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Napa/Sonoma - Does Location Really Matter?

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Fort Lauderdale...
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Napa/Sonoma - Does Location Really Matter?

My wife and I are planning a trip to Napa/Sonoma for our 10 year anniversary. It's our first trip out there. With so many hotels, inns and B&Bs to choose from, I really was not focused on location of the lodging at the beginning of my search. Instead, I was focused mostly on what looked like an appealing place to stay, with the approach that no matter where we stayed (within reason), we'd be near wineries and restaurants.

Now that I have arrived at a short list of final candidates, I am looking at location a little more. The list is (basically) Hotel Les Mars (Healdsburg), Kenwood Inn (Kenwood), Andaz Napa (Napa), Gaige House (Glen Ellen), and Carneros Inn (Napa Valley).

So here is my question: In the grand scheme of visiting wine country, does location really matter? I am not specifically asking about the differences between the Napa experience and the Sonoma experience. I've read about that on these forums. I'm asking more about the proximity to great locations and wineries. Is it safe to say that none of these places is so far off the beaten path that it becomes a factor? Bear in mind that for us, the lodging will dictate the wineries we visit and there is no winery that we are making a mandatory visit.

Also, anyone's .02 cents or more on any of the places on our short list is also greatly appreciated.

We are grateful for any insight and advice. Thanks.

Napa, CA
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1. Re: Napa/Sonoma - Does Location Really Matter?

Whether location matters depends on where you will be spending your day and how much driving you are willing to do. It seems that you are possibly looking for a location convenient to both Napa and Sonoma? If so, the Healdsburg inn would be the least convenient.

For visiting the Napa Valley, many people find that staying in Yountville is the most convenient. That's why there are so many top end hotels and fine restaurants there. The Andaz is a good choice if you want to be in downtown Napa and walk to restaurants, bars and evening entertainment. The Carneros Inn is more isolated and a 15 minute drive to restaurants that are not on their property.

It really depends on your priorities as to where the best location for lodging is.

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2. Re: Napa/Sonoma - Does Location Really Matter?

We recently toured Carneros Inn and were very, very impressed! The rooms are beautiful, there is a lap pool and a swimming pool, two wonderful restaurants also. You will be close to excellent wineries in this area as well. :).

St. Helena...
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3. Re: Napa/Sonoma - Does Location Really Matter?

Note that Napa County is half as big as Sonoma County (in sq miles), with more wineries. Because of the density of wineries in Napa Valley, it makes a compelling choice when deciding where to stay.

Napa and Sonoma are separated by a mountain range, to drive between valleys one goes around the north or south ends of the range, or directly over the top. A day trip into Sonoma County is entirely feasible, depending on your destination, allow 30-60 minutes travel time from Napa.

Edited: 10 March 2014, 16:35
Fort Lauderdale...
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4. Re: Napa/Sonoma - Does Location Really Matter?

"Whether location matters depends on where you will be spending your day and how much driving you are willing to do. It seems that you are possibly looking for a location convenient to both Napa and Sonoma?"

That's just the thing, I have not really considered location because I am operating under the impression that there are are so many wineries concentrated into a relatively small area that you are always going to be near many of them. Restaurants may be different.

Plus, based upon what another poster has said about driving between Napa and Sonoma, I don't know that I would do that. Seems like there is no point when there are wineries in each and the drive from one county to the other can take a while. So, I am not necessarily concerned with a location that serves both Napa and Sonoma equally well. Once we pick a place, we'll probably stay close to that, again, assuming that any of the locations have lots to offer in terms of wineries in close proximity.

Visalia, CA
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5. Re: Napa/Sonoma - Does Location Really Matter?

How long is your trip? I can't speak to the other locations but Healdsburg is a small quaint town and from your hotel you can walk to several tasting rooms or restaurants. You can easily spend a whole day wandering around town. It is also a short drive to several growing areas including Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley, & northern Sonoma County.

Fremont, California
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6. Re: Napa/Sonoma - Does Location Really Matter?

You are correct in terms of wineries being everywhere. If you just want any winery, base on what lodging looks more attractive to you. Many have specific wineries they want to visit due to architecture, tasting experience (food pairing, tours, etc.) and thus pick a particular location In your case, it sounds like as long as there are wineries, its quite all right with you - and that's fine.

Some also pick on other activities they are doing. If they are ok with any winery, but want to do the redwoods and the coast, people often opt for Sonma over Napa. Or if you want to include a food demo at the Culintary Institute of America, which is in Napa, people will choose Napa.

Also some choose based on winery tasting costs. Napa wineries will cost more in tasting fees in general than Sonoma wineries.

St. Helena...
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7. Re: Napa/Sonoma - Does Location Really Matter?

"... I am operating under the impression that there are are so many wineries concentrated into a relatively small area that you are always going to be near many of them."

This is much more the case in Napa than in Sonoma. Sonoma County is twice as big and the wineries are spread out across 1500 sq miles vs. Napa at 750 sq miles. Sure, there are concentrations of wineries in both areas typically around the towns, but wineries in Napa are 2X more dense than in Sonoma.

To mini's point above, if the key criteria for making a lodging decision is the ability to throw a rock and hit a winery, you're more likely to be successful at that in Napa.

As illustration, look at this map:

http://napavintners.com/maps/index.asp

Edited: 10 March 2014, 18:32
Boston...
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8. Re: Napa/Sonoma - Does Location Really Matter?

Hey, me too! Planning a trip to celebrate our 10th anniversary, husband has never been there. I was there as a kid, barely remember it. So really we are first-timers too.

One of my thoughts about this was what experience do I want to have for my "home base". It's true there is a lot to pick from!

Somehow I wanted to be in a town (near several restaurants at least), but a town smaller than Napa. I figure we will go through the town of Napa at least 2 - 3 times, and certainly eat there. But I hope to feel a bit closer to the vineyards by being in a slightly smaller town (St. Helena). Also, I know we want to spend a little time at the Culinary Institute, which is in St. H. Plus, since it's sort of in the middle of the main route through Napa, I thought that meant we would not need to drive a long way to get back to our hotel, or start out in the morning. Just my thinking. Plus I look at photos of the different towns.

I guess I would not pick the inn at Carneros, just due to location - so far south.

You could also pick one place in Napa County, and another place for the Sonoma part of your visit. That is what we are doing. Some of the things I want to see in Sonoma are pretty far from St. Helena. On the other hand, this depends upon how many days/nights you have. You don't want to change hotels every night. Are you going to be in the area (N/S) for a week? San Francisco too?

Fort Lauderdale...
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9. Re: Napa/Sonoma - Does Location Really Matter?

All this advice is really helpful and I thank you for it. It's curious. We are visiting wine country, but the hotel will dictate our itinerary more than the wineries themselves. I'm fine with that. As Mini said, some people select their wineries based on architecture and other factors. In my case, hope that wherever we stay, there will enough interesting wineries in the vicinity without making too much driving too much of a factor.

Napa, CA
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10. Re: Napa/Sonoma - Does Location Really Matter?

Well, Major - I don't see how we can help you very much. Yours is an interesting dilemma in that you don't seem to care what wine region or area you visit. All the lodging choices you are considering are fine. So, maybe write each down on a piece of paper, put them in a hat, and pick one. There are excellent wineries near them all although the Andaz would probably have the least "wine country" feel since it's in downtown Napa. It's advantage is that there is more to do at night than the others.