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Basic differences between Napa and Sonoma

New Orleans...
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Basic differences between Napa and Sonoma

Hi! I'm planning a SF/Napa trip in May and wondered what the differences were, in general, between Sonoma and Napa. I know Sonoma is less busy/crowded, but I would prefer to experience both areas. Should I allow more time for Napa vs. Sonoma, etc?

Thanks for any help! I truly appreciate it.

San Francisco, CA
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1. Re: Basic differences between Napa and Sonoma

How much time are you planning now? Have you been to Napa or Sonoma before? Are you really into wine? Let me know and then I can better address you questions.

Fremont, California
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2. Re: Basic differences between Napa and Sonoma

Either is quite fun...

1) Sonoma and Healdsburg area - The main difference is that you will find some enchanting outdoor areas to walk, explore, enjoy such as Armstrong Redwoods State Park, Sonoma Beaches (spectacular), cute little stores and wineres (easy to get in and get out.....and a little more friendly.) The town squares in both Healdsburg (Trendy) an d Sonoma (cheese company is spectacular) are quite fun to visit. I really like the wine tour at Benzinger.

2) Napa - This is a very pretty valley too....it has more "barrel" tasting tours (Del Dotto or Pine Ridge is good), more events (see Napa events); cave tours (Jarvis was interesting...), and more fancy restaurants to enjoy. V. Sattui for a picnic lunch in the summer (Crowded but fun) is also nice.

In allowing time - if you are there mainly for wineries, then I'd spend more time in Napa. If you are there to see both the California scenry (Oceans, redwoods, etc.), then I'd split the time 50-50 (note: I don't know how much time you have and that will help.)

If you want to do Napa and Sonoma stay closer to Napa city so you can drive to either easily......

Its really a fun area to visit.......and regardless of where you spend time, you'll enjoy it. Have fun planning!

New Orleans...
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3. Re: Basic differences between Napa and Sonoma

mini - thank you so much!

Paul - I have never been to either before, and I am very much into wine - especially (almost exclusively) reds. I was planning to spend about 2 days for Napa and maybe 1 for Sonoma, but could expand it to 2 and 2. Thanks for writing back - also, thanks for your guide! I received it via email the other day - I haven't had time to read the whole thing yet, but I can tell that it is going to be a wonderful resource. Thanks again!

Napa
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4. Re: Basic differences between Napa and Sonoma

Hello, I live in Napa Valley and visit the Russian River and the Sonoma areas. The Sonoma area is a bit more laid back and they do have better signage (at least in some areas).

I suggest you plan your tastings. Many wineries are by appointmently only. Consider using a limo tour. That way you can sit back and not worry about getting to the next winery. You can spend a lot of time trying to find some of the more out of the way locations. And the area you are considering is fairly large and is not designed for high speed transit.

I would further recommend limiting the number of tastings to no more than 5 wineries a day. Most open at 10 AM and some close as early as 4PM. This because of "taste bud fatigue" as much as for time constrictions.

For winery listings I can recommend a web site, Insidenapavalley.com.

New Orleans...
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5. Re: Basic differences between Napa and Sonoma

Raven - thank you so much!! That helps a lot. I am starting with absolute zero knowledge of napa and sonoma. Thanks again!

San Francisco, CA
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6. Re: Basic differences between Napa and Sonoma

If you have never been to either and would like to do so, I would reccommend staying in one place and visiting both areas since they are not that far from each other.

If you stay in Napa Valley, perhaps find a place near St. Helena or Calistoga which are towns located at the northern half of the valley. Spend a couple of days in Napa tasting, eating etc...Then spend one day and drive north past the town of Calistoga and take Hwy 128 into the town of Healdsburg which is located in Sonoma County. Great town and lots of wonderful wineries near town in Russian River and Dry Creek. This will give you a taste for both areas and a great time. If have more time time, certainly not a bad idea to spend two nights in either location but up to you depending on how much time you will have.

Lastly, some wineries do require appointments but 80% do not. Go online and if there is a place that requires an appt. than feel welcome to do so but don't let that worry you. Try to book those a day in advance but cancel if you decide not to go. Newton is a place that does and it is wonderful!

Have fun!