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A 1 day wine tour for a serious wine lover?

Buenos Aires...
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A 1 day wine tour for a serious wine lover?

Hi, I am a wine buff from Argentina and will be in SF on business from Mon to Fri in early March. I would like go to the wine country all day saturday (Not sure if Napa or Sonoma is closer, although I'm leaning towards Sonoma for the type of wines...), spend the night at a hotel there, and then be back in SF in the early afternoon on Sunday to take my plane back home.

Question 1) I am not familiar with distances in SF... is my plan realistic?

Question 2) I don't want to take an off the shelf tour with large crowds because I am looking for a more personal experience, talk to the wine makers, taste wine properly, visit the serious producers, not the tourist traps. Perhaps with a very small group, but on a budget (if this is even possible). I've scanned most of the wine tours previous posts in this forum and apparently people recommend Extranomical and Max Napa Tours. If anyone has a better suggestion, could you let me know? Much appreciated!

san francisco
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1. Re: A 1 day wine tour for a serious wine lover?

Will you have a car? Sonoma and Napa are equidistant from SF (1 hour drive) so your plan is perfectly realistic if you have a car. Also, Sonoma and Napa are parallel valleys connected by a few roads (~20 minutes); you can can stay in either valley and still taste wines from the other. If you can sufficiently moderate your blood alcohol content, I suggest you drive yourself around so you don't get stuck on some lame tour. Then you can do a little research to know what specific wineries you want to hit, and also have the freedom to pull into some random ones that strike your fancy.

Be sure not to miss the Prager Port Works on rte 29 in Napa Valley.

Have a great trip!

Buenos Aires...
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2. Re: A 1 day wine tour for a serious wine lover?

Thanks! I will not have a car though, no. I do try to spit as much as possible when wine tasting, but I don't trust myself to drive all the same :). I was particularly interested in small, boutique tours... made to measure. 3 or 4 people in a car with an advanced tour guide, something like that. Is this a naif thing to want to do? (Maybe I should just get a car, like you say...)

san francisco
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3. Re: A 1 day wine tour for a serious wine lover?

No you're not a naif at all -- the Max Napa Tours looks a good bet though I haven't done it. You can also hire a driver for the day -- here is a yelp listing of drivers for boutique wine tours:

http://www.yelp.com/search?find_desc=wine+country+driver&find_loc=San+Francisco%2C+CA

Napa, CA
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4. Re: A 1 day wine tour for a serious wine lover?

"I don't want to take an off the shelf tour with large crowds because I am looking for a more personal experience, talk to the wine makers"

Yes, using a boutique wine tour company is a great idea especially if you don't want to drive. However, don't set your expectations too high. It's very difficult to meet with the winemakers at any of the top wineries unless you are in the trade. And, if you are associated with a wine company in Argentina, it is best for you to make your own appointments in advance. The wineries handle special tours like this every day and are especially hospitable to wine industry people from South America.

Another personal wine tour to check out is "Your Driver in Napa". They get great reviews on Yelp:

http://yourdriverinnapa.com/

www.yelp.com/biz/your-driver-in-napa-napa

San Francisco, Ca
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5. Re: A 1 day wine tour for a serious wine lover?

You could also check with Rick of Blue Heron Tours... he does customized guided tours and knows many of the wineries and wine makers. His website is www.BlueHeronTours.com. His normal rates are $300 for a 4.5 hour tour and around $500 for a full-day tour (not including any tasting fees).

Sunnyvale...
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6. Re: A 1 day wine tour for a serious wine lover?

I recommend a store called Wine Club which has one location in SF if you're more interested in the wine than the location. During the work week, you may want to look it up and stop by. Its management is very serious about wine and usually has a number of wines open for tasting, for fee. A visit there may be easier than going door to door in a region like Sonoma or even Napa--being in a single place involves less time burning overhead than going door to door of course. Wine Club's buyers could probably even provide contacts and really good recommendations of local places to visit, tailored to your specific tastes, when you do finally get free on the weekend.

A great idea for a budding entrepreneur/se would be to have a cooperative of similar style exist in Napa or Sonoma.

Edited: 22 January 2011, 05:20
Buenos Aires...
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7. Re: A 1 day wine tour for a serious wine lover?

Outstanding! This is all superb advice everyone, much appreciated. Tdubb, your advice on drivers was just what I needed. I think I'm leaning towards Healdsburg Wine Tour for the Sonoma part of my trip, based on their reviews.

Supercilious, thanks for the sound advice. I wouldn't expect to meet the winemakers of the top wineries, don't worry. Although from what I have read in the forums, it is possible to meet the actual owners and winemakers of some of the smaller, boutique wineries. I'm not associated with the Argentine wine industry (I am in Software development) although I do consume copious amounts of argentine wine, does that count? :) Lastly, thanks for the Your Driver in Napa link... looks like just what I need for the Napa part of my trip.

SFSusan, thanks for the tip.

DarthAnonymous, that actually sounds perfect. I will take you up on the advice and visit them during the week. Is this them? http://www.thewineclub.com/

My trip will be end of feb and early march, so I have plenty of time to investigate and explore more options, so if anyone wants to add any more tips before Feb 28 please feel free to do so. I in turn will share my findings on this thread. Thanks again!

Napa, California
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8. Re: A 1 day wine tour for a serious wine lover?

I don't know anything about tours, but Healdsburg is at least an hour north of the town of Sonoma, probably 2 hours from San Francisco. If you do something around the town of Sonoma you could also see Napa which is only 20 minutes away.

San Francisco...
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9. Re: A 1 day wine tour for a serious wine lover?

I personally prefer Sonoma to Napa as it tends to be less "touristy" with more small wineries. Healdsburg is a great place to use as a center for your touring. There are several tasting rooms right in downtown Healdsburg (Toad Hollow is a good one) and you'll probably find complimentary tasting cards given for other wineries when you visit.

I'll also second the recommendation for the Wine Club in SF. They have a great selection of all types of wines (I just bought a mixed case of wines there today).

Buenos Aires...
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10. Re: A 1 day wine tour for a serious wine lover?

JLB, thanks, that is my intention. I will spend a full day and night in Sonoma, and half a day in Napa.

Wellvis, thanks for confirming my feeling about Sonoma being a bit less touristy. I will be based in Healdsburg so will definitely check out Toad Hollow.