Perhaps some of you are wondering what remains to do in San Francisco if you have now turned the city of the Golden Gate from top to bottom, how to fill a day that was suddenly free when we have already seen every corner of the city, from Alcatraz to Chinatown, from Fisherman's Wharf and Pier 39 to the shops of Union Square. We give you a hypothesis: what do you think of a nice tasting tour to discover the Californian wines from Napa Valley?
The answer may sound bizarre to you: we are Italian after all, why should we go and sip American wines, especially in California? Objection accepted, but only in part: of course, in Spain we have great wines, but don't you know that California is the most renowned wine producing area in all of America? No more than an hour's drive north of San Francisco stretches the lush, green and rich Wine Country, which includes the territories of Napa e Sonoma, two valleys that present themselves to visitors in a very different way, but which are united by a splendid minimum common denominator: wine!
Okay, Napa Valley wine may be superfine, but why should I read this if I'm a teetotaler or prefer ice cold beer from a XNUMXs American diner? Well, calm down! The visit of Napa and Sonoma it is not the exclusive prerogative of sommeliers, connoisseurs, wine lovers or simply curious, but for all those who want to explore a particularly welcoming valley, for those who love sweet landscapes, rich in hills covered with vineyards, castles, resorts and magnificent villas, museums and art collections open to the public, natural parks of historical interest, shopping towns and wellness centers where you can bathe in the volcanic mud of Calistoga. All this is there Napa Valley: what see so, but above all where to go to taste? Let's find out together.
- San Francisco Napa Valley: A classic day trip
- Napa Valley what to see: a tour in the Californian Tuscany
- The city of Napa: how to orient yourself?
- On the road on Highway 29: watch out for drunk driving!
- Napa Valley wineries: the most renowned
- The Napa Valley Art Galleries
- Sonoma: Napa Valley's rustic sister
- Sonoma: what to see in the city?
- Recommended wineries in Sonoma Valley
- Napa Valley and Sonoma Tour: Guided Tours and Tastings
- Not just wine ... three proposals for teetotalers!
- How to get around in the Wine Country?
San Francisco Napa Valley: A classic day trip
There are not many who decide to invest more than a day in the valleys of Napa and Sonoma: the one we are talking about is considered more than anything else a day trip with an accommodation base in San Francisco. In this regard, don't forget to take a look at our article with tips on where to sleep in San Francisco. In any case, if you are planning a stay a little longer in the area, continuing the reading you will find numerous ideas to enjoy all that these lands have to offer.
Napa Valley what to see: a tour in the Californian Tuscany
So let's leave for our virtual tour in the verdant lands of Napa and Sonoma, two twin towns but, as we shall see, with a very different spirit. Let's start by focusing on what to see in Napa Valley, the Californian paradise reminiscent of Tuscany: how to organize yourself in this ethyl Olympus where the god Bacchus holds a glass of good wine with one hand and with the other as well?
The city of Napa: how to orient yourself?
Let's start with the heart of the valley, which is the town of Napa. Arriving in the chaotic and fashionable Downtown, it is good to fill your belly a littleOxbow Public Market (610 and 664 1 St), so as not to start the tasting tour on an empty stomach. When you have tasted artisanal foods from local producers, turn back on 1 St and take Main Street, heading north. At number 1245 you will find Vintners’ Collective, a place that hosts a cooperative that brings together about twenty of the best companies in the area.
If you go south at the intersection with Main Street, you will reach number 600, where the Napa Valley Welcome Center, which will give you information on the activities of the companies, packages of dinners and tastings, tours and demonstrations. Who knows you won't find some good offers!
All accommodations available in and around Napa
On the road on Highway 29: watch out for drunk driving!
The title is ironic, but not so much: the Highway 29 it is one of the three roads that cut through the valley (the others are Silverado Trail and Carneros Hwy) and it is without a doubt the one where the most renowned companies and frequented by visitors are gathered. On the side of the road you will see an endless series of tasting rooms, shops, restaurants and endless expanses of vineyards framed by rolling hills dominated by the best farms in the United States.
Napa Valley wineries: the most renowned
Among these, there is the obligation to report that of Robert Mondavi (7801, Highway 29), considered the most important figure in the Wine Country's wine industry, the one who, with his dedication and thanks to some effective marketing strategies, has brought Napa Valley wines to excellence, until they get to wet the lips of the most important winemakers in the world.
On this road you will find the towns of Yountville, St Helena and Calistoga and you will be spoiled for choice among the endless tastings. However, just before Calistoga (the last from south to north, as well as the most informal), a stop at the Amorosa Castle, a spectacular location to say the least: it is in fact a fortress faithfully rebuilt according to the Tuscan style of the twelfth century: in addition to the cellars, the cloister and all the classics of the castle, there is also an organized and disturbing torture room . Here too, of course, you can taste excellent wines, including a famous Merlot: remember to book.
The Napa Valley Art Galleries
As you may have guessed, Napa Valley does not have a rustic feel: amidst gourmet restaurants, galleries and sparkling tasting rooms, you will have the impression of being more than anything else in a small capital of fashion and culture. We want to point out two art galleries that seem suitable for understanding the atmosphere in this valley.
- Hess Collection Vineyard, a cellar gallery on the summit of Mt Veeder (4411 Redwood Rd, Napa). Here it is possible to sip a cabernet in the sumptuous rooms of a splendid building, whose gardens and art galleries host works by important contemporary authors, one above all Bacon. Don't forget to book the museum tour.
- by Rosa Art+ Nature Preserve: if you are tired of wineries, tastings and tasting, reach this eclectic museum located in an enviable position (5200 Carneros Hwy 121), on a hill surrounded by vineyards where some metal sheep graze in front of a body of water, with a garden where peacocks roam among the most interesting sculptures and installations in California. The paintings and works in the gallery are nothing short of surreal and hallucinating!
Speaking of somewhat kitschy, vaguely Lasvegasian reconstructions… go to the cellars Darioush (4240 Silverado Trail, Napa): you will taste excellent wine in front of the imposing columns of a temple with Persian architecture.
Sonoma: Napa Valley's rustic sister
If you are a person who does not like the frills of the sophisticated tasting rooms of the Napa Valley resorts, you should definitely go to the Sonoma Valley, the more rustic and easy-going side of the Wine Country.
Sonoma: what to see in the city?
As small as it is, Sonoma boasts a small record: plaza Sonoma, the town square, is the largest in all of California and there is nothing better than finding a quiet corner where to have a picnic, watering the dishes with a bottle of wine purchased from one of the companies in the area or directly in a boutique in the square. Don't underestimate this aspect: unlike in Sonoma, in and around Napa it is rare for companies to allow visitors to have their picnic in their own spaces.
Recommended wineries in Sonoma Valley
As we have mentioned, the companies of Sonoma Valley are generally a little less formal and sophisticated than those of the neighboring valley: we point out the Jacuzzi Family Vineyard (24724 Arnold Dr, Sonoma), one of the most renowned wineries in Sonoma; the cozy Spanish-style company Viansa (25200 Arnold Dr, Sonoma) and the fairy tale Gundlach-Bundsch (2000 Denmark St, Sonoma), where a picnic is worth a stop.
Two minutes from the cellars of Jacuzzi, close to the renowned fronts Cline Cellars (24737 Arnold Drive), is one of Sonoma's best attractions: the colorful and imaginative gardens of Cornerstone, along which you can stroll and do some shopping.
All accommodations available in Sonoma
Napa Valley and Sonoma Tour: Guided Tours and Tastings
If you don't feel like venturing into the jungle of food and wine tours, offerings, guided winery tours and tastings in Napa and Sonoma, I recommend that you focus your attention on the organized packages available. There are something for all tastes and budgets, and above all there are useful and interesting solutions for those who do not want to take a rental car and want to visit Napa and Sonoma starting from San Francisco with an organized tour.
All tours with tasting in Napa and Sonoma
Not just wine ... three proposals for teetotalers!
If you want to discover the splendid valleys of the Wine Country but you are not interested in wine, you can set out to discover the Jack London Historic State Park (2400 London Rach Rd, Glen Ellen), a park dedicated to the memory of the great writer de The Call of the Wild: you will find the museum that the widow wanted to remember her husband. One can also venture along the paths around the lake, to the places London had chosen to build her home.
Speaking of writers: not far from Calistoga, in the heart of Napa Valley, is also the Robert Louis Stevenson State Park (Lake County Hwy, Calistoga). The park is dedicated to the writer de Treasure Island because he spent his honeymoon right here, on the slopes of Mount St Helena, on the top of which there is a beautiful panorama of the valley.
Mount St Helena is made up of volcanic rocks and in fact in nearby Calistoga it is possible to bathe in volcanic mud. An example? Indian springs, a historic Californian resort that offers healthy thermal baths in its XNUMXth-century-style spa.
How to get around in the Wine Country?
As you will have understood, the wineries and places of interest of the Wine Country are located in various points of the two valleys, and in some cases it is necessary to walk a little way up the hills. For this reason, if you have not opted for an organized tour, the ideal would be to take a rental car in San Francisco. Alternatively, there are other ways, some of which are very original:
- Napa Valley from San Francisco by boat: go to the Ferry Building in San Francisco and take a boat to Vallejo, where you can then take a shuttle dedicated to Napa Valley (Vine Route 10).
- Wine Train Napa: a decidedly fascinating experience to travel the valley on an old restored train departing from the center of Napa. Thanks to some special packages, it is also possible to eat and taste the wines of the area on board the train.
- Napa Valley its a cable car: Valley tour with tastings aboard a typical San Francisco cable car. Click here for more detailed information.