Wine tasting in Northern California is a wonderful way to spend a day any time of year, but it is magical in the fall. Spend a day winding through Napa and Sonoma Valleys and enjoy the fall colors and light crowds.
The casual group, out for a nice day in the sun with some friends doesn’t have to do any advanced planning. For example, there are 26 wineries along Highway 101 between Santa Rosa and Cloverdale alone. You will find fine wine, great food, wonderful scenery and local sites no matter where you go.
Where to Go in Wine Country
If you are staying in the area, make your first stop at the hotel concierge desk. Ask for their recommendations on where to go and what to do. Be sure smile sweetly and ask if they have any complementary wine tasting coupons.
At each winery, ask your server where they recommend you go next. Many times we have been sent from one winery to the next, and told, “ask for my friend so-and-so, and tell them I sent you.” You will end up with a complimentary tastings and a warm welcome.
You can pick up a map of winery locations, but that isn’t really necessary. The wineries do a good job of clearly marking their entrances. And our friends at Google now include wineries on Google Maps. Just look for the little red wine glass.
What to Do While in Wine Country
If you are interested in both wine tasting and some other activities, there are plenty of things to do. Many wineries offer tours of their vineyards and production facilities. Visit September through Mid-October to attend “crush” events throughout the area. My favorite website for looking at area events is Wine Road.
Olive Oil purveyors are dedicated exclusively to sampling different styles and pressings of native olive oils. Some include vinegar tasting as well. Olive Oil tasting and tours are offered throughout the area. There is a nice list on WineCountry.com. Click for more Wine and Food Tours Vacation Ideas on TripTrist.com.
There are so many ways to eat good food in Napa and Sonoma Counties. Here are some of our favorites:
OxBow Public Market: Sample so many wonderful foods at the OxBow market in Napa. Including Oysters, cheese, Peruvian food, tacos, olive oil, vinegar, wood fired pizza, ice cream, coffee – including coffee flights, Italian Pastries, fine chocolates, cupcakes and of course wine.
Picnic Supplies: It is easy to build a picnic along the way. Visit Dean & DeLuca in the Napa Valley for sandwiches, cheese, fresh fruits and veggies and sweets. You can pick up that special cooking gadget you have been looking for there too. Just across the road, V. Sattui Winery offers picnic goodies as well as barbequed mesquite-grilled prawns, tri-tip, salmon and ribs and Wood-fired pizzas during the summer and fall on the weekends.
Cooking School: For a truly unique dining experience, make advanced reservations at the Wine Spectator Greystone Restaurant at The Culinary Institute of America, in St. Helena. Where else can you watch chefs in training prepare your over the top meal, in a beautiful 125 year old, stone building for under $30 per person?
Breakfast: I am sure there are some wonderful places to eat a traditional breakfast in the area, but we gravitate to the bakeries. We have taste tested the Model Bakery at the OxBow Market and the Bouchon Bakery in Yountville. Expect a line at the Bouchon Bakery as their display is as beautiful as it is delicious.
Dinner: California Wine Country is dotted with restaurants that run the gamut from hole in the wall barbeque to sidewalk cafes, in every cute little town along the way to the The French Laundry, one of the highest rated restaurants in the world. Here is a link to an recent article about how to get reservations. Good luck.
Farmer’s Market: One of my favorite things to do in any town is visit the Local Farmer’s Market. We stopped at the Windsor Market and enjoyed how much it felt like autumn. The leaves blew around our feet and made that crunchy noise leaves make. The farmers were selling end of the season tomatoes, squash, apples and a sure sign of fall, tree ripe persimmons. More information about where and when to find a farmers market in the area can be found at these links: Sonoma County Farmers Markets and Napa County Farmers Markets.
Wondering about the weather? The average high temperature in Napa in in September is 82, October is 76 and the average high temperature in November is 64. Rain is unlikely earlier in the fall and becomes more likely in November where the average is 3.72 inches.
I hope you have the opportunity to visit Napa and Sonoma Valleys to go wine tasting soon. Northern California’s wine country offers a relaxing way to spend the day by drinking, eating and enjoying the view.
Here is a list of some of the possible wine tasting routes in Napa and Sonoma Valleys.
- Sonoma Valley: Highway 12/Arnold Drive loop, from Sonoma to Santa Rosa.
- Sonoma Valley: Old Redwood Highway (on both sides of Highway 101) from Santa Rosa to Cloverdale
- Napa Valley: Highway 29 and Silverado Trail loop.
- Anderson Valley: Highway 128 from Cloverdale to Navarro.
- Russian River Valley: Westside Road and River Road, north of Santa Rosa, out to the Pacific Ocean and Jenner