Napa and Sonoma are some of the most beautiful areas in California. While known for their excellent wines, this area just north of San Francisco has a plethora of resorts, lovely spas, incredible cuisine, and a variety of other activities to enjoy in between wine tastings. It’s the perfect spot for a relaxing getaway.
From San Francisco or Oakland airports, it’s just about a 2 hour drive north to wine country, depending on where you’re headed. If you live in San Diego, LA or other close cities, there is a small airport in Santa Rosa that has regular direct flights.
WHEN TO GO
There really isn’t a wrong time to go to California wine country. Peak season is June through November, but keep in mind that the summer (July & August) can often get quite hot (some days will have highs in the 90s) and the fall (especially October) has a risk for fires. For the best value, don’t discount winter (December – March, excluding holidays). You’ll find cooler temperatures and some rainier days at this time of year, but the hotels and wineries are still open and there are far fewer crowds as well as some great deals. For the best weather, May and September are generally pretty spectacular!
NAPA VS. SONOMA
This is an age-old question and there’s really no right answer here… my advice is simply to combine them both!! Sonoma County is massive – larger than the state of Rhode Island – and home to over 1,600 wineries. It is also closer to the coast and so offers a wider diversity of activities (hiking, coastal drives, paddle-boarding). In Sonoma, you’ll also find a lot of family-owned wineries that have been passed through generations. Over in the much smaller Napa Valley, you’ll find a bit more of a social scene with a higher volume of Michelin starred restaurants, and some exclusive wineries.
WHERE TO STAY
On my recent trip, we stayed at two very different but equally fabulous Virtuoso properties.
First was The Farmhouse Inn, a family owned boutique hotel in Sonoma County. With just 25 rooms in small cottages, the property feels intimate and homey. You’ll also find a lovely boutique spa, an outdoor pool and hot tub, and a Michelin-starred restaurant on site with farm to table cuisine. There are a variety of room types but I had the opportunity to stay in one of the King Deluxe rooms which have a gorgeous farmhouse luxury style. The rooms are spacious with large walk-in closets, massive jetted bathtubs, heated floors in the bathroom and outdoor patios with indoor/outdoor fireplaces.
Aside from exclusive Virtuoso amenities, there were a couple reasons why I LOVED this resort:
- No resort fee; free parking! (When you get here, you relax. No nickel and diming!)
- Lots of little personal touches (complimentary bath bar amenities available in the reception area or delivered to your room, glass of wine (or two!) at check-in, homemade chocolate chip cookies at bedtime, etc. etc.!)
- Extensive team of 5 concierges and wine partner program: The concierges will help you plan your full Sonoma itinerary, including complimentary tastings and enhanced experiences at 25 hand-selected winery partners. This is a tremendous value!!
- Complimentary 1 hour wine tasting hour daily
This hotel is perfect for:
- Couples looking for a romantic retreat
- Wine lovers looking for unique and boutique wineries to discover
- Foodies who love a good farm-to-table dining experience
- Adventure seekers that may want to incorporate some hiking, paddle-boarding and other activities into their wine country itinerary
Farmhouse Inn has a year-round 4th night free promo for Virtuoso clients, which is amazing! So please contact me to plan your stay!
After our stay at Farmhouse, we headed to Meadowood Resort & Spa over in Napa Valley. This “grand dame” of the valley is part of the Relais & Chateaux portfolio, just outside of St. Helena. The 85 rooms are nestled in various cottages across a 250 acre estate so it has a much larger and woodsy feel. On-site you’ll find several pools, tennis courts, a fitness center, a brand-new state of the art spa, a 9-hold golf course, croquet, hiking trails and several dining options, including a 3 Michelin star restaurant. While the room types vary widely, it’s hard to go wrong, as every room has a King bed, private terrace and fireplace. Many rooms also have the option to connect to a shared living space, creating little villas – perfect for groups or families. I had the opportunity to stay in a 3-bedroom Hillside Suite and the large family room and kitchen area was perfect for our group. Yet when we wanted to retreat to our rooms for privacy, we couldn’t hear the others at all and enjoyed our own private entrances.
There are a couple reasons as well why I really loved this hotel:
- The spa treatment rooms are all suites with their own bathroom, locker and changing areas ensuite – no communal locker rooms. 60-minute treatments are booked in 90 minute slots to allow plenty of time to enjoy your suite, and all treatments start with an aromatherapy steam shower.
- The on-site sommelier can host a variety of tastings, including a sensory evaluation which we did, and a lesson in champagne sabering! Highly recommend both of these.
- A lot of activities are offered on-site from tennis to golf, croquet to cooking lessons.
- No resort fee; no parking fees!
- Wine connoisseurs and collectors can visit the exclusive Promontory Winery
- Meadowood offers delectable picnic lunches for wine tasting days
This hotel is perfect for:
- Groups and multi-generational families looking for a communal space to gather, along with the amenities of a 5-star resort
- Families or couples looking for a wider variety of resort-style amenities offered onsite
- Foodies looking to dine at the bucket-list-worthy (and nearby) French Laundry or The Restaurant (onsite)
We also had the opportunity to visit a couple of different vineyards on our trip. They were all so unique and different!
- Flowers Vineyard – Flowers wine has been on the map for quite some time and they are well known for their Pinot Noirs, but their tasting space is brand new and should be in an Architectural Digest magazine. In the warmer months, they have incredible outdoor space as well. They offer food pairings with their wine tasting and their chef is an absolute star. Highly highly recommend!
- Lambert Bridge Winery – The beautiful barrel room or private cellar are the perfect cozy spot on a cooler day, but this winery also has a lovely picnic area out front for warm weather. Their wine cannot be purchased unless you become a club member (or someone in your group does) which makes this a unique opportunity to try some exclusive wines.
- Promontory Winery – Located in Napa Valley and owned by the Harlan family (who own Meadowood), the scenery when you enter this newly opened tasting room is jaw dropping. The tasting ($200 per person) is a full-on experience with a tour of the wine making facilities and the chance to try some incredible (and very expensive) Cabernet Sauvignons with an unbelievable view over Napa Valley.
- Gamble Family Vineyard – In stark opposition to Promontory, we visited this lovely family-owned winery with a tasting room located in a historic farmhouse among the vines on the valley floor. A totally different vibe but equally enjoyable and so, so charming.
I’d love to help you plan your next getaway to California wine country. Please contact me to get started!