A FREQUENT ITINERARY
We greet the morning sun smiling on the East Bay as we cross the Bay Bridge and move north through Napa (city) and onto the Silverado Trail, which brings us into some of Napa Valley's most compelling scenery. We arrive mid-morning at Frog's Leap, among the first to pioneer organic viticulture, where you taste as you move about the grounds—first in the gardens, then the solar-powered fermentation facility, then the historic red barn. Or you may prefer Cakebread Cellars, whose excellent grape-to-bottle tour will help you learn everything you ever wanted to know about wine-making but were afraid to ask.
For lunch we can enjoy Cindy's Backstreet Kitchen, the CIA's Cafe or any of the many wonderful restaurants which you've seen on one of the food channels. Perhaps a made-to-order sandwich at a scenic overlook suits your fancy.
Alternative pleasures can include Schramsberg,* an unique and historic place to sample some of America's best sparkling wine. We then visit Chateau Montelena or Robert Sinskey, friendly places whose wines you won't soon forget. Or Failla (an idylllic country house, wonderful pinot noirs) or Darioush (reminiscent of an ancient Persian palace with across-the-board stellar varietals)—both on the beautiful Silverado Trail. Looking for more luxury? Ask about Joseph Phelps, Swanson, Spring Mountain...Napa Valley has more than 400 wineries.
We love to conclude the day in a particularly elegant setting--either Domaine Carneros, a French chateau with panoramic views of the Carneros region, or Mumm in picturesque Yountville. Or, if you insist, we can always stop for Bouchon pastries or handmade chocolates. We return to San Francisco across the illuminated Golden Gate Bridge, as the sun sets over the Ocean.
* The entrance fee for Schramsberg is currently $75 per-person—more than at most other wineries. Schramsberg sits in a beautiful mountainside setting, and its champagnes challenge Dom Perignon. But if this exceeds your budget, there are many other memorable options we'd be happy to share with you. Inglenook (formerly the Rubicon Estate...before that Niebaum-Coppola...before that Inglenook) also requires $75 per-person for their excellent basic tour and tasting: you get to explore their cavernous gift shop, or just relax by the fountains on the manicured grounds. (The desk from "The Godfather," a Tucker car, Francis' Oscars and other movie memorabilia—formerly at Rubicon—are now artfully displayed at the Francis Ford Coppola winery, approx. 40 minutes' away in Geyserville.)
Afterglow or Regret?
Choosing what to do with your limited time and resources is important and irreversible. Once back home either you live in the afterglow of a wonderful experience—reviewing your photos, remembering stunning panoramas and priceless moments. Or you regret that you wasted your time herded in a crowded bus, tired and frustrated in a rent-a-car or way over budget in a limo. Frankly, sightseeing in the San Francisco Bay Area is often expensive and while you may "save" $$ by opting for the cheaper alternative, you're sure to miss many hidden gems of the city, an unique winery, that truly memorable ocean vista.
Make the mistake of choosing a big-bus tour and you pay the least per-person but must start the tour in a place convenient to them. Spend most of your time looking through a window, missing the smaller family-owned and literally off-the-beaten-path wineries that are off-limits to buses. Forget spontaneity as the itinerary cannot respond to your requests. Most big buses go to wineries where you're often in crowds and exhorted to hurry. You get what you pay for.
Choose to rent a car and spend precious time picking it up then poring over maps and getting lost anyway. Even with GPS, you probably will not appreciate what you're driving by and have no one to ask. You risk getting caught in traffic bottlenecks, missing the most scenic and interesting routes and off-road attractions, wasting time searching for gas stations…and if you're the driver, you can't take in the sights if you want to avoid an accident...and shouldn't drink and drive. If you're not careful about where you park, you'll spend a bundle on fines.
Choose a limo and pay more—often a lot more with all their hidden fees—twist around in your seat since limos position you with your back to the scenery, experience a driver who's not necessarily an historian or knowledgeable about history or architecture, and forget about visiting many fascinating places where limos cannot physically go. And you won't enjoy limos if you have to be careful with your knees or back.
Then there's the Wine Train--much more expensive than a stationary wine tasting, and you pass by better culinary options. We can show you the half of the Valley they can't, and wineries not packed with passengers.
Come with us and we'll help you remember that you're on vacation... minimizing your stress, maximizing your pleasure.