Before I start expounding on where to stay in Napa and Sonoma I better explain my point of view. My twitter name is WineTourGuy. When I meet clients, and ask them about the place they are staying is on the day they are touring the wineries. Most of them are visiting because of the wines. That doesn’t mean that they won’t use the Spas, go shopping in the cute stores, eat at the great restaurants, ride in a balloon or even play a round of golf, but they come because of the wineries. They will spend the majority of their days exploring some of the thousands of wineries this area is home to. So, my thoughts are about fitting the lodgings and wineries together in the most comfortable way.
Napa and Sonoma are two big agricultural counties dotted with a couple of little ‘cities’ and a bunch of small towns. So, deciding where to stay has a lot to do with what you’re planning to do when you visit, how much you want to pay, and the kind of accommodations you prefer. If you only like big, full service hotels that limits you, since they are located away from the vineyards. The full service hotels that are near the wineries are on the expensive side, in part because they are in tough to build locations and cater to high end clients.
There are many motels, small hotels and lots of Inns and B&B’s and the competition to be charming is pretty fierce, in a friendly, wine country way. Wherever you decide to stay there should be a selection to choose from in that range. Which brings us to, ‘Where to stay if your main purpose is to visit the wineries?’
The key is choosing someplace where you can walk to dinner, and still have a selection of places to eat. Wineries open about 10 and close by 5, although there are some downtown tasting rooms that stay open later. If you finish tasting by 5 you can head back to the hotel, clean up, take a nap and still be ready to eat by 7. Wine country is farm country with great restaurants that close early. Very few restaurants want to seat you after 8. There are exceptions, but not many.
After a day of wine tasting there is still a fair amount of alcohol wandering around in your system. You’re also tired, because wine tasting is harder work than it sounds like. You do not want to be driving a long distance in the dark, with what’s left of your night vision (it is called abundant sunshine out here) just to have dinner. So, my favorite recommendations include locations where you can walk to dinner.
My best Sonoma County recommendation is downtown Sonoma as close to the Plaza as you can arrange. This is an historic, thoroughly charming location with wonderful restaurants, shady walks, great shopping a stone throw to the vines. There is the complete mix of lodgings from full service hotels, to the most charming B&B’s. It is a favorite destination of the North Bay day trippers, but even on its busiest days it never gets crazy busy, because the visitors are mostly adults.
My best Napa recommendation is downtown Yountville. It doesn’t have Sonoma’s history, and most of what you see there has been put together over the past thirty years to attract and serve visitors, but what they have done is lovely and it’s a great place to stay. While the hotels tend to be expensive, there are many B&B’s that are more reasonable. This is also the food Capitol of Napa, with more Michelin starred restaurants per capita than any place else on the planet. It is also home to some great tasting rooms and just minutes to the nearest wineries. Need we say more?
Both of these locations are convenient to San Francisco. If you are willing to venture a little farther north than see my next installment, Where to Stay in Wine Country Part Two.
Ralph & Lahni de Amicis are authors of the Amicis Winery Guides, and owners of Amicis Tours and Cuore Libre Publishing. They are authors of over twenty books on health, design and travel. Their products can be found on the sites http://www.amicistours.com and http://www.spaceandtime.com
Call 707-235-2648 for Tours, Books & Seminars Copyright Ralph & Lahni de Amicis 2013 All tasting fees, hours, wine lists, etc are subject to change.