Tag Archives: Sonoma

Napa and Sonoma: Part Two

Sunday was the last day of our belated two-year anniversary vacation in San Francisco (you can read about the rest of our trip here, here, here, and here). Originally, we had planned on Sunday being our laid back day to explore whatever we wanted to spend some more time on or just hadn’t gotten to yet, like Golden Gate Park and other parts of the city. However, while having dinner Friday night, we decided to use Sunday as a day to go out to Napa and Sonoma one more time. Like I said before, we had a great time out there on Friday with our tour, but were left wanting more and also a little bummed that we hadn’t been able to go to some of the wineries we had read about online and had requested during our tour reservation process.

You’d think it be an easy decision to go out to the wine country again, but we actually did do a bit of back and forth on this decision over dinner Friday and even again part of Saturday morning. Would we be upset we weren’t able to see other parts of the city? Would the day cost too much? In the end we realized: 1. We didn’t want to leave this vacation wishing we had done something different or spent more time somewhere and we already felt that way about Napa and Sonoma, 2. We had been paying for this trip with our travel budget and would be able to cover the costs of a 24-hour small car rental (last summer, we decided to set aside a little bit each paycheck into our travel budget; it’s been such a great decision, we definitely wouldn’t have been able to take this trip otherwise), 3. We would need to take a cab anyways to the airport on Monday so riding out on Sunday to get the rental car would be a sunk cost (and then we would be able to drive ourselves to the airport instead). So with all of this under consideration, we decided to go ahead and plan on spending Sunday in the wine country.

Saturday afternoon then turned into a planning session; we quickly reserved a car online through Enterprise and then looked up different wineries that we had originally wanted to go to and tried to make tasting reservations wherever we could. It took a bit of juggling between different websites to see who would be open for us at this short of notice, but thankfully a lot of the wineries are pretty casual and will take walk-ins for tastings (at least the ones within our budget do this).

We took a cab out to the airport around 8:30 Sunday morning and picked up our rental without a problem (they even gave us a free upgrade since we were one of the first customers of the day). With that, we got on the road! It was fun driving around the city together and making our way towards the Golden Gate Bridge, which we had a much better view of compared to the foggy drive on Friday morning.  Once we got into Sausalito, we stopped at a Starbucks to get some breakfast before getting into Napa. I have to say that the drive through the wine country has some of the most scenic views you can get on the road.

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

Driving into Napa

Driving into Napa

Vineyards on all sides

Vineyards on all sides

Our first stop of the day was Frog’s Leap, which was the one winery we had really wanted to go to during this trip. It definitely did not disappoint. We split their garden tasting since their other tours were already booked. This turned out to be the best thing for us. While it is nice to have someone walk you through the different wines you’re trying and the vineyard’s wine making process, we just really enjoyed getting to walk around their grounds and take our time. Their property was so calm and adorable that we could have stayed there all day.

We pulled over to take some pictures before getting to Frog's Leap. Not sure what vineyard these grapes are from!

We pulled over to take some pictures before getting to Frog’s Leap. Not sure what vineyard these grapes are from!

Hooray for grapes

Hooray for grapes

I could totally live on a vineyard

I could totally live on a vineyard

Exploring Napa with Chip

Exploring Napa with Chip

The view from Frog's Leap

The view from Frog’s Leap

Ribbit

Ribbit

Couldn't have asked for a more beautiful day

Couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful day

Frog's Leap

Frog’s Leap

Walking around Frog's Leap

Walking around Frog’s Leap

Visiting some chickens on the Frog's Leap property

Visiting some chickens on the Frog’s Leap property

That's one angry eye

That’s one angry eye

Beautiful fall colors

Beautiful fall colors

I love fall and wine

I love fall and wine

We loved the backdrop of the different colored leaves, but no one was around to take our picture. Soooo we strapped my camera to a tree branch and used the timer to take a picture. I'm so bummed this one came out blurry, I think it would have been great!

We loved the backdrop of the different colored leaves, but no one was around to take our picture. Soooo we strapped my camera to a tree branch and used the timer to take a picture. I’m so bummed this one came out blurry, I think it would have been great!

At least this one worked!

At least this one worked!

Frog's Leap

Frog’s Leap

Frog's Leap

Frog’s Leap

Frog's Leap

Frog’s Leap

Frog's Leap

Frog’s Leap

Can I live here?

Can I live here?

A great tasting at Frog's Leap

A great tasting at Frog’s Leap

After Frog’s Leap, we went down the road to Caymus Vineyards. We weren’t too impressed with the staff (they were a little cold when we asked about their tasting options), so while they were talking to a big group that was also in the room, we slipped out and decided to move on.

While at Frog’s Leap, one of the staff had recommended Miner Family Winery, so we went there next since it was also pretty close to where we were. This was another nice, casual tasting which allowed us to sit out on their patio and take in the view of the wine country. There was also a family there with a couple of dogs, so we got to pet them while enjoying our wine and talking about how much Wrigley would have loved Napa. That’s right, we’re those dog people.

The view from Miner Family Winery

The view from Miner Family Winery

Miner Family Winery

Miner Family Winery

After Miner, we went to Gundlach Bundschu out in Sonoma. We had made reservations online for their tasting tour at 2:00 and got there with a few minutes to walk around and take a few pictures out on their property. This was our only tour of the whole trip and we’re really glad we were able to do it, especially at this vineyard. They’re they oldest family-owned winery in California and they had plenty of history to share, like how they illegally brought in Tempranillo grapes back in the day (that was a fun story to hear!).

Gundlach Bundschu

Gundlach Bundschu

Gundlach Bundschu

Gundlach Bundschu

One last picture in front of the Gundlach Bundschu vineyard

One last picture in front of the Gundlach Bundschu vineyard

They have quite the name

They have quite the name

On our tour

On our tour

Gundlach Bundschu

Gundlach Bundschu

We were hoping to go to one more winery after Miner, but by this point in the day most of them were closing. So instead we grabbed a very late lunch before driving back into San Francisco. We then spent the evening having dinner at Coqueta on Fisherman’s Wharf. The tapas were delicious and we enjoyed sharing their seafood paella. Probably my favorite part of our time at Coqueta? Being just tables away from Carlos Santana. That’s right. He was totes at the same restaurant! And yes, I shamefully stared at him occasionally.

Driving back into San Francisco

Driving back into San Francisco

One last view of the Golden Gate Bridge

One last view of the Golden Gate Bridge

Coqueta

Coqueta

Seafood paella

Seafood paella

My wonderful husband and Carlos Santana just behind him

My wonderful husband and Carlos Santana just behind him

Cheers!

Cheers!

We are so thankful for the trip we were able to take to San Francisco!

Napa and Sonoma: Part One

When Chip and I first talked about planning a trip to San Francisco, we knew we couldn’t be in northern California without going to Napa or Sonoma. While researching day trips to the wine country (staying the night just looked way too expensive with this short of notice), we thought the most cost effective route would be to go with a tour company that could pick us up in San Francisco and take us to a few different wineries throughout the day, and then bring us back to the city in the evening.

Of course, I turned to Trip Advisor for this part of our trip. After reading about half a dozen different companies, we decided to go with Green Hills Wine Tours. We liked that this company took small groups on their tours and that you could include notes in the online reservation service about what kinds of wines we like most so the company can then pick wineries accordingly.

Having visited some wineries here in Texas, we knew we had to get the day started with a hearty breakfast. We wanted to go back to Mama’s and left our hotel around 8:00 (we took the bus this time). We thought Mama’s wouldn’t be as crowded that early in the morning, but we were wrong… the line was even longer when we showed up around 8:20 on Friday morning compared to the line the previous day. We were worried that we wouldn’t get inside, seated, and finish breakfast before our pick up time of 9:30, so we walked down a few blocks to Caffe Roma where we ended up having a great meal. We finished in plenty of time to walk back down to Mama’s where our guide and company owner Aloys was able to pick us up. We then went to pick up two other people that would be joining us for the day before making our way out of the city.

One thing I liked about Green Hills is that they stop for a scenic view after driving out of the city and over the Golden Gate Bridge. This allowed us to get a few pictures with that famous landmark as our backdrop. The bridge was so much bigger than we had expected in both length and height!

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge

Little bit of fog over the San Francisco skyline

Little bit of fog over the San Francisco skyline

San Francisco Bay

San Francisco Bay

Our selfie attempt.... can't really see the bridge

Our selfie attempt…. can’t really see the bridge

That's better

That’s better

Fun fact: did you know the Golden Gate Bridge can withstand winds of more than 100mph and can sway up to 27 feet? Yikes.

After checking out the Golden Gate Bridge for about 15 minutes, we were pretty cold so we got back in the car and drove up into the wine country. Our guide asked us all some more questions during the drive about our wine preferences and then suggested a few wineries we could go to. I was a little surprised how flexible our day was proving to be, I had assumed that with the popularity of Napa and Sonoma that we would have had to make reservations for the entire day. But it turns out that when he brings smaller groups, Aloys can get into certain places where he has good relationships, so that was a nice perk during the day.

Our first stop was Jacuzzi Family Vineyards in Sonoma. It was a great place to start and we also really liked that they do free tastings. Jacuzzi is nice and small and known for their white wines, although we really liked their Pinot Noir.

Ready for our first winery of the day

Ready for our first winery of the day

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards

Jacuzzi also had an olive oil bar complete with homemade dog treats. We got one for Wrigs and he's already devoured it.

Jacuzzi also had an olive oil bar complete with homemade dog treats. We got one for Wrigs and he’s already devoured it.

After Jacuzzi, we drove to Napa where we would spend the rest of the day. Our next stop was Stag’s Leap. They had really good red wine, but it was all way out of our price range. Chip and I split our tasting and then walked around the grounds for a bit since we wouldn’t be making any purchases there.

Stag's Leap

Stag’s Leap

Wine tasting at Stag's Leap

Wine tasting at Stag’s Leap

Not exactly in our price range...

Not exactly in our price range…

He sure looks classy

He sure looks classy

Stag's Leap

Stag’s Leap

Stag's Leap

Stag’s Leap

Our third winery was our favorite of the day: Jessup Cellars. They are a boutique winery and we had a great experience there. It’s one of our guide’s favorite wineries and he has a great relationship with their staff, so we were able to have a guided tasting with one of the staff members. They also had a yummy snacks plate for us to munch on while trying out the different wines (who doesn’t love some wine and cheese?).

A delightful snack tray

A delightful snack tray

We liked their wine so much that I quickly signed us up for their wine club while Chip was in the restroom. When he came back and asked me why I looked so excited, I replied with the following face:

Cute, right? I’m sure he’ll thank me when we get our discounted case of wine in December ;)

By the time we left Jessup, we were more than ready for lunch. We all went to Don Giovanni for some great pizza and pasta, which was the perfect meal to balance out the wine from the first part of the day.

After lunch, we went to our last vineyard of the day, Trinitas Cellars, which is part of a resort in Napa. This one was our least favorite winery we went to. It was really small and after the great wine at Jessup, we just didn’t like their selection as much. It also just felt weird to be touring a small part of a resort compared to the beautiful grounds we had seen throughout the day. On the plus side, we found a really cute coffee table book there about winery dogs.

Trinitas Cellars

Trinitas Cellars

A great coffee table book, don't you think?

A great coffee table book, don’t you think?

After Trinitas, we drove back into San Francisco and our guide was able to drop us off at Panta Rei where we had made some reservations for dinner. Their food was good, although I felt we had a better meal at Cotogna. While we were having dinner and talking about how great the day had been, part of us felt that we hadn’t fully experienced Napa and Sonoma. We knew that by going with a tour company we wouldn’t have 100% freedom in choosing which vineyards to go to and how much time we would get at each place, but we thought that the structure would be worth it compared to the costs of renting a car and trying to get around by ourselves. But the more we talked about it over dinner, the more we began to consider going back out for a second time on Sunday just the two of us. There were some wineries we had read about online that we were really interested in going to and we were bummed we hadn’t been able to check them out. In the end, we decided to go ahead and rent a car for the day on Sunday; after all, we didn’t want to leave California wishing we had experienced more of the wine country.

More posts to come on our day in the city on Saturday and our trip back out to Napa on Sunday!