Napa and Sonoma
Wine country: Napa County + Sonoma County
- Sonoma County Airport
- Napa County Airport
- Martinez Station, then transfer onto Amtrak Thruway Bus Route 7 to Soscol Gateway Transit Center
- Suisun City Train Depot, then take VINE bus to Soscol Gateway Transit Center
- SMART: riding through Sonoma County (but not Napa), connecting Sonoma County Airport (the north terminal), and Larkspur Ferry Terminal (the south terminal)
- BART: ride to El Cerrito del Norte Station then take VINE bus
- Vallejo Ferry Terminal: then take VINE bus
- Larkspur Ferry Terminal: then take SMART train
Getting Around By Bike
- Napa Valley Vine Trail: https://www.vinetrail.org/
- Completed: 12.5 continuous miles from South Napa to Yountville.
- Planned: 47-mile from Vallejo to Calistoga
- Sonoma County:
- Santa Rosa Creek
- Prince Memorial Greenway trails
- Joe Rodota Trail https://www.sonomacounty.com/outdoor-activities/joe-rodota-trail
- Napa Valley Wine Train: https://www.winetrain.com/
- Hot air balloons: https://winecountryballoons.com/
Castello di Amorosa
4045 North St. Helena Hwy, Calistoga, CA 94515
13th century Tuscan castle-winery. 121,000 square foot, 107 unique rooms, 8000 tons of hand-squared stones, 8 levels (4 below ground), 900 feet of caves, hand-painted Great Hall, a drawbridge, moat, dungeon and torture chamber, a consecrated chapel, wine barrel room with ancient brick Roman cross-vaulted ceilings. Wine only sold at the winery, directly to the consumers
30 acres of vineyard surrounding the castle. Sangioves, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Italian stylewines including Pinot Grigio, Pinot Bianco and a Super Tuscan Blend.
Robert Mondavi Winery
7801 St Helena Hwy, Oakville, CA 94562
The largest in Napa. Misson style.
- take the tram up the hill.
Spectacular grounds and divine Cabs.
Sonoma’s Rhinefarm has been home to six generations of Gundlachs and Bundschus. Founded in 1859 by German immigrant Jacob Gundlach, who planted 60,000 vines of German and French rootstock on the property, the winery suffered a blow when its block-long winemaking facility in San Francisco was destroyed by the 1906 earthquake and fire.
Production continued on-site at the Rhinefarm estate, but in 1919 Prohibition forced the closure of the Gundlach Bundschu winery. Walter Bundschu, whose father married into the family after becoming Jacob Gundlach’s business associate, held on to 130 acres of land and continued to grow Rhinefarm grapes and Bartlett pears. In 1970, Walter’s grandson Jim decided to reopen the family winery, and in 1973 Jim’s father Towle (Walter’s son) granted him permission to use the historic Gundlach Bundschu family name for his endeavor.
In 2014, the Napa Valley earthquake damaged a 100-year-old barn on the property that had long served as the center of agricultural operations. Although the barn had withstood two previous quakes in 1969 and 1989, this most recent temblor left it with a cracked foundation and support pillar, resulting in a sagging ceiling and decidedly south-leaning tilt. Jim’s son Jeff, current president of the vineyard, decided that it was necessary that they repair it for future use, telling the Santa Rosa Press Democrat that the barn held a “spiritual aspect” for him.
Freemark Abbey’s stone winery building was constructed in 1899.
Josephine Tychson, arguably the first woman to own and operate a winery in Napa Valley, assumed control of 147 acres of vineyards in 1886 after her husband passed away. She built a small redwood winemaking facility that same year, realizing her spouse’s dream of turning their property into a fully operational winery. This structure eventually expanded to hold a capacity of 30,000 gallons of Zinfandel, Riesling, and Burgundy varietals.
Tychson sold the winery to her foreman, Nils Larsen, in 1894, and Larsen in turn sold it to Antonio Forni, a friend of Tychson’s. Forni more than doubled the production capacity of the winery in 1899 by constructing a new stone production building, which Freemark Abbey continues to use to this day.
Although the winery shuttered in 1919 due to Prohibition, three Southern California businessmen purchased the estate in 1939, christening it “Freemark Abbey” as a portmanteau of their names (Charles Freeman, Marquand Foster, and Albert “Abbey” Ahern).
Although it has changed hands a number of times throughout the years, Freemark Abbey still prides itself on its rich history. It was one of only 12 wineries to participate in the Paris Tasting in 1976, the international event (and subject of the film “Bottle Shock“) that put Napa Valley on the map as the venerable winemaking region it’s known as today.
Freemark Abbey is currently in the process of applying for the National Register of Historic Places, and current proprietors Barbara Banke and the Jackson family of vintners have recently started construction on a restoration project that includes refurbishing the original building and surrounding landscape. The winery suffered no significant damage in the 2014 Napa Valley earthquake.
Inglenook was purchased by Francis Ford Coppola and his wife Eleanor in 1975.
After sailing the high seas and eventually making berth in the port of San Francisco, Finnish sea captain Gustave Niebaum purchased Inglenook (a Scottish phrase meaning “cozy corner”) Winery in 1879 from its former owner, Judge S. Clinton Hastings. In 1881 he commissioned architect Hamden McIntyre (designer of the Trefethen Vineyards building), in conjunction with San Francisco architect William Mooser, to build Inglenook’s iconic stone winery that still serves as the center of operations today. Its construction was completed in 1887.
Inglenook briefly shuttered after the death of Captain Neibaum in 1908, with operations resuming under his widow in 1911. Prohibition forced the winery to cease operations, but Inglenook survived by selling grapes directly to consumers. On December 6, 1933, immediately after Prohibition’s repeal, Inglenook resumed wine production.
Following a few decades of economic decline and several sales, 1,506 acres of Inglenook, including Gustav Niebaum’s mansion (but not the historic winemaking chateau), were purchased by Francis Ford Coppola and his wife Eleanor in 1975 with profits from the Godfather films. In 1995, the Coppolas were able to purchase the parcel of land containing the chateau (which had been sitting vacant under different ownership), reuniting the property and this structure for the first time in three decades. The Coppolas also initiated a thorough restoration of the chateau.
The oldest continuously operating winery in the Napa Valley.
Founded in 1875 by siblings Jacob and Frederick Beringer, the parcel of land that Beringer Vineyards is located on was initially called Los Hermanos (The Brothers). After two of Jacob’s children, Charles and Bertha, assumed ownership of the winery in 1915, the Beringer estate continued to produce wine throughout Prohibition under a federal license that allowed it to be made and sold for religious purposes.
Post-Prohibition, Beringer became the first Napa winery to offer public tours, sparking the wine tourism industry in the valley. This past March, Mark Beringer, a direct descendant of Jacob, became the head winemaker at the estate after previously working at Artesa Vineyards.
- Schramsberg Vineyards: the first estate to follow the traditional French Champagne method
- Scribe Winery: atop a grassy hill in Sonoma, is typical of Sonoma’s more rustic, relaxed, yet still elegant vibe.
- Joseph Phelps Vineyards (jpvwines.com)
- Gloria Ferrer Winery: In windswept, western Carneros, Gloria Ferrer is part of Spain’s Freixenet — the largest sparkling wine producer in the world. The winery is an architectural wonder, and its sparkling wines are among the best in California.
- Buena Vista Winery: Also in Carneros, the dramatically beau- tiful Buena Vista is California’s oldest continually operating winery (since 1857). Guided and self-guided tours are avail- able. Wines are reasonably priced.
- Whitehall Lane
- Town of Sonoma: Dominated by its huge plaza, this fascinat- ing old Spanish mission town is a must-see. Many fine winer- ies are nearby, including Ravenswood (the great Zinfandel specialist) and Hanzell (one of California’s finest Chardonnay producers). Great cheese shops (try the Sonoma Jack) and bread shops offer their wares for picnickers.
- Village of Glen Ellen: Just north of the town of Sonoma and south of Santa Rosa, this beautiful little village of about 1,000 residents was the home of one of America’s great authors, Jack London, and one of its greatest food writers, MFK Fisher. Benziger Family Winery is also in Glen Ellen.
- Santa Rosa: In the center of the county, Santa Rosa is the larg- est city in Napa/Sonoma wine country, with lots of hotels and fine restaurants.
- Healdsburg: In Northern Sonoma, the town of Healdsburg is ideally located for winery visits because it’s surrounded by three great Sonoma wine regions: Alexander Valley, Dry Creek Valley, and the Russian River Valley. Simi Winery is also in Healdsburg. The town has great restaurants, such as Cyrus and Bistro Ralph, plus lots of fine hotels and bed and break- fast inns (some of which you can find in the nearby “Staying in Healdsburg” sidebar).
- Los Carneros (partly in Napa Valley): Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Merlot, sparkling wine
- Sonoma Valley: Chardonnay
- Sonoma Mountain: Cabernet Sauvignon
- Bennett Valley: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot
- Green Valley (within Russian River Valley): Sparkling wine, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir
- Russian River Valley: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, sparkling wine, Zinfandel
- Knights Valley: Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc
- Chalk Hill (within Russian River Valley): Chardonnay,
- Dry Creek Valley: Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon
- Alexander Valley: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc
- Rockpile: Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah
- Zinfandels: dry creek valley
- pinot noir: russian river
- cabernet savignon: napa valley
- the vineyard areas of Alexander Valley and Geyserville (in the north) and the Sonoma Mountain area (farther south) can be quite warm and dry, and they’re ideal growing regions for Cabernet Sauvignon. The cooler regions, such as the Russian River Valley, Green Valley, Forestville, and the Sonoma Coast, produce excellent Pinot Noirs, Chardonnays, and sparkling wines. Temperate areas in Sonoma grow Zinfandel, Syrah, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, and Petite Sirah, to name a few of the more prominent varieties. But there are many more.
- A Walk in the Clouds
Sonoma Mission Inn and Spa: natural artesian hot springs at Spanish-mission-style
Michelin-starred restaurant Sante
- Auberge du Soleil: The other great French restaurant in Napa Valley, besides The French Laundry. Great wine list; amazing views.
- étoile: Domaine Chandon, one of California’s original wineries for sparkling wine, is still running a top restaurant in Yountville, 30 years after the winery opened.
- Mustard’s Grill: A Napa Valley classic. California cuisine; great burgers and barbecued ribs. Popular with winemakers. On Highway 29 in Yountville.
- Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen: Chef/owner Cindy Pawlcyn’s other, more casual restaurant in St. Helena (Mustard’s and Go Fish are also Cindy’s).
- Bouchon and Bistro Jeanty: Two wonderful, casual French restaurants in Yountville. Moderately priced.
- Brix: Another casual restaurant on Highway 29 (in Yountville) featuring California cuisine.
- Redd: Modern, fairly new restaurant in Yountville featuring California cuisine.
- Terra: Small, homey French restaurant in St. Helena; one of the older places to
- eat in the Valley; still one of the best.
- Tra Vigne: One of the two great Italian restaurants in St. Helena; an old favorite.
- Martini House: The other top Italian St. Helena restaurant. Quite large and beautiful. Excellent wine list!
- Bistro Don Giovanni: Casual, good value Italian restaurant in Napa; outdoor dining available.
- Sonoma Windows desktop ("Bliss")