Now I need Napa/Sonoma recommendations

I started a thread last week about taking my Mom on a vacation. Happily, she’s fully realized that Amarillo just is not a great place to go.

I’m talking her into Northern California wine country. I’m open to Washington as well, but I’m thinking mid to late November might be rainy season there (correct?). Northern California looks like it might be slightly cool but still nice.

To recap for those of you who don’t want to wade through the other thread, my Mom is in her mid-seventies, recovering from cancer diagnosed almost a year ago, and is a little bit frail. She finds she’s energetic about half the day, so I’m mostly looking for a relaxing vacation. She looooves wine, so visiting wineries is definitely a fun thing.

I’d like to find a little town centrally located within an easy drive to some wineries. My plan is to find a small cottage or apartment to rent, something very pretty so if we find ourselves there for afternoons and evenings it doesn’t feel like we’re stuck in a generic hotel room. I’d like it to be in a town, so we are close to restaurants, coffee shops, and maybe some boutiques or easy shopping.

I figure we can drive to one or (at most) two wineries in the late morning/early afternoon, have lunch out, then if she’s tired, come back to the place and hang out. A hot tub would be a nice bonus, as would a nice porch or outdoor area. At night, depending on her energy level, we could go out to eat to someplace close (no driving 30+ minutes, that’s why I want to be in a town), or I could throw together an easy meal or grab some takeout.

From what I gather, there’s tons of small towns in Napa & Sonoma. Can anyone recommend one that might be a good candidate? Neither of us have ever been there before, so I’m open to anything.

Sonoma is normally much less expensive than Napa; but you might find some good deals in November. The first places that come to my mind that match your description are Calistoga and Healdsburg.

I can’t recommend a specific place to stay, but we’ve had great luck with Vacation Rentals by Owner for finding things like small cottages.

Healdsburg in Sonoma is wonderful.

Two of the main towns for Napa (well, besides Napa) are St. Helena and Yountville.

Your basic plan should be very straightforward to make happen - there are tons of wineries close by to any of those towns - as well as shopping, restaurants of all stripes. It really is Wine Disneyland™, with Sonoma being a bit less overtly touristy and sales-y…

It’s very spendy, but Yountville sounds the perfect destination. Small, flat, plenty of restaurants, wineries in the town etc. You probably won’t find a B&B under $100 a night though. There is a laundry there, too :smiley:

That’s exactly what I was planning on doing.

Yeah, Yountville… I was going to throw that one out as a destination, but I’m not sure I could stand to be SO DAMN CLOSE to the Laundry and almost certainly not get in.

While nothing is as legendary as the French Laundry there, there are countless other restaurants for you to experiment with…

To find particularly nice places in Sonoma or Napa Counties, it’s really simple:
(1) Hang map of counties on wall.
(2) Close your eyes.
(3) Throw dart blindly at wall.
(4) Wherever it hits, go there.

On the Sonoma side, try the “Valley of the Moon” circuit: State Route 12, city of Sonoma or Glen Ellen or others on that route. Or follow 12 all the way to Santa Rosa and a few miles beyond to Sebastopol.

In Napa County, the wineries are closer together. In Sonoma, they’re a bit further apart in general. Napa may save you some driving.

Calistoga, Yountville and St Helena are really good choices. Yountville is restaurant central, Calistoga is more, well, real somehow- not so touristy. St Helena is, in my mind, snooty and pretentious, but smack dab in the middle of the valley and close to everything.

If you’re coming in November, prices should be a bit lower than, say, now. You should be able to see some activity at the wineries, too. November is the end of the harvest season.

Thomas Keller has another restaurant in town - Ad Hoc.
We went there in July. It was excellent, and not nearly as pricy as TFL. Reservations are probably required.

Do you like Modern Art? Visit the di Rosa.

If you are in Sonoma Valley, and want something a little different, or someplace to spend an hour, check out The Olive Press. Until we stopped in there, I hadn’t ever reallized just how different olive oils can be from each other. I would have had dreamed of drinking an olive oil sample, straight.

Yountville, Rutherford and Calistoga. I go to Yountville for lunch at Bouchon about twice a year. It is one of the best restaurants in the US. Yet there are better restaurants in Yountville. The French Laundry was for many years considered the best US restaurant. Most locals now give that title to The Restaurant and Meadowood. Both are too pricey for me. Next I head up to Rutherford for some wine tasting at BV, known for its strong Cabernet Sauvignon. But go to your favorite winery. Then head to Calistoga for some hot springs stuff.

My cousin had her wedding at Cornerstone Garden, which was a pretty neat place to see. We all stayed at The Lodge, which was gorgeous. Sonoma is kind of a bitch to get to, so I’d recommend staying for a decent length to make it worth it.

Er, ahem. Sorry. It’s just that, well, Medlock Ames is my favorite. You should go to there.

For a tiny town with lots of character, plus a nice state park and a gajillion wineries you can’t beat Glen Ellen. Nice restaurants too. I was there on Labor Day.

Healdsburg is larger with more food and lodging choices and is beautiful too and is on 101. Glen Ellen for rustic charm, Healdsburg for upscale charm. Glen Ellen is probably more central if wineries are your goal, Healdsburg if you want to visit the coast too.

Also what kind of wines do you like? Certain areas are better depending on the varietal you favor. Once you know where you are staying post again and I bet we can all recommend specific wineries, from the big shiny ones on Hwy 12 to the smaller more obscure ones that you have to call ahead to book.

Don’t stay in Calistoga. I mean I loooove Calistoga but its a pain in the ass getting anywhere else from there. Windy roads, big hills etc. st Helena is snooty - that is the perfect word for it. Yountville is a no-fail, but still I’m biased towards Sonoma county in general so I vote for Glen Ellen. :slight_smile:

Luckily stay any of the places we mention and no matter what it’ll be the cutest, most picturesque place you’ve ever been. Can’t go wrong around here.

Hmm Glen Ellen is intriguing. I like that it’s centrally located, and the rates seem reasonable as well.

As far as varietals, I don’t really much care. My mother likes anything red, my favorites tend to be stuff that I know won’t be available in California (Washington Pinots, Alsatian whites), but I very much like Cabernets, Rhone blends, etc. I’d be astonished if we can’t find something we like.

One thing I will say - I’m more into the quality of the wine than spectacular vineyard tours. In other words, I’ll go taste at that little place that’s not much more of a tasting room with a great reputation than take the guided tour through gardens and gorgeous interiors just to get a taste of a ho-hum Cab at the end.

I didn’t think Calistoga was that far off the beaten path. Sure, 128 North can be tricky, but it’s not that bad just heading south to the rest of Napa.

I prefer the Sonoma Valley too; just didn’t think that Calistoga was that bad. As for dinner; jeez, there are a hundred decent restaurants in that part of the world.
I liked Tra Vigne—never been to the Laundry—but it’s really impossible to go wrong.

What varieties do you like, Athena? EDIT: Having bothered to read the post of yours above mine (Head-smack!), if you aren’t set in stone, how about staying in the Anderson Valley? Navarro and some of the others there (Husch, Greenwood Ridge) make some of the finest Rieslings, Gewurzs, etc in the U.S. And the place is just unbelievably pretty. Mendocino can be real expensive though for the B&B thing, and it is kinda in the middle of nowhere.