I’ve slowly grown to like (read: become obsessed with) wine. The progression from Franzia Crisp White at frat parties to Two Buck Chuck Cabernet in grad school really shows the strides my palate has made. But in all seriousness, I have been drinking more wine over the years and am starting to figure out what I like and what I don’t. While my boyfriend and I are no experts, we enjoy wine enough that we decided to dedicate a few days to wine tasting in Napa and Sonoma.
Wine Tasting Itinerary
Planning the trip took a bit of research. I wanted to make sure we got a good feel for both Sonoma and Napa. Here’s a map of our itinerary with our wine tasting locations, restaurants, and accommodations. We stayed two nights in Sonoma County—the first was in the city of Sonoma (walking distance from downtown) and the second was in Healdsburg near the Russian River Valley. While we didn’t stay overnight in Napa County, we planned plenty of stops along the way to make sure we didn’t miss out on anything.
Kunde Family Winery
On the first day, we spent 5 hours driving back from Yosemite National Park. After a stop at In-N-Out Burger, we arrived in Kenwood, a town in Sonoma County, for our Mountain Top Tasting at Kunde Family Winery.
This wine tasting set the bar high. Kunde Family Winery sits on 1,850 acres and has produced estate wines—wines made solely from grapes owned by the winery and produced entirely on the property—for over 100 years. We started off in one of the tasting rooms and then made our way to a van to drive to the outdoor tasting at 1,400 feet above the Sonoma Valley floor.
Along the way, we stopped at a gorgeous event space used for weddings (Seth Rogen got married here!). We also stopped to see some of the original vines dating back to 1882. The view of the estate from the top of the mountain was amazing and unlike anything you’ll see during the other tastings or tours.
We purchased the 2013 Red Dirt Red, a red blend created each year with grapes that aren’t commonly blended together for a unique showcase for what is grown on the estate.
This was my favorite stop in both Napa and Sonoma. If you start at Kunde, you’ll find yourself comparing every other tasting to this one for both the views and the quality of the wines. I also learned a good deal about the wine-making process and a few interesting facts like why some Chardonnays taste “buttery”.
You can make a reservation for the Mountain Top Tasting at Kunde Family Winery online.
Girl and the Fig and Downtown Sonoma
For dinner, we ate the Girl and the Fig in Sonoma. This restaurant popped up on many best restaurant lists and did not disappoint. We started with their meat and cheese plate “The Works” which included three cheeses, cured meats, seasonal fruit, fig cake, spiced nuts, and baguette. I had the steak frites and my boyfriend had the duck confit. Both were excellent. If you plan on eating here, definitely make a reservation well in advance!
That night we stayed at the Cinnamon Bear Creekside Inn near downtown Sonoma. It was walking distance from Sonoma Plaza and the Girl and the Fig. We had a private “cabin” out back detached from the main house which we actually booked on Airbnb. The room was well-decorated, clean, and a great price for the location. The included breakfast (orange juice, coffee, fresh fruit, Eggs Benedict casserole, and an apple pastry) made our stay even better.
After breakfast at the Cinnamon Bear Inn, we headed over to Scribe Winery for our first tasting of the day. 10:30 was a little aggressive for wine tasting but we had a lot of ground to cover!
Scribe Winery, founded in 2007, is a relatively new winery that has only been releasing wines for about 5 years. The staff, also young and hip (…hipsters actually), fit in with Scribe’s rustic decor straight from an Anthropologie Home catalog. The vibe here was completely different than Kunde. The tasting took place at picnic tables overlooking the vines with a snack plate of cheese, freshly picked tomatoes, and almonds from the owners’ farm.
They recently finished renovating the 200-year-old hacienda that sits on the property to host events such as lunches. We enjoyed the beautiful weather and view at Scribe. We picked up a bottle of 2013 Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon which they recommended we let age for another year. Scribe is a good place to check out with a group of friends. Call ahead (707-939-1858) to reserve a tasting.
For lunch, we stopped at Oakville Grocery off the St. Helena Highway in Napa. The store is pricey—they were selling repackaged Sour Patch Kids for 8 dollars—but the sandwiches are delicious and worth the stop. I tried the chicken and gruyere sandwich.
Our next tasting was at Schramsberg. In 1965, Jack and Jamie Davies rehabilitated the old winery and began making sparkling wines in the champagne method. In this lengthy process, the wine undergoes a second fermentation in the bottle. While sparkling wine cannot be called Champagne outside of the Champagne region in France, the methods used by Schramsberg are the same.
Our tasting included a tour of the 125-year-old caves where the bottles are stored during this process. This was the most informative tasting. Even if you aren’t a big fan of champagne, you’ll leave with an appreciation of sparkling wines and possibly a really expensive bottle. We bought a bottle of 2007 J. Schram and will certainly be saving it for a special occasion.
You can make a reservation for the Cave Tour and Tasting at Schrasmberg online.
Our last wine tasting of the day was at Chateau Montelena. This is one of Napa Valley’s most famous wineries since Chateau Montelena’s Chardonnay beat nine other wines from France and California in a blind tasting back in 1976. We did a tasting at the bar in the tasting room.
While the tasting was nothing special, we enjoyed the wines and purchased a bottle of the 2013 Calistoga Zinfandel. The grounds at Chateau Montelena were beautiful. We walked around a bit, but I’d loved to have learned more about the history of the property.
You can visit the tasting room at Chateau Montelena without a reservation.
With our last wine tasting complete, we headed to our Airbnb in Healdsburg which is back in Sonoma County. I highly recommend staying at Heaven in the Oaks. It’s a 10 minute Uber ride from downtown in a peaceful, secluded neighborhood. The steep, winding roads leading to the house were so different than what I’m used to, mainly because they’d be lethal if it snowed in Healdsburg like it does in Boston! Our hosts greeted us with a glass of wine (yes, more wine!) and snacks. The room has a private entrance and patio and everything you could possibly need (even a towel warmer!). The included breakfast was phenomenal. We had breakfast burritos and cranberry scones.
After settling in, we took an Uber into Healdsburg. I recommend stopping in Healdsburg for sure. There are so many cute shops and restaurants! We grabbed a beer at Bear Republic to take a break from all the wine. Then we had a delicious dinner at Barndiva. We started with the goat cheese croquettes with honey. My roast chicken entree was juicy and flavorful. It was paired with an egg yolk ravioli…the egg runs out when you cut into it. So good!
On to San Francisco
With two days of excessive eating and drinking under our belts, I think we successfully negated any health benefit from all the hiking we did in Yosemite. Visiting Napa and Sonoma was a great change of pace for our vacation. There’s nothing like enjoying a nice glass of wine in the fresh air and sunshine. I was sad to leave but it was time to head south for the last part of our trip: San Francisco!
Have any questions about Napa and Sonoma or recommendations from your own trip? Comment below!
Check out the rest of our California vacation: