If there is one thing that our friends and we love a lot of, it’s WINE, so of course the ultimate girls trip would be to spend a few days in Napa Valley, California – one of the most popular destinations in the world to enjoy renowned wine tastings and food. We had so much fun exploring California’s top wine region we hope that you enjoy reading our story all about it.
A girls trip to Napa Valley had been on our list of places to go for quite some time, and this year we decided to follow through with plans to finally just book the flights and go! Luckily our Spring time visit was not deterred by Covid-19 restrictions as California had just started reopening back to the public.
Our early morning flight took a little over five hours to fly from the East coast to San Francisco. For most of us, it was our first time visiting the West coast. Once in San Francisco, our first order of business was to pick up our rental van then drive over to the popular Pier 39 attraction to have lunch at Pier Market Seafood Restaurant. The clam chowder was so delicious! After a nice seafood lunch, we walked around the pier looking out at the sea lions, and even catching a glimpse of the infamous Alcatraz jail across the harbor.
While in San Francisco, the next stop on our way to wine country was the Golden Gate Bridge; because how can you go to San Francisco and not take a photo op at one of the world’s famous bridges. We even got to drive over the bridge which was an unbelievable experience since we’ve seen it so many times in photos and on television.
There are many places to get great views of the Golden Gate Bridge, but we chose Battery Spencer which offered a really close up view point and great photos. Between all of us, we must have taken over 100 snapshots while at Battery Spencer! After spending an extended time admiring the bridge, we were finally on our way to check into our hotel in Sonoma.
We checked into The Lodge at Sonoma Resort (formally Renaissance Resort & Spa) where they served us sparkling wine at check in to start off our wine tasting journey. The hotel itself also offers a daily complimentary wine tasting to it’s guests, but we came in too late on the first day and missed it. And although the hotel is in Sonoma county, it’s only less than 30 mins from the heart of Napa Valley. We chose The Lodge because it offered the best price at the time for a luxury brand hotel.
Dinner on our first night was at Napa Valley Bistro located in downtown Napa. We think this restaurant may be underrated among all of the fantastic dining options in the region, but the service was excellent, and the lamb burger was one of the best burgers we’ve ever had. One of the chefs even came out to greet us after we expressed how pleased we were with our food. The restaurant manager was very personable as well.
The next day, some of us woke up early to take a bike ride through the hills of Sonoma. We stopped off for breakfast at a really cute, hippie restaurant in the Sonoma Plaza called the Sunflower Caffè. The food was great, especially the granola waffles and their outdoor area is a photographic sanctuary.
Our first wine tasting for the day was at Prager Winery & Port Works. We know you may be thinking that port wine should be the last tasting, but since we had to make timed reservations in advance for each winery we intended to visit, the logistics just worked out that Prager had to be the first stop. Our friend Mocha is a huge port wine drinker, so Prager was her winery of choice as each of us chose one winery/vineyard that we wanted to visit. Port wines are known to be rather sweet dessert wines, with a high alcohol volume, therefore some of us were not too thrilled for this tasting. BUT, the same some of us actually never knew we could enjoy port wines so much until we did the tasting at Prager Winery & Port Works! Their port wines are like none we have ever had! The owners were so nice, the wines were delicious and we truly did enjoy the experience. Almost all of us left with at least one bottle of port wine!
Up next was St. Supéry Estate Vineyards and Winery. This winery is a great option for those who enjoy white wines as well as reds. The staff at St. Supéry really took great care of our group. We had the best outdoor seating overlooking the vineyards and hills in the background. And to our surprise, the CEO and the Vice President of Winemaking came out to greet us and spent a considerable amount of time conversing with us. We felt very special! We also got an additional tasting of one of the wines not on the tasting list. Another surprise was that our friends who selected to do the white wine tasting got to blend and take home their own bottle of white wine. How sweet! Oh, and let’s not forget to mention that St. Supéry is owned by Chanel!
Our first day of wine tasting finally ended with a visit to Raymond Vineyards. This winery has been dubbed by some as the Las Vegas winery of Napa. Walking into the tasting room, you can definitely see why. Because we visited during the time that Covid restrictions were just loosening up, we did not get to tour the entire winery, but the room where we sat was over the top with bling and sultry decor. Most, if not all of the wines at Raymond were dry red wines, but the tastings were good. We also found out that singer John Legend wines are produced by Raymond Vineyards! By the time we left Raymond, we were all feeling nice, buzzed and hungry.
For a quick meal before our dinner reservations, we drove to the Oxbow Public Market which offered a variety of dining options. Gott’s Roadside Burger and pizza is what we decided on. We wish we were able to spend more time browsing some of the shops, but the market was closing shortly after we arrived. Later we had dinner at Boon Fly Cafe. The menu there was modest which was great for dining with a group of selective eaters, but the food was not very seasoned (as in spices). Maybe next time we’ll try them for brunch since that’s what they are best recognized for.
On day three, we got ready early to enjoy more wine tastings. After picking up a quick breakfast at Jack in the Box, which was good by the way since we don’t have one where we live, we checked into our reservations at V.Sattui Winery. V. Sattui is one of the most popular wineries in Napa Valley since they offer a wide selection of wines to please any palate. Each of us purchased a bottle of our favorite tasting from there. When we were done, we stopped inside of their Artisan Deli to purchase food, cheeses and souvenirs. It would have been nice to eat our selections in their picnic area, but unfortunately we had to eat and run to make it to our next wine tasting reservation.
Our final tasting was done at Castello di Amorosa, known as the castle winery. Driving up the hill to get to Castello is like a fairy tale. It is important to note that the security guards validate your reservations at the entrance, so if you do not have reservations, you may not be able to even make it up the beautifully manicured driveway. Once we were checked into our reservation, we were seated in their grandest room at a very long royal table. Our wine server was a pleasure and gave us a lot of valuable information about wines and Napa Valley. After our tasting we were free to explore the castle, take photos and visit the gift shop where we could purchase wines. Castello also offered an array of wines that would delight both sweet and dry wine lovers.
After leaving Castello, we decided to drive over to Santa Rosa to visit a dispensary. On the way, we pulled over roadside to take photos at the Napa Valley sign because a first time trip to Napa isn’t complete until you’ve had a photo op at the sign. The dispensary that we visited was Doobie Nights. It had such a psychedelic vibe. Let’s just say that our last night in Napa was one to remember!
For dinner on our last evening we ate at Farmstead at Long Meadow Ranch. The food was really good, especially the pacific coast oysters. We were also surprised with a bottle of Long Meadow’s Zinfandel wine purchased for our table by a couple who was also dining across the room. The wine was actually really delicious and we were grateful for the gesture.
Our girls trip to Sonoma and Napa was such a memorable experience, we can’t wait to get back. There were some things that we did not get to experience such as doing a wine tour at one of the vineyards, visiting the Black-owned winery Brown Estate Winery, or taking a ride on the Napa Valley Wine Train. These were all still closed due to Covid, but on our next trip, we’ll definitely try to do all. Our biggest takeaway from our first time in Napa Valley is to plan to stay at least four days, and limit wine tastings to 2-3 per day. Several of the wineries are within a close proximity to each other so driving to each was not bad, but hiring a driver may be a safer option.