For the second year in a row, my wife, Vonda and I went with our friends to California Wine Country for a long weekend in late January. It’s a fantastic time to go (shhhh…don’t tell anyone!), because even though the vines are dormant, it’s still beautiful, the weather is mild-usually in the 60’s during the day, and, best of all…there’s nobody there! Tastings are easy to get, and you get lots of time and personal attention at the wineries. Hotel rates are about half of what they are in the fall, traffic is manageable, and restaurants are relatively easy to get in. It’s quickly becoming our favorite time of year to go.
This time out, we had 2 full days, a Friday and Saturday, so we decided to spend one day in Napa Valley and one in Sonoma County, but in a place we hadn’t been before-the Russian River Valley, north of Santa Rosa. Everyone in the Bay Area seems to go to up to Wine Country for the weekend, so Napa, with its one main road, can be very very crowded on Saturdays and Sundays, even in the off-season. So we decided to go on Friday-good call.
We have a great friend who has close connections with many of the wineries and also has great taste in wine. He often hooks us up with some amazing tastings, and Friday was our day to enjoy his suggestions. When we go to Wine Country, we try to schedule 2 main tastings, with time in between for lunch and for one drop-in to any place that looks interesting or is recommended to us. Here’s a tip-whenever you finish a tasting, ask the host where else you should go. They often do tastings at other wineries to get ideas, and because most of them are wine lovers, and they also have friends at other places. Then we plan an early dinner so that we can get back to the hotel by 8 or 8:30.
Our itinerary for Friday in Napa was:
The Spire Collection at 10:00 in the Calistoga area (north Napa Valley, north of St. Helena)
Time for a quick lunch at Gott’s Roadside in St. Helena
Fantesca at 2:00 just west of St. Helena, on Spring Mountain
Time for a drop-in, which we did at Orin Swift‘s tasting room in downtown St. Helena
This was an absolutely fantastic day, and I will share each stop along the way in the next few posts, over the next week
One last thing-the hotel! We stayed once again at the Kenwood Inn, which we absolutely love. It was wonderful again, and I highly recommend it, particularly in the off-season, when it is around $250/night, as opposed to $600 and up in season. See my review from last year.