My friends and I wanted to take advantage of our 3 day weekend by spending one day in Napa Valley, one day at Yosemite National Park and one day in San Francisco.(very ambitious, I know) Since we had limited time to spend in Napa we thought the best way to see as much as we could was to do the Napa Valley and Sonoma Wine Tour with a tour company. Although we enjoyed ourselves, I believe the experience would have been different if we had done wine tasting on our own, as opposed to being in a “group tour” environment. The foodie in me wanted to sip and snack…receive pairing recommendations…and we didn’t get that at all of the wineries.
The tour bus picked us up from our hotel in San Francisco and an hour later our first stop was at the Jamieson Ranch Winery.
The tour had about 50 to 60 people in it. When got off the bus and piled in the door, a representative from the winery gave us a menu of a few wines that we would be tasting, told us to enjoy….and that was it! They didn’t explain what we would be sampling, didn’t give us a tour of the ranch or the vineyard…They just stood there and kept pouring! The wine was mediocre at best.
After sampling about 3 different wines we wandered outside and ran into the vineyard.
The most unique part of this winery was the street art that was painted on the south side of the building. This mural was painted by artists in the San Francisco area, and it is repainted every year by new artists.
“I built myself a house of gold in my mind, It could never be sold, no Alchemist could ever build a house like mine”
The second stop was at Andretti Winery, by far the best winery we visited. The quality of wine was much better in my opinion.
Our tour guide was very informative, all of the wine was delicious, and he even went out of his way to find a wine that we requested to taste.
I’m a fan of dessert wines…. I prefer my wine on the sweeter side so Moscato has always been my favorite. After my friend asked if we could try some Moscato, the tour guide came back with their Montona Moscato of 2014. It was by far THE BEST Moscato I have ever tasted! It was light and sweet…very delicious! My favorite of the whole trip!
The ambiance was very nice. We had very nice weather and we were able to taste and listen to the thorough descriptions of the wine the tour guide gave us, all while walking through the vineyard.
For lunch we stopped in a small town in Napa Valley called Yountville. The bus let us off in a parking lot adjacent to a strip of restaurants. Most of them fine dining, and was told that some of those restaurants were rated the best restaurants in all of San Francisco…Michelin-star restaurants! The foodie in me was in heaven… until I realized I was on a tour, didn’t have much time to grab a bite and didn’t budget for splurging on fine dining on the first day of our long weekend. I promise if it was the last day I would have splurged and spent everything I had. I will spend money on good food and the experience..before I would a pair of shoes (and I love shoes!)
We decided on Pacific Blues since it seemed to be quick and didn’t break the bank. It was an eatery that served American fare, pretty decent.
Last but not least we got to the “Sonoma” part of the Napa and Sonoma Wine Country Tour. Madonna Estates… located on Old Sonoma Road…in Napa Valley. (I thought the tour was a little misleading thinking we would be going to Sonoma as well) But it didn’t matter, this winery had the best quality wine and was my 2nd favorite that we visited. The host was very friendly, went over the history of their Vineyard and explained that it was found by the third oldest wine making family in Napa Valley.
She started off by explaining how they made the wine, and afterwards we went into a room to sample the wines. They had multiple representatives standing behind a bar replenishing our glasses. On top of the bar was a menu of all of their wines that we sampled and had for sale. This winery gave us endless options of wines to sample. They probably had about 10 to 15 different wines and they had them sorted by red, white, dry and dessert. By this time I had had my fair share of wine for the day so my friends and I stayed in the dessert wine section…trying to figure out if their Moscato was better than the Moscato at Andretti Winery, and it wasn’t. The guides were able to explain each wine that we tasted and afterwards gave us a tutorial on a wine opener they created and sold. I bought one because it opened the bottle so easily!!
Overall I think it was a nice crash course in Wineries of Napa Valley. If you want a small taste of Wine Country with the convenience of not having to drive, and enjoying the beautiful views that it has to offer, I would recommend doing a wine tour. Next time I will spend a few days and take my time. Book tours directly with the winery(preferably wineries or vineyards with food and wine pairings) and give myself enough time to try a few restaurants in the area. I’m actually more excited to go back and try the restaurants..I may just skip the wineries all together and just eat…