The quintessential luxury holiday in Napa and Sonoma. Get in touch to start planning an unforgettable wine country experience.
While some of California’s other wine growing regions are finally emerging from the shadows, Napa and Sonoma remain the powerhouses of American wine. Whether you’re a serious wine buff or not, lazy days spent exploring its vine covered valleys are ones to savour. You’ll rest your head in a collection of truly luxurious hotels and while the phrase ‘farm-to-table’ has become a buzzword, there is no shortage of exceptional restaurants.
Cosmopolitan, laid-back and liberal, San Francisco is one of America’s most alluring cities. From your base, either in the heart of San Francisco or across the bay in Sausalito, it warrants at least two days of exploring. If you don’t mind a few hills (forty-two to be precise), striking out on foot with our custom guide is a great option. When your feet start to get sore, just hop on one of the old trolley cars. From the beatnik cafes and bookstores of North Beach to the hip creativity of The Mission, each neighbourhood has its own unique feel and history.
One of Napa’s great draws is that it’s only a hop, skip and a jump from San Francisco. Not long after crossing the Bay Bridge and turning north you will start to see the neat lines of vines as you enter the southern growing region of Los Carneros. Still impacted by the cool fog that visits the Bay Area, Los Carneros is known for cooler climate varietals like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Highway 29 forms the main artery of Napa with the valley’s small towns dotted along its route. Busy Napa, the gastronomic hub of Yountville, charming St Helena and the more down-to-earth Calistoga, are all worth a visit. Make your base in one of the several exceptional hotels along the way that run the gamut from chic romance, rustic luxury and sleek eco-friendly design.
The next morning your private guide and driver will meet you at your hotel for a visit to a hand selected collection of the region’s 400+ wineries. Your day will be tailored to your interests and we can arrange private tastings at some fantastic wineries that are closed to the public. To really experience the best of Napa, don’t focus solely on the big name vineyards, complete with gift shops and tour buses, but rather the small scale producers, where you can meet the winemakers, see behind the curtain and enjoy a truly intimate experience. Lunch can be a picnic among the vines or an elegant 3 course meal -the choice is yours.
The following day you may decide to enjoy one of the quintessential Napa experiences, a balloon ride high above the valley. It’s an early start as you meet at the launch site pre-dawn. At takeoff the burners roar and then silence. Gently, the balloon lifts into the early morning breeze that peacefully carries you over the patchwork of vineyards below. The journey ends at Domaine Chandon for a glass of bubbly and a delicious breakfast at Etoile, their restaurant.
After three days in Napa, move on to northern Sonoma. Less glitzy, more laid-back and significantly larger, Sonoma is a place to drive the tree shaded backroads, enjoy small family wineries and generally soak up the unique NorCal lifestyle. The gently winding road from Napa leads through the beautiful Alexander Valley (particularly noted for the quality of its Cabernet Sauvignon) before reaching the idyllic and bustling town of Healdsburg.
With two days in northern Sonoma you’ll get a great feel for the area. Spend your first in the Healdsburg area, with a morning exploring the Dry Creek Valley, classic Sonoma, and your afternoon in Healdsburg itself. The following day, it might be time to take a break from wine and pay a visit to Guerneville. Take a canoe trip down the beautiful Russian River, stopping for a picnic along the way, or if dry land sounds more appealing, go for a long walk among the majestic redwoods of Armstrong Woods.
Take your time for the journey back to San Francisco as it’s a pretty drive, either heading directly south through the heart of the valley and Sonoma town itself, with its beautiful square, or making your way to the Pacific Ocean, along the Russian River. The route to the Pacific and onwards to San Francisco is one of our favourites as you’ll pass through Bodega Bay, scene of Hitchcock’s The Birds, as well as the stunning Point Reyes National Seashore. Stop for lunch at Hog Island Oyster Company, a great spot near Tomales Bay.
To see another side of San Francisco, spend a night across the bay in pretty Sausalito before heading home the next day.