F1 Rookie
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    #18 Mule, Mar 7, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2013
    In Sonoma, we like to stay at the Victoria Garden Inn B&B and walk to everything. http://www.victoriangardeninn.com/ Pretty neat place, run by a nice lady.

    We like to eat here outside: Della Santinas Full

    In Napa, not as much walking things, due to distance, so we usually stay here: Napa Hotels, Napa Winery Inn, an Ascend Hotel Collection Member in Napa California

    Normal hotel, nothing fancy, but it is walking distance to some friends and here: http://www.fumebistro.com/ ,which is pretty good.

    Have a picnic at V. Sattui: http://www.vsattui.com/

    We enjoy walking and the wineries, and the room and most meals are not the highlight. We do like Andretti Winery, because it is quiet, shady, and we have a friend who works there, so we hit it once a trip.
     
  22. Mule

    Mule F1 Rookie
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    Pretty close to the itinerary we start with every time for the same reasons, despite the "Ferrari" connections.
     
  23. jimpo1

    jimpo1 Two Time F1 World Champ
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    Jul 30, 2001
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    Book at tour at Moon Mountain Winery in Sonoma. They're off the beaten bath and it's reservation only. They have an actual cave that they age their wine in, one of the very few.
     
  24. arizonaitalian

    arizonaitalian F1 World Champ
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    #21 arizonaitalian, Mar 7, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2013
    I still love the pasta at Bistro Don Giovanni. Shared a make-shift tasting menu of 3 pastas with my GF over a surprisingly cheap Bordeaux at lunch last weekend. Was tasty and a great way to start a relaxing day in wine country (or end one if choosing dinner).

    I also still enjoy having a proper cocktail on the deck at Meadowood. Same for Auberge.

    Old school tasting "area" that isn't $40 per taste is to do the Andersen Valley tour.

    Finally, I think Old Dry Creek Road below Lake Sonoma is a great bike ride (and tasting day).

    Enjoy!
     
  25. arizonaitalian

    arizonaitalian F1 World Champ
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    FL should be on any foodies "try it once" list. I prefer lunch if you can get a resy as its the same menu and you have more time to digest afterwards (I'm usually super bloated after eating there). If its your first time there, and given their outrageously expensive wine list prices, let the somm select matching wines by the glass for each course. Also, know that they will add dishes or otherwise customize if you are nice and perhaps ask ahead of time.

    The only "trick" or "tip" I have for FL reservations is to realize that they don't book every table for the "late" seating at 9:30 (they leave a few open in case a few early seating tables hang out for 4+ hours). So, with that knowledge, and a lot of luck and charm and perhaps timing, one can score a late reservation on short notice. I've done it a few times. It never hurts to check with them the day before and the day of to see if they got any cancellations (although they typically have a wait list).


    Is it 3 months now? It was 2 months last I checked, but then I haven't been in over 4 years...got burned out on that place...although I did eat Corey Lee's food this week. He was one of several great chef's that learned there...he rocks!
     
  26. Challenge64

    Challenge64 F1 Veteran
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    Jul 28, 2004
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    Of course booking three months in advance is the best option, but we have gone three times and each time our reservation was handled by concierge at a local resort. Each time we got a table a few days to a week out.
     
  27. Wolfgang5150

    Wolfgang5150 F1 Rookie

    Oct 31, 2003
    4,702
    Great advice - thanks! Ron - when is your book on Italy coming out?
    Kevin
     
  28. SillyPuppy

    SillyPuppy Formula 3

    Aug 2, 2005
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    I second the recommendation of Bodega Bay - we brought our new (to us!) fifth wheel out there for a few days, a couple weeks ago for my birthday weekend. It's kinda an annual thing we do, but this time, we got to bring our "second home" with us, and it was awesome.

    If you do go there, head to Occidental for dinner - both Negri's and the Union Hotel offer nice Italian fare, and you will NOT leave hungry! Plus, the ride up Bohemian Highway in the 308GT4 should be great - I've run it in the F355 quite a few times!

    There are many nice beaches just north of Bodega Bay, if you're looking to play on the sand for a while, maybe fly a kite and have a picnic lunch. Don't miss out on going to Bodega Head, either, because whether or not you see any whales (bring binoculars!), you'll want to walk around there a bit, assuming it's one of the few days it's not windy up there.

    Speaking of picnic lunches - if you don't pack anything to eat, stop at the general store in Pelican Plaza in Bodega Bay - the tuna salad sandwiches there are to die for, as is the potato salad.

    We'll be there for a full week in July, living and working in the trailer, at the beach - such is the benefit of working from home... As long as I have internet and phone service, I can work from anywhere!

    Jay, as always, hit me up if you want more ideas around there... We love that area...

    Orrie

    EDIT: Oh, one more thing - horseback riding is available just north of Bodega Bay at a ranch... Everything from a beginner's nose-to-tail trip (it was my first time on a horse!), to romantic beach riding. Can't wait to do that again... After all the F-Cars can't be the ONLY horses we ride, right?
     

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