Napa Valley + San Francisco: Where to stay?

So we’re headed off next week on a whirlwind tour of the West Coast. We’re flying to Portland and staying with a friend out there for a couple of days, then renting a car and driving down to San Francisco, stopping for a couple of days in the Napa Valley area.

Any suggestions for the wine country? We know pretty much nothing about the area. We’ll be looking for cool wineries (preferably off the beaten path) and good food. We also need a place to stay that isn’t painfully expensive. (Doesn’t have to be the cheapest, either.)

We have a pretty good idea of the stuff we’d like to do in SF, but we don’t have a place to stay for the two nights we’ll be there. Any suggestions?

(Any ideas for the trip between Portland and Napa would also be appreciated. We’re probably taking a couple of days to do it so we can poke around, but we’re keeping it loose.)


The good food capital of North America is Yountville, just north of the city of Napa. You won’t be sorry. Just broke.

You may have a very difficult time trying to find a place to stay in Napa on such short notice. If you like spas and mud baths and such, Calistoga, at the very north end of the valley is noted for such things, and has a cute downtown. There’s a plethora of good eats all over the valley. Do make reservations at the popular spots.

I stayed at La Residence last year. It was realy good, but also really spendy.

Be careful picking a place in Calistoga that has “in-room sulphur spas”… we ended up with a natural sulphur jacuzzi which smelled like sulphur, which happens to smell not unlike rotten egg farts…

My husband and I recently moved to northern California and have been taking full advantage of everything this area offers. Here are some of our favorite spots.

When we visit SF we enjoy staying at the Hotel Triton. It’s reasonably priced and right across from the Chinatown Gates. The rooms are small but clean, the staff is polite and helpful, and you can’t ask for a more central location.

If you’re a fan of beer, I would also suggest spending a few hours at Toronado, which is one of the best beer bars ever. Its beer selection is only improved by its proximity to Rosamunde Sausage Grill. You can buy some amazing sausages there and bring them next door to enjoy with your beer. Happy times.

As far as wine goes, Sonoma is right next door to Napa and also offers a tremendous range of very good wineries. It’s less crowded than Napa, however, and less commercialized. Few of the wineries charge for tasting, and oftentimes those that do will give you souvenier wine glasses or a discount on your purchases. Last time we were there we visited Clos du Bois and enjoyed a fun and educational tour and tasting.

If you have any questions or anything feel free to pm me. I’m still learning about the area but I’d be more than happy to share what I know.

Napa winery picks -

Castello di Amorosa - The wines are mediocre at best, but the castle is amazing.

Clos Pegase - The wines are nice, the staff is friendly, and the art around the estate is neat.
Frank Family Vineyards- These wines are excellent. The Zinfandel Port is amazing. The old stone winery is gorgeous.

Domaine Chandon- Reasonably priced and easy drinking sparkling wines, and the grounds and estate are very pretty.

Foodwise, your options are almost endless.

Definitely check out the CIA, Oxbow Market, Mustards Grill, Taylor’s Automatic Refresher, Oakville Grocery, Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen, and Go Fish.

I second staying in Calistoga, it’s just such a nice little downtown. Dr. Wilkinson’s is a nice resort with motel-like rooms that are perfectly comfortable and clean, I spent my bachelorette party weekend there. Calistoga Inn is a little more plush, and the food and beer there is good as well.

If you like beer, then you are absolutely required to stop in Russian River Brewing here in Santa Rosa. Good pizza, outstanding beer.

If you aren’t set on Napa, there are tons of wineries in Sonoma County I can recommend. Some of my faves - Hartford Court, Merry Edwards, Dry Creek Vineyard, Lambert Bridge, BR Cohn (really good oils and vinegars too), Armida, and, well, I could go on and on here.

Good eats in Sonoma County - Hopmonk Tavern, Barley & Hops, River’s End, Dry Creek Kitchen, Flavor, Jack & Tony’s, and it’s a Bay Area chain - Mary’s Pizza Shack for pretty decent Italian food. Awesome meatballs.

Other things to do - The Charles M. Schulz museum is fun and interesting and the only museum I’ve ever become a member of. :wink:

Armstrong Woods - Redwoods in Guerneville.
Next Wednesday is the first night of Wednesday Night Market in downtown Santa Rosa. Lots of food vendors and fruits and veggies.

Point Reyes - A nice drive out to the lighthouse, the town Point Reyes Station has lots of foodie adventures, including Cowgirl Creamery (they are also in the Ferry Building in SF, which should definitely be on your city to do list.) And one of the nicest B&Bs I’ve ever stayed in - One Mesa - Beautiful, comfortable, wonderful hosts, delicious breakfast.

Where to stay in SF - I also llike Hotel Triton, you really can’t go wrong with any of the Kimpton properties, the Personality Hotels properties, or the Joie de Vivre properties. The JdV properties are usually the cheapest of the bunch, and most are just as nice.

We’re not wedded to the idea of Napa–we could do Sonoma just as easily, especially if we knew of a cool place to stay there.

Thanks for the SF hotel recs! I’ll be checking them out tonight.

We travel to SF about twice a year and always stay in a Joie de Vivre hotel. We’ve stayed a couple of times at the Hotel Carlton on Sutter and greatly enjoyed. I’m not one for being right on Union Square and loathe the Wharf area. I’ve been in the lobby of the Hotel Triton and it’s very nice, but as psycat90 stated Kimpton hotels can be more expensive than JdV’s.

As for Napa, I agree w/all that has been said here. However I do enjoy Sonoma and the Russian River Valley better (after several trips to Napa) b/c they are less crowded and I’m a Pinot Noir fan. If you are going to Napa on the weekend, get ready for hoards of people. During the week it isn’t nearly as bad.

OK cool.

Well, I guess it depends on what you are looking for - quiet and secluded, or looking for more nightlife, shopping, more people, etc.

For quiet and secluded my recs are to stay in Occidental, Jenner, or Point Reyes.

My husband and I just stayed in the Occidental Inn a couple of months ago and really loved it. The town is super tiny though, and kind of hidden out in the woods, a good ten minutes from any other major towns. I love it though. Negri’s and Union Hotel are two of my favorite restaurants around. And the already mentioned Barley & Hops. Awesome place. If you’re feeling indulgent, both my husband and I agree, the massages at Osmosis Day Spa are the best we’ve ever had. The enzyme bath is a neat experience, but it gets hot, and the stuff sticks everywhere and is kind of a pain to wash off.

In Jenner, I highly recommend the Fort Ross Lodge. Really nice place. Again, it’s a windy coastal drive to any nearby towns of size.

Fore more downtown activity - nightlife, shopping, etc. - Stay in Healdsburg, Sonoma, or here in Santa Rosa.

In Healdsburg, the place to stay is the Healdsburg Inn, right on the plaza. It’s gorgeous, but pretty pricey.

In Sonoma, I’ve got plans to stay at both the Ledson Hotel and the Sonoma Hotel, both on the plaza. My husband took me to El Dorado Kitchen for brunch last Mother’s Day and it was amazing, and a girlfriend of mine works for Ledson and raves about the hotel.

Here in Santa Rosa - Hotel La Rose is a nice, historic hotel in Railroad Square, and there’s a newer hotel a block away that looks quite nice - Vineyard Creek Inn. We’ve eaten at the restaurants in both of these places and both are great.

For a little bit of both, you could stay in Guerneville. It’s secluded and quaint, but with a pretty active nightlife downtown. It’s the Bay area’s “gay playground” and is very fun and unique. The Applewood Inn is just far enough away from downtown to feel quite secluded, but still within walking distance. And the Russian River Resort is downtown, with a great bar and a lively crowd.

If you have any questions or are looking for anything specific, ask away!

Second this, it does get nuts on weekends, but May is still not peak season, so it might not be so bad. If you stay in Calistoga or thereabouts, the tourist hordes tend to work their way from the town of Napa northward all day, and you’re already at the very north end, so you won’t see the flocks of wine-fans for a while. Head south and hit some wineries before the mob gets there. It will start pretty empty, then get busier as the day progresses. When you’ve had enough, head back to Calistoga area for a massage and mineral bath.

We’re booked for the last two nights of our trip at the Triton! Thanks for the recommendation!

Thanks for the Napa/Sonoma suggestions, too. It’s going to be hard to book in advance, because we’re not sure exactly what day we’re going to get there. (We’re sort of poking along the coast from Portland, and we don’t know how long we’ll take to do it.)