Wine Country, San Francisco
We went on a day tour of Napa Valley with GPT Tours. They brought us to three wineries (actually two and the Dom Perignon champagne house) where we sampled the local wine and tasted some yummy appetizers. The Dom Perignon house actually included a tour of the facility as well as a complimentary tasting. Back in 2002, the full day tour cost about $75 a person including pick up from your hotel and lunch.
Heading northeast of San Francisco will get you to Napa Valley - of grape vines and free wine tasting. There are many wineries to choose from.
The larger ones will have a tour explaining the growing of different grape varieties, the harvesting and the making of alcohols and the brewing process in the back room. The proper storage of wines.
If you do not know your personal preference, you can try out the white vs the red, drv vs sweet. You will get an education on how to drink hold the wine glass and proper way to drink your wine, step by step - color, smell are as important as taste and ethanol content.
Remember not to drive back unless your alcohol level in your blood is well below legal limits.
Benziger Family Winery ~ (705-935-4046) This was my favorite winery. I think what appealed to me was that the staff were very down-to-earth, and that they had a very informative tour; you actually get to know their philosophy and growing techniques. Not something you ordinarily think about when you knock back a glass of red.
Guests ride in carts pulled by a tractor, as the tour takes you all over the vineyard.The tour makes the requisite ending at a gift shop, which for once I dind't mind, as our tour guide (a Benziger family member) was so warm, friendly, and open. I was also impressed with the stewardship of their land; they have an insectorium where amphibians, insects and lizards are allowed to thrive.
We were also encouraged to wander around the vineyard, and I tasted my first wine grapes (or berries); I was shocked to taste how sweet and unlike table grapes they were. . At the time we were there, they had started producing their own olive oil as well. (www.benziger.com)
Domaine Carneros ~ (707-257-0101) This winery was probably the most beautiful, and makes sparkling wines (i.e. champagnes). Owned by Taittinger, the main building was modelled after a French Chateau. Their presentation is the most slick; they have a small theatre where they show a movie. Then, the curtains are pulled back, and *ta-da!* you can see through a viewing window the tanks where the wine is initially fermented, with poor joe schmoe walking by trying to get the job done. However, I found their tour very informative. We did pass on the free corks and cages being handed out. Tastings here are probably the most expensive, about $5 US. (www. domaine.com)
While planning my San Fran trip I happened upon a website that offered the wine train tour and thought it would be something a little different. I booked it, sight unseen, and hoped it wasn't an expensive rip off.
Well, it was expensive, but it was not a rip off.
Here's how it works: A motorized street car picks you up at your hotel. Then it goes around and picks up other guests at all the big hotels.
The shuttle then drops you off at Fisherman's Wharf, where there is a large motor-coach waiting for all the wine train participants. You are then whisked out of town towards the city of Napa. The bus driver, "Spike", was a definite highlight of the tour.
Once at the train station (a small, well appointed building with gift shops and free wine tasting), you wait to board the train with the others in the building. Once on board, the train moves out of Napa (not the nicest views here) and into the surrounding area. We got to see dozens of large wine estates, but were not given any commentary or explanation of what we were seeing. Some people tasted a lot of wine, but most of us just sat back and enjoyed the view.
Half-way through the tour we were fed one of the best meals I have ever had. I can't say enough about the meal. It was spectacular! The ambiance, service, and quality of the train are second to none. You really feel like you're on a 1930s era train with all the luxury and glitz.
I'm fourty, and was one of the younger people on the bus. It's not just for old people, but the cost and lack of need for physical excersion seems to attract an older set. It's also not for wine-experts. The only people that I would NOT recommend for this tour are children under the age of 18. It will bore them to tears.
My only negative feedback is that I wish we could have visited one of the estates, and been given interpretation of the scenery we were passing through. But otherwise, it was a great way to spend the day!
Rent a car and drive to Napa. Takes only 1-1.5 hours. So beautiful. Wine tasting is a lot of fun. There are a lot of great restaurant. Just avoid to go summet time because there are jstu too many people.
This is a BRILLIANT concept, and I'm certain that Vino Venue will soon come to a city near you. We started our Saturday here.
We had considered making the drive out to Napa for an afternoon of wine tasting when we stumbled upon this terrific wine bar near Union Square.
Guest purchase a debit card and then chose tastes from over 100 different bottles. Put your card in the automated tasting station, press the button for the wine of your choice and VIOLA....enjoy tasting at your own pace. The wines are also available for purchase and there is a wine bar that serves cheeses and wines by the glass.
Featuring a stone castle winery fronting a lake and Chinese gardens. Home to one of Napa Valley's finest wineries. Wine tasting and tour available for a fee. Reservations are required. Stroll the grounds around Jade Lake and the Chinese Garden.
Napa Valley is beautiful and a must visit. It's about 45 minutes away from the city. Wine tasting is one of my favorite day activities. But prepare to do a lot of driving, there are very many wineries, but most of them are very spread out.
The day we spent in the Wine Country was the best day of our holiday. The weather was perfect and scenery was stunning.
The tour costs around $106 per couple (with Grayline) and includes tastings at 4 wineries in Sonoma and Napa Valleys. Our driver was really knowledgeable and very friendly.
You should allow a full day - we were dropped back at our hotel at around 19.00.
Kirkland Ranch Winery is situated in the rolling hills of southern Napa Valley, where the vines benefit from the cooling influences of San Francisco Bay.
My favorite Kirkland Ranch wine is a 1999 Estate Merlot aged for 18 months in a combination of 80% new American and 20% used French oak barrels. Aromas of ripe briary blackberry, raspberry fruit, vanilla, and a light toast entice the senses
Its taste and its bouquet is just unforgetable!!
The grounds and winery are open for wine tasting tours. This winery was established in 1868 and is the oldest operating winery in Napa Valley. The old wine cellar caves were hand dug by Chinese laborers in the 1800's. There is a fee for the tour and winetasting.
A great day trip out from San Francisco, best done in your own car but with a designated driver as you may end up having a few too many tastings to be legal for the drive back.
I must admit I preferred to visit Sonoma Valley rather than Napa when visiting wine country. It seemed more intimate and had much better scenery. However the wines from both areas were well tried and tested.
One of my favourite vineyards is Benzinger, the setting against the old Sonoma Mountain is great and the wine is pretty good too.
I live 25 miles from Napa. So, I can decide on a whim to go to napa anytime. It is beautiful all round the year(Rains in Feb), but it is best to go to napa during the sping(apr-may). Wild flowers are in full bloom and there are about 400 vineyards in Napa & Sonoma combined. If you are into wine & nature. Then, this is a must trip if you are in San Francisco.
Wine Tasting in Nappa Valley was my first experience of the sort. Be sure to rent a car and leave early! Try the St. Supéry vineyard. The Moscato is delicious! It's a sweet white dessert wine. I'm not much of a wine drinker but I love this particular wine.
What was great about Nappa Valley (and the Bay area as a whole) was that is probably the only place in the US where you can see mountains, ocean, skyscrapers, AND vinyards so close to each other.
I was very impressed to see a geyser for the first time. The one I saw was the Old Faithful Geyser of California located in the town of Calistoga. Every 40 minutes more or less a geyser of about 18m comes out from the earth.