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Sonoma and Napa Valley California Wine Trip
Sonoma & Napa Valley California Wine Trip - traveling information and pictures. The Sonoma Valley area includes the most notable towns of Kenwood, Glen Ellen, and Sonoma. Cornerstone Place in Sonoma is a collection of art galleries, specialty retail shops, wine tasting, and food. As soon as you get out of your car you can't wait to explore the shops and gardens. The Architectural Gardens is an outdoor area where landscape artists display their works throughout the gardens as well as throughout Cornerstone Place. The sculptures can be described as impressive, kooky, interactive, historical, perplexing, and down right avant garde.
Go to the visitors center and pick up brochures, pamphlets and magazines on the area. Someone working at the visitors center to tell you about happenings or special events going on in the Sonoma area.
The Jacuzzi Family Vineyards is a 18,000-square-foot winery that's modeled after the family home in Italy. There is plenty of space to relax, eat, drink, and enjoy the gardens. We tasted and bought the best Chardonnay imaginable. We are not into Chardonnay wines because the majority of them are oak barreled. But Jacuzzi has the most fabulous Chardonnay called Bianco Di Sei Sorelle.
Oak was not used in the fermenting process but it went through cold fermentation so the crisp fresh fruit flavors are preserved. As well as tasting wines and specialty items you can taste olive oils from The Olive Press which is Jacuzzi's olive oil label. They have an on-site olive pressing facility where you can watch the olive oil making process first hand.
At Viansa's Winery and Marketplace we bought the Peach Chardonnay Vinegar and it was totally to die for. I just wanted to drink it out of the bottle but instead I dipped my sourdough bread. The wine tasting area was crowded and so was the store but everybody was friendly and the shoppers were having fun. The store is filled with gourmet foods and gifts. Scattered around each table of product you can sample of many of their specialty items like the oils and vinegars, pestos, salsas and dessert sauces, and we did, hence the peach chardonnay vinegar. We really had a delightful time tasting wine, sampling, and just being there.
Walking from the parking lot to Imagery Estate Winery you can take a path through the grounds of their modest garden or stroll under shade trees. There is a gallery inside and they sell wine accessories and logo merchandise with printed images from the originals hanging in their gallery. The wine tasting area was bright with lots of windows and plenty of space for tasters. The Ledson Winery is a 16,000 square foot French Normandy style castle. There is no way you can miss this gothic structure while in Sonoma Valley. You can tour the rooms of the castle for a fee or do as we did and just take a picture as soon as you walk through the door and then walk around the castle and vineyards outside.
We tasted and bought delicious wines, cheese, olive oils, you name it and our van was full of it. Typically, we ate quite a bit of the same foods every day and loved every minute of it. When it comes to eating while traveling you really shouldn't keep the same restrictions that you try to keep for yourself at home. We only eat this way when we are traveling through wine country so it really becomes a special treat for us.
We go to local farmers markets and buy fresh fruit and vegetables and of course good sourdough bread. While wine tasting we buy wine, cheeses, as well as local olives and olive oils. When it comes time to eat we find a nice park or waterfront parking and picnic. This way each meal is relaxed and enjoyed. One of the most unique places we had a picnic lunch was in Fort Bragg California at Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens.
Napa Valley is quite different than the Sonoma Valley wineries even though they are only 25 miles apart. We went to about five wineries in the Napa Valley area which includes St. Helena, Rutherford, Yountville, and of course Napa. Napa Valley has plenty of wineries for the average wine tripper but there are quite a few estate wineries that really want to cater to the upper class. The type of people that are required to spend $50 and up just to get on the property of an estate and then pay again to taste. The time we were visiting happened to be a weekend in the month of August. The town was crazy with too many cars and too many people. The parking at the more popular wineries like Berringer Vineyards was almost impossible. In one popular area of St. Helena there were lots of pedestrians walking from winery to winery and crossing the street. We tasted at Berringer, Sutter Home, V. Sattui, and one more but I can't remember.
The best time we had tasting was at Sutter Home. Personally, when I go wine tasting I want to try wines that I can't get anywhere else. But at Sutter Home we tasted some delicious wines that are not easily found in the grocery stores. We really liked the Rerserve White Zinfandel and the Sauvignon Blanc. The tasting room at Sutter Home is not elaborate but the atmosphere was friendly and upbeat and the sommeliers were very helpful and patient. V. Sattui Winery caught our eye with its landscaping and shade trees and now we were on a mission to find a parking spot. We got very lucky and off we went to taste some wine. This is a very popular winery and market and very well worth the effort and time. Unfortunately we did not taste any wine due to the gazillion people tasting and waiting to taste. So we checked out the market and deli. We worked our way in to try some cheese and yes we added to our collection of cheese favorites. We only tried four cheese and they were the Piave Vecchio which is a hard parmesan-like cheese, the Rougette a double cream brie, a Swiss Reserve Gruyere and our favorite was the White Stilton with apricots. Here come the pounds.
Jason's thoughts - I prefer Sonoma to Napa because on these trips I am more interested in inexpensive tastings, fun atmosphere with little to no pretense, easy parking and smaller crowds. WIne tasting runs can be great fun for two couples for double dating or small groups.
Kelly's thoughts - I thought Sonoma was more laid back and welcoming overall. But I really did have a great time at Sutter Home and V. Sattui because the atmosphere was so welcoming and friendly even though there were crowds. I have realized that there are a lot of down to earth and friendly people that own and run wineries. Wine tasting can be an easy going casual affair even if you are in the most prestigious wine country in the world and I am glad that I have learned that first hand.
Travel Info - Sonoma is 45 minutes from San Francisco. Napa is only 25 miles further east of Sonoma. A couple of parking areas for the wineries had amble parking for a small Class C. But don't
drive your Class A or coach into any of the parking lots, they can be too narrow with no turn around space.
American Road Trips - reviews & pictures of places we visited on $20 a day - food, gas and lodging.