Napa vs. Sonoma?
Both Sonoma and Napa Counties produce many world class wines. Most Californians who are familiar with California wines know that there is no difference in general quality between the two counties. There are fabulous wineries in both counties. The difference in quality is found from winery to winery within each County, but it is not accurate to say that Napa has better wines than Sonoma. However, people from out of state and particularly out of the country generally want to visit Napa County because of its bigger name recognition outside of California.
I prefer Sonoma over Napa - and this is based on dozens of wine country trips to both counties. See below for my take on 15 differences between Sonoma and Napa: 1. Sonoma is more beautiful, scenery-wise. It has beautiful valleys nestled in between rolling hills covered by pine trees. Napa has some of this too, but Sonoma is greener and more pastoral.
2. Napa is pricier - more wineries in Napa will charge you to taste - sometimes as much as $10 or $15 per person. At most Sonoma wineries, tasting is free.
3. Napa is more crowded. It's all those out of state and out of country tourists.
4. The town of Napa is industrial and commercial. The town of Healdsburg in Sonoma is charming and smaller.
5. The pace is more relaxed in Sonoma.
6. Tasting rooms in general are far less crowded in Sonoma. In Napa, you sometimes have a hard time finding a few inches of space at the counter.
7. Wineries and tasting rooms in Sonoma tend to be smaller and more rustic.
8. Napa has more of the huge, ostentatious wine tasting rooms with ultra-expensive art galleries and pricey gift shops. In Napa, you can even ride a tram up to the very crowded tasting room at Sterling Winery, modeled after a Greek town.
9. In Sonoma, the winery staff pouring the wine will be more relaxed and more likely to take the time to tell you about their winery and its history. You are more likely to meet the owners behind the tasting counter.
10. In Napa, the tasting rooms are less personal - the staff will have less time to talk to you. You almost feel like they want you to finish tasting, buy some wine and make space for the next people.
11. Napa has more wineries that are owned by mega-corporations.
12. The town of Napa has more upscale restaurants. Some are very, very good. Healdsburg has a few - just not as many as Napa.
13. Napa County gets more traffic -- foot, cars, buses and bikes.
14. Napa County has more B&Bs. Sonoma has some, but not as many as Napa.
15. If you are taking a picnic lunch, it is tougher to find an unoccupied table for your lunch in Napa. In Sonoma, that has never been a problem.