An easy travel rule of thumb is that wine regions are always great places to travel to. There’s good wine (of course) but generally good food as well along with stunning scenery. So on my work trip last month to San Francisco I decided I absolutely had to fit in a quick visit to the nearby Napa Valley and Sonoma regions.
I couldn’t be bothered hiring a car and I wanted a designated driver so I researched tour companies and came up with Green Dream Tours which had a small group size and the top recommendation on Trip Advisor. Green Dream does hotel pick up and drop off in San Francisco and the fee includes transport and tasting fees although lunch is not included.
Green Dream Tours are conducted in a mini bus rather than a large coach so the size felt more intimate and after a few wines everyone was very friendly. The day started slowly getting out of peak hour traffic in San Francisco but we then got to enjoy the view from driving over the Golden Gate Bridge and stopping for a photo opportunity and toilet break on the Sausalito side.
From here it was on to Sonoma which is about a one hour drive. First stop was the Larson Family Winery a small, family-run winery tucked away down a little dirt road. The winery here feels like a family farm with pets lazing around and even featuring on the wine bottles. The wines here are more on the budget side (including one sold in a flagon) and while the tasting was fun I wasn’t inclined to buy any.
The next stop was Nicholson Ranch a boutique winery which produces amazing organic \wines. The tasting room is set on the side of a hill with stunning views over the rolling hills of the Sonoma and Carneros region. Tasting here included a walk through the vineyard where lots of the process of wine production and organic wines were discussed. I bought a bottle of the Pinot Noir here which was pricey but fabulous.
Lunch was at the Oxbow Public Market. Definitely worth a stop if you are in Napa there are lots of fabulous food stalls under one roof including Hog Island oysters, Casa Tacos and Three Twins ice-cream.
Our final stop was Jamieson Ranch Vineyards which is housed in an amazing log building complete with elk chandeliers. Here we got taken through the ageing and cellaring process including a wander through Jamieson Ranch’s lovely old oak barrels. The tour was well run although sometimes our guide’s knowledge was a little lacking (like when she told the tour corks were now no longer used in wine in Australia). I’d recommend Green Dream as a way to get a bit of a taste of the Napa and Sonoma regions although the tour just made me keen to come back and spend more time in the region.
Details: Green Dream Tours, San Francisco, United States.
Damage: Pricey. Tour costs $134 not including tip.
Gourmet Travel Tips
- I flew to San Francisco with Qantas via Sydney. Tickets are about $1,600 return.
- I stayed at the Westin St Francis on this trip. From $250 a night.
- Must dos include travelling on the cable cars, riding a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito and heading to Alcatraz. I’ve also done a hiking yoga tour and Avital food walking tours which were both great.
More Gourmet Chick San Francisco tips and reviews