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Napa Valley Trip...need pointers from you pros..please.

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Napa Valley Trip...need pointers from you pros..please.

Hi...I'm coming with my husband first week of September for a three night stay. We fly into San Francisco at 10am...want to hit Muir Woods and then onto Napa. Here's my question...we plan on doing at least 2 days of winery visits. So, should we stay in Napa the entire time..is it fairly easy to drive to some of the northern vineries and back to home base at Napa? Also, what's the best way to schedule to avoid driving back and forth all over? :) We want to hit Pride Mountain, Stag's Leap, maybe Sterling, Domaine Chandon, and want to add one or two others. I love Chardonnay and we're both red drinkers..Merlot and Cabs. Any suggestions would be a huge help. Thanks so much in advance. This is our first trip without our new baby (10 months), so I really want to plan something fun for us. :)

Walnut Creek...
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1. Re: Napa Valley Trip...need pointers from you pros..please.

Yes, it's easy to use the city of Napa as a base for 2 days of winery visits. You're better off starting in the northernmost winery and work you way back south to Napa, since this is the opposite of what most other people do. Also, if you wish to visit Sterling Vineyards (which has a gondola which takes you to a beautiful place to view the valley), they offer a discount if you get there before noon (look for their coupons on the WWW). They are up north near Calistoga. I would encourage you to visit www.napavintners.com to get an idea of how to plan your visit (including tasting costs). If you call ahead to arrange for a tour, you will often be well-rewarded with a more personal and less crowded experience. I especially like Spring Mountain Vineyard (since you're going to more expensive places like Pride and Stag's Leap). They have nice wines and the place was where the opening scene of "Falcon Crest" was filmed. But you need to schedule an appointment.

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2. Re: Napa Valley Trip...need pointers from you pros..please.

Hopper Creek and Fontenella have good Chards -

O'Brien, Hartwell and White Rock are nice for big reds,

Have fun!

Clermont, Florida
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3. Re: Napa Valley Trip...need pointers from you pros..please.

It's very easy to base out of Napa and still visit the wineries upvalley in Calistoga. The trick is to group your visits so you aren't ping-ponging around. There are several good maps online, Napa Valley Vinters is a great source of information and has maps.

In all honesty, unless you want to do so for the gondola ride, I don't think Sterling is worth the time or effort. If you are in Napa to discover great wines, spend your time discovering the ones you can't buy for $15 at your local supermarket.

McKenzie-Mueller is in the Carneros Region, and makes a full line of excellent wines. In particular we enjoy the chardonnay, the malbec, and the Cabernets.

Buoncristiani specializes in reds, and the view from their winery is the best in the valley. On a clear day you'll actually be able to see the Golden Gate Bridge!

The very best merlots in the Valley in my opinion are made by Blackbird. You can taste them at Ma(i)sonry in Yountville. Jarvis, Cakebread, and Ehlers (a winery owned by a non-profit organization that donates all profits to heart research) all make notable merlots as well.

Plan on being able to average four to five tastings a day. If you try to taste too much in one day you'll just end up ruining your palate and not really being able to tell the difference between a sangiovese and a cab franc. Also many places will allow you to split a tasting, and it's perfectly acceptable to spit.

Mill Valley/Marin...
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4. Re: Napa Valley Trip...need pointers from you pros..please.

Staying in Napa is fine, and reasonably central.

My best advice to you is as you go North on Hwy 29, visit wineries in order on the right hand side.

When you get to the top of the valley, and you come down Hwy 29, visit wineries in order on your right hand side.

It is very difficult to turn around - take my word for it - so visit your favorites in order.

Have fun.


PS Lots of great restaurants in Healdsburg.

5. Re: Napa Valley Trip...need pointers from you pros..please.

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