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INDULGENT ADVENTURES - Travel, adventure and windswept dreams.

A weekend in Sonoma and Napa Valley


Rolling Hills of Vines, Napa Valley, California, USA.

Rolling Hills of Vines, Napa Valley, California, USA.

It was soon obvious that you could spend far more than a weekend sampling the delights of Sonoma and Napa Valley wine regions. It was a plainly audacious plan to attempt to cover so much territory in two days. As a sampler of the region however, we didn’t waste the opportunity. Thinking about it now just makes me want to go back next weekend. Sadly the road is long from Sydney. I may have to quench my thirst for hills of rolling vines and halls of fine food in the much closer Hunter Valley for now. But its not the same….

Lavender and vines, Napa Valley, Califoria, USA.

Lavender and vines, Napa Valley, Califoria, USA.

The easiest way to access Sonoma and Napa Valley is via car from San Francisco. It is about a 90 minute drive, traffic depending, and navigation out of San Francisco is not too bad. I always plan to drive out of major cities early on a Sunday preferably but this time it was the Saturday and that proved fine. Another good alternative to consider is one of the many day tours on offer from San Francisco.

The long stately driveway at Ledsons, Sonoma, California, USA.

The long stately driveway at Ledsons, Sonoma, California, USA.

Need to Know –

  1. There are many places to stay at Sonoma or Napa and still visit the other wine region fairly easily. The weekends are the busiest. You could easily spend a week in the region and not run out of things to do, wineries to sample or restaurants to enjoy. Sonoma has a more country feel and is a little bit less development than Napa. Napa has more options for wine and fine dining.
  2. You pay for your wine tastings. As an Australian, I have been brought up on free wine tastings. After all, we have made the long journey to the Vintner’s door to sample precious goods with the intention to buy.  Sadly for the purse strings this is a concept not known in the States….most likely to keep the riff raft from the doors…Still when the cost is reasonable its hard to dispute, and since some of the smaller vineyards only produce limited quantities you can’t be giving it all away! Labour and love cost, and this needs to be recognised.
  3. You do need to plan your visits to the wineries either on the internet, with a concierge or both.  Visit individual winery web pages to get a feel for the wines and style they offer. Most have tours and tastings bookable online and this is a great way to gain insight into the wine producing process and have some great tastings! It always is a good idea to consult a concierge if you have access to one. They always have good local knowledge and may also have available some tasting discounts.
The Water Tower, Silver Oak, Napa, California, USA.

The Water Tower, Silver Oak, Napa, California, USA.

To Drink

In Sonoma

Little Vineyards Family Winery

Glen Ellen, Sonoma

Little Vineyards, Sonoma, California, USA.

Little Vineyards, Sonoma, California, USA.

Absolutely loved the Little Vineyards wine experience. Who wouldn’t enjoy good wine sitting outside on a 22 degree day overlooking the picturesque vineyards, with the tastings coming to your table. The very musical Little family specialise in Zinfandel, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon. Need to stretch the legs? How about a game of bocce? Loved it! Only wish they had food to go with the experience. Next time I will plan a picnic to bring! Oh and the reds were good drinking.

Little Vineyards

Little Vineyards, Sonoma, California, USA.

An outdoor wine tasting. Little Vineyards, Sonoma, California, USA.

Ledsons

Kenwood, Sonoma

Majestic Ledsons, Sonoma, California, USA.

Majestic Ledsons, Sonoma, California, USA.

A stately curved drive way leads you into the ‘castle’, a grand exterior after a gothic french normandy style. The interior does not disappoint. Nor does the service. This is a first class tasting experience. We were greeted at the door and led through to one of the many tasting rooms featuring handcrafted wood tasting bars. The staff guided us through the tastings and were very knowledgeable. Surprise we focussed on reds again! It was a great experience and the quality of the wines was clear. Must try – the Russian River Valley Pinot Noir! If you find yourself in need of picnic supplies to enjoy the surroundings picnic areas, Ledson’s offers a gourmet market to help you sample some regional food with that lovely Pinot Noir you purchased.

Ledson

The vines at Ledsons, Sonoma, California, USA.

The vines at Ledsons, Sonoma, California, USA.

An Aussie Winemaker in Sonoma …

Loxton

Glen Ellen, Sonoma

Chris Loxton in the Tasting Cellar, Loxton, Sonoma, California, USA.

Chris Loxton in the Tasting Cellar, Loxton, Sonoma, California, USA.

We happily arrived at Loxton and met Chris Loxton, the Aussie who is producing some great Californian Syrah and Zinfandel wines from local selected estate grown vineyards. Chris is a fourth generation winemaker hailing from the Riverland in South Australia and has been crafting quality californian reds since 1996. Chris loves producing wine that pairs beautifully with food. If you are lucky enough to meet up with Chris you will enjoy a great tasting together with some of his wonderful stories. For The Walkabout Tour book via Loxton’s website. We only wish we could order these wines into Australia. Loxton’s Hidden Gem – the Loxton Rose.

Loxton

In the Napa

For lovers of Cabernet Sauvignon….

Silver Oak

Oakville, Napa Valley

Silver Oak Tasting Room, Napa, California, USA.

Silver Oak Tasting Room, Napa, California, USA.

Silver Oak specialise in only one type of wine and they do that very well. The grape variety the Napa has built its reputation on,  Cabernet Sauvignon.  The wine we enjoyed was excellent and the tasting room extravagant. It makes you feel like spending money! It was a great experience. Mary gave us a personal tour of the winery while Chris ensured we sampled the most luscious Cabernet Sauvignons. The 2005 and 2006 vintages were excellent. We took a bottle of the 2007 home to Australia for a special occasion.

Silver Oak

Our guide, Silver Oak Tasting Room, Napa, California, USA.

Our guide Mary, Silver Oak Tasting Room, Napa, California, USA.

To Eat

A dining experience not to be missed….

Auberge du Soleil, Calistoga

Rutherford, Napa

Dining on the Terrace, Auberge du Soleil, Napa, California, USA.

Dining on the Terrace, Auberge du Soleil, Napa, California, USA.

With superb panoramic views out and across the Napa Valley this Michelin Star restaurant in the place to long lunch or watch the sunset at dinner and really enjoy the offerings of the region. The menu is built around sourced local produce and house made ingredients with a massive wine list sure to please the most discerning sommelier in the family. There is a relaxed feel to both indoor and outdoor dining areas with first class service. Our wait person Eric was an excellent guide through the menu and looked after us like royalty. We enjoyed the Sunday Brunch Menu which started with a pre dinner cocktail and included 3 courses for US$65pp. Every course was delightful but my favourite was the delicious cream of asparagus soup starter. If you can,  book a night at two or three at the Auberge and really indulge.

Auberge du Soleil

Cream of Asparagas Soup, Auberge du Soleil, Napa, California, USA.

Cream of Asparagas Soup, Auberge du Soleil, Napa, California, USA.

Stay

Our digs in Sonoma…

The Lodge at Sonoma, Renaissance Resort and Spa

The Lodge at Sonoma

We were very, very happy with our stay at The Lodge. We had a lovely cottage room with king bed and lounge room with gas fire. The decor was soft and inviting and the bathroom luxurious, large and modern. The facilities were excellent and the pool looked very inviting. We just didn’t have the time to really enjoy all The Lodge had to offer. The concierge Tammy was excellent in giving us guidance on our itinerary and advising on the wineries we should visit. Thankyou Tammy! The casual cafe bar was a godsend for getting excellent cappacinos while Carneros Bistro delivered on a quality relaxed evening dining at a reasonable price.

IMG_3108

Terrace Dining, Auberge du Soleil, Napa, California, USA.

 


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