California - North Bay/Wine Country/Wine Trip
My wine loving wife will turn 50 next March. I was thinking of giving her a trip to wine country in CA. Since we live in New York, I don't know where to start. Need advice about best airport to fly into, when to visit, which wineries to visit, food & lodging and any other secrets you can share to make her time special. Is the winery train ride worth it?
March would be a great time to visit the Wine Country. It won't be as crowded as it will during the summer.
When most people think of the Wine Country, it's Napa Valley and Sonoma County. Both are great places to visit, but they are different.
Napa has many elegant large wineries (as well as some smaller ones as well). They are especially known for their Cabernet Sauvignon. Nearly all of them charge for tasting, though many will apply the fees toward any purchases you make. Fees and tours can be expensive. Lots of great wineries with world class wines. I've done the Wine Train a few times and it is fun. (To be honest, I don't think I would do it again though because of the cost.) Visit Boethe-Napa State Park for a hike through the redwoods. If you enjoy art, make reservations for a tour at di Rosa Preserve.
It's hard to recommend specific wineries because I don't know what kind of wine you like and what your interests are. In general I'd recommend Sterling in Calistoga. You ride a tram up to the top of the hill, take a self-guided tour, and then sit down to be served a variety of wines. Castello di Amorosa(also in Calistoga) is a replica of a castle. The tour/tasting is expensive, but very interesting.
Note: It's just a short drive from Calistoga to Sonoma County.
Sonoma is the name of a city and a county. There are wineries throughout the County, which is spread over a large area and even reaches the ocean. While there are some large wineries, you'll find more small wineries, much lower tasting fees, and great wines. The atmosphere is much more laid back. The Dry Creek Valley has gorgeous views and is located right outside the town of Healdsburg. Taste at Truett-Hurst and wander down to the creek to relax in a chair overlooking the creek. They have great wines. If you enjoy red wines, don't miss Wilson Family.
(Best Western Dry Creek Inn is a great value place to stay. Ask for a Tuscan room if the price isn't too much more.) I'd recommend visiting the Russian River area as well...so many great wineries. Stop and Burkes Canoe and enjoy a day on the river. It's a blast (bring picnic supplies).
You can free wine tasting coupons to print and use at many of the wineries at this website: