If you’re looking for a quick trip out of San Francisco or a weekend getaway to Napa valley look no further for a sweet and simple itinerary. Personally, I prefer Napa to Sonoma which is perfectly charming but very small. Downtown Napa is quite a bit bigger and has pretty river running through it where you can eat along the water or peruse the quaint shops. However, there are many towns to explore and hundreds of wineries. These are just a few experiences for a quick weekend getaway or a first time experience.
My Fav Spots
Francis Ford Coppola Winery
Well I wasn’t prepared for this place. Meaning, I didn’t bring my swimsuit! But who knew!? This winery not only has some of my favorite wines back home but it has a beautiful swimming pool where you can lounge about for the day whilst sipping on vino. It’s a bit out of the way of the towns of Napa & Sonoma and is furthest from San Francisco if you’re travelling up for the city but it’s totally worth a stop in. Plan on spending a few hours here so you can enjoy a swim.
Rodney Strong Winery
Holy Moly! This is the place that I learned that I LOVE PORT! Defiantly my favorite drink at this winery. This place boasts a cozy terrace where you can imbibe all the yummy reds AND whites. This winery is in Sonoma and closer to Francis Ford Coppola Winery if you’re in the neighborhood.
By far the coolest with the best view. The draw to this winery is that it’s perched upon a hill that you must take a gondola to reach. Quite a first impression if you ask me, but once you get to the top, you’re met with magnificent 360° views of the vineyards below. This place has some of my favorite white wines but of course all are delish!
Jarvis Estate Winery
The way a friend explained this place before I took my trip was that IF Batman had a Bat Cave, this place would be it! The wine here is aged in caves that were built into the Vaca Mountains. I don’t know how that goes down when an earthquake goes down, but who cares, this place is just cool! The entire operation is housed in these caves leaving the natural beauty of the land above untouched and the wine perfectly aging down below. This is definitely a unique experience compared to other wineries which seem run-of-the-mill compare to this next-level space.
V. Sattui Winery
I love the rustic charm of V. Sattui which set it apart from some of the more prim and polished establishments nearby. This place felt so approachable, which isn’t a word that I thought of often as a first time visitor and certainly NOT a wine connoisseur. It has the feeling of an old, Italian winery in the country. There are also plenty of Italian inspired snack at their artisan deli so you can have a proper picnic right outside. This place gives you all the Tuscany Vibes.
Good Eats in the Area
Bouchon Bistro reminds me of my breakfasts in Paris. Pop in for a coffee & crescent for breakfast or grab an artisan sandwich and some macaroons for a picnic in the vineyards. It’s a perfect stop for brunch but is also open late, which is important, since most of the wineries close around 5pm.
This place was recommend by multiple locals in downtown Napa so that’s enough convincing for me. Even in a fancy place like Napa, I need a good local bar with burgers and brews. I kept getting pointed in this direction and it does not disappoint. Especially when you need a break/reality check from the often expensive and ostentatious experiences of the area.
Another establishment that was time and again recommended by traveler and local alike! Ad Hoc is definitely pricey but the comfort food menu is inspiring. This is a perfect date night spot for a special dinner after a long weekend of libations.
Oxbow Public Market
I love markets. I try to find one in every city I go to because I feel like you can find the best local food for the best bang for your buck. I also like to do my gift shopping for myself and others back home, where I can usually find unique, non-touristy presents. But even better, there are stall after stall of delectable treats. It’s a perfect place for a big group or if you’re feeling undecided because you can get pretty much anything here. You could probably spend a good chunk of the day eating, shopping & exploring.
What Else to Do
Hot air ballooning over the valley
Stomp grapes at Sterling Vineyards
Eat top-notch food (The French Laundry is world-famous but quite pricey- Ad Hoc & Bouchon are owned by the same chef for a cheaper experience)
Picnic on the grounds of a vineyard
Wander around Downtown Napa
Boat, paddle board, or kayak down Napa River
Rent a bike and ride down the Napa Valley Vine Trail
Try a mud bath in Calistoga