Wine & Travel

Snooth User: StepanieBK

Looking for Intimate Wine Tastings in California

Posted by StepanieBK, Sep 22, 2009.

I'm planning to travel to Cali and on this trip I'm not looking for the famous wineries that everyone knows about and is always jam packed with people and tourists. I want an intimate setting, something off the road, where I'll be given some attention and be able to chat and enjoy my wine instead of being rushed. Any good suggestions from those who have toured and tasted in California? I haven't planned exactly where in California I'm landing in, so any suggestions will do. My trip will be based around wine, rather than the other way around! Any and all recommendations are welcomed!



Reply by dmcker, Sep 22, 2009.

There are numerous options up and down California. Napa and Sonoma, of course, but Mendocino/Lake County a little bit to the north, Amador a ways to the east, Santa Cruz Mountains and Monterey a little bit south, Paso Robles further south, Santa Maria/Santa Ynez/Santa Barbara/Ojai yet further south and Temecula, etc. much further south near San Diego. A huge area to cover, and even one of them such as Napa or Sonoma has much more than you can digest in one or two trips.

So the first choice is which area you want to focus on. First time out, Napa or Sonoma seems like a logical starting point. Napa a little more polished and upscale, Sonoma a little more laid back and granola-y, though these are large generalizations and each winery is a little different. LOTS of great wine in both areas. If you want an intimate tasting, Swanson in Napa is one option. You might also look through two older threads on the Snooth Forum, one called 'Going to Napa' and the other 'Going to Sonoma'.

Reply by John Andrews, Sep 22, 2009.

@dmcker ... we prefer to call Sonoma a bit more bohemian or down to earth than 'granola-y' :-)

Reply by dmcker, Sep 23, 2009.

Yeah, John, you guys have gentrified a bit in recent years. Here you are worrying about your image, too--not the old Sonoma attitude any more! OK, I'll apologize since maybe I was a little rough and unfair--after all I didn't use the adjective 'slick' for Napa. ;-) And FYI I've personally spent a lot more time in Sonoma than in Napa....

Stepanie, I forget to mention that the way to find those two threads and others about the areas is to use the 'Search the Forum' box to the right of this thread.

Reply by Frisco Jack, Sep 23, 2009.

You didn't mention how long you were going to spend in wine country, which ever one you land in. Highway 12 in Sonoma County is turning into our 29 with lots of little tasting rooms along the way Little Vineyards right next door to BR Cohen is fun. Richard Little the proprietor, is usually there playing his guitar. I love going to Lorenzo Petroni's place. It is by appointment only and a little hard to find but his wines are fabulous and views and the terraced hillside vineyard are astonishingly beautiful. Carol Zahtilla over in Calistoga has a neat little place and Jessup Cellars right next door to the French Laundry has a very fun tasting room. That is four just off the top of my head. You might check with the Chamber of Commerce sites that refer to different wineries and events. With the crush currently winding down and fall here we have lots of fun things to do in wine country.

Reply by dmcker, Sep 23, 2009.

Good recommendations, FJ. And welcome to Snooth. Great to have someone experienced and on the ground there, since so many of us are sometime tourists in the area.

Reply by GregT, Sep 24, 2009.

If you don't go on a busy day like Friday, you can find an intimate setting in many places. And if you don't go to the tourist attractions like Mondavi, Coppola, BV, etc., you're better off. Go to Steltzner in Stags Leap - great wines, little-known, good. Or Monticello at the end of the road - they're friendly, you often find someone from the family pouring, and the wines are very nice. Smaller places are usually more "intimate" by definition. Foppiano, Limerick Lane and a few like that. Fife up in Mendocino. All nice places with nice people.

These are all open to the public so you don't have to plan and schedule, which I hate. If you don't mind that, you can call ahead and make appointments.

If you choose Sonoma over Napa, remember that the wineries are farther apart and you spend a lot more time driving. In Napa they're lined up like a strip mall, one after another. That's also another reason Napa is more crowded.

Reply by Frisco Jack, Sep 24, 2009.

Napa Strip mall! Don't let a Napa resident hear that. That is some very expensive real estate! Another great way to taste wine is many restaraunts have wine flights, it is a great way to taste a small amount of wines from different appelations with food.

Thanks for the welcome I am just figuring out how to use the site!

Don't forget Moon Mountain on the Sonoma side of the mountain great wines and fun! Greg T is right if you stay away from the big names with bus parking you should do fine, just do a little research, again the Chamber web sites are pretty good for information.

Reply by dmcker, Sep 24, 2009.

Hey, FJ, one of the great things about GregT is that he calls things as he sees them, and is usually spot on! :-)

Unfortunately it is increasingly necessary to do research ahead of time, and. yes, even make reservations for places you decide you really want to go to.

Reply by John Andrews, Sep 24, 2009.

I'm 'on the ground' in Sonoma at least 2 to 3 times a month. 12 is becoming a bit messy but never as bad as 29. Arnold drive is go for a back road path through the south end of Sonoma Valley and Warm Springs/Bennett Valley Rd is a good back (although much longer) around the north end.

@Stephanie, if you decide on Sonoma, let me know and I'll send you a bunch of recommendations.

Reply by MTB, Sep 25, 2009.

If you land in Napa, I recommend Kelham Vineyards - it was the highlight of my last trip to Napa.

Reply by mlthomas, Sep 26, 2009.

Try a tasting or pairing at Wrath...

Reply by wineclosetinc, Sep 26, 2009.

If you're looking for superb wine without the tourists and pretense of the Napa Valley you can't go wrong with the Central Coast. There are hundreds of wineries from Paso Robles to Santa Barbara, many of which are way off the beaten path, in little farmhouses and family owned and operated. A few favorite places to visit in Paso Robles are Booker, Caliza, Terry Hoage and Barrel 27. The newly opened Core wine tasting room is located in old town Orcutt, just South of Santa Maria, and is run by winemakers/owners Dave and Becky Corey themselves - a great place to unwind and enjoy conversation and wine! Further South you can cruise around beautiful Santa Ynez Valley and visit Beckmen winery which is a quaint little house-turned-wine tasting in a lovely setting surrounded by vines and a pond - a great place to picnic. The tiny town of Los Olivos has some terrific places to eat. Head towards Lompoc on the 154 and visit the gorgeous Mediterranean style winery of Melville who produces small batches of top notch Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Grenache from Estate grown fruit. Next door to them is Babcock who also makes some great tasting Pinot Noirs and Cabs - most of the fruit for these wineries is grown in the famous Santa Rita Hills area -ideal growing conditions for Pinot. There are even a few wine tasting rooms located in Santa Barbara, the best of which are Jaffurs and Whitcraft. These are my recommendations for now, please don't hesitate to contact me if you would like more detail Linda

Reply by dmcker, Sep 26, 2009.

Good recommendations, Linda. I see you're located in Camarillo (I grew up in Ventura/Santa Paula/Moorpark/Ojai/Oxnard/Santa Barbara). How's the wine business there these days?

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