Wine & Travel

Snooth User: Molly4006

Recommendations for Sonoma Newbie Solo Trip in August?

Posted by Molly4006, May 16, 2012.

Hi everyone,

I'm a newish lurker who jumped on a great fare to San Francisco from my little pocket of Missouri wine country near St. Louis in mid-August with the intent of visiting the Sonoma area as a solo traveler.  I will be arriving early afternoon on a Thursday and staying until early Monday morning.

As a solo female traveler and a red fan - Pinot Noirs esepcially - hoping to maximize my travel dollar, do some bicycling for fun, fitness, and the ability to imbibe just a bit, and experience a variety of wineries, I would be most grateful for recommendations, including:

  • Should I stay in Santa Rosa or Windsor?
  • What are not-to-miss wineries?
  • How much can I do from a bicycle as a moderately fit cyclist, i.e. how many days should I plan to use a bike? Do I need to rent a car, or could I use transit to Santa Rosa or Windsor and rely upon a bicycle for the relatively short period I'll be there?

I am a little embarrassed by the "novice-ness" of my questions but am most, most open to and grateful for guidance.

Thank you! Molly

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Replies

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Reply by dmcker, May 16, 2012.

Not at all 'novice' but very clear about your needs and desires and potential logistics, which is a very good thing. I have an idea or two but no time right now to spin them out. Think if outthere can weigh in he'll have some particularly good recommendations to make. Also think you should focus on one part of Sonoma since your time is limited and you want to be traveling by bike. Forget about covering all of it this time. I'm always a fan of covering less more deeply, anyway.

Are you only wanting to focus on pinot noir, or are you also interested in chards, syrahs and others? Outthere might bend your ear about some tasty roses right now, too...  ;-)

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Reply by Molly4006, May 16, 2012.

Hi dmcker, and thank you very kindly for your helpful response.  And I'm with you - I'd rather know fewer places well than feel far-flung and frazzled.  I have a tendency to re-visit favorite areas and explore them more deeply down the road.

And yes - I am so very, very open to the other varietals.  I would have been a little sniffy about roses...until the Anam Cara Pinot Noir Rose I tried last night locally.  Yum.  I'm still caught up in the rugged, jagged woodsiness of our local Nortons and Chambourcins, so more robust reds park well in my palate garage, but I'm enough of a newbie to know I'm not ready to have pre-conceived notions that would cost me trying, learning about, and maybe loving new things.

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Reply by Pyrifera, May 17, 2012.

Hi Molly.  You're probably looking at Russian River Valley if you're considering staying in Santa Rosa or Windsor.  You'd be closer to the wineries if you stay on the west sides of those towns.  I'd suggest looking at wineroad.com for some ideas of wineries and travel routes within Russian River Valley.  They also produce a free map of the area with wineries and lodging locations, which they may have available on their website.  I'd suggest Porter Creek, DeLoach, and Merry Edwards in Russian River for pinot noirs.  Also, Iron Horse has fantastic views and some very good sparkling wines. 

Beyond pinot noir (or at least for greater varietal variety), I would suggest Sonoma Valley in the south of the county.  Arrowood (great view) and B.R. Cohn have some good wines.  Also, it's a little out of the way, but Wellington has some really deep, ripe wines and some interesting variety.  Mayo Family Winery is another producer of deep, rich wines, and uses some uncommon grape varieties.  (Also, they are friendly and quite generous with the tastings.)  Sonomavalley.com is a visitor bureau website with some helpful winery information.

I've never biked through wine country, though it sounds wonderful.  I'm suspecting that a rental car would be helpful for at least part of the time, particularly if you're planning to try more than one area. 

In any event, I hope you have a great trip!

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Reply by EMark, May 17, 2012.

Molly, the current issue of Wine Spectator has a feature article on touring Sonoma.  Personal recommendations from Snoothers are the always reliable, but you might also get some ideas--wineries, inns, restauarants--from the article.

Have fun and please come back to us after your trip and tell about it.

 

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Reply by outthere, May 17, 2012.

Molly, props to you for taking on an adventure such as this one solo. Budget is everything when it comes to where to stay. Plenty of cheap digs in Santa Rosa but you are seriously probably a 5+ mile ride to the edge of the West County wineries. If you stay closer to the wineries the cost of accomodations rises dramatically.

If you were to stay here for example you could bike up Piner Rd to Olivet Lane where you will find the likes of DeLoach, Hook and Ladder, Sunce, Harvest Moon, Pellegrini among others.

Staying in Windsor may make it a bit more centralized for you as there are many spots to stop on the Old Redwood Hwy, Eastside Rd and Westside Rd loop which are a bit more accessible from that part of the county. Still a heck of a ride, close ot a 20 mile loop. Extremely popular with bicyclists and loaded with world class wineries. I'm not real sure on affordable accomodations there but could ask around as I travel Southern Healdsburg and Windsor tomorrow in my sales route.

When I know more about your intentions I could help hone down the search for you.

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Reply by Molly4006, May 17, 2012.

Gosh, you guys are great.  I am so appreciative and am incorporating all these suggestions into my planning.

I found a great host in Windsor via Airbnb, and it looks like a real possibility - and an economical one - for lodging.  I plan to rent a car and either buy a Craigslist bike or rent one.  Twenty miles of cycling in a day is probably doable but on the outer edge of what I would want to do in mid-August.  I surmise it will be a little harder than my spinning workouts...in an air-conditioned gym...with TVs and fans all around. :)

I'll arrive at SFO around noon on a Thursday and will depart the area to return to San Fran on Sunday, so I'll have two solid and two half-days.

I am so excited for this trip.  Expectations are high for this post-divorce, pre-birthday, coming-from-Missouri-wine country trip, and you all are most, most helpful!

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Reply by outthere, May 17, 2012.

 Twenty miles of cycling in a day is probably doable but on the outer edge of what I would want to do in mid-August.  I surmise it will be a little harder than my spinning workouts...in an air-conditioned gym...with TVs and fans all around.

In that case the location of your accdomodations is critical to your itineraryif you plan on biking from spot to spot. If you take Old Redwood Hwy north you can stop at J Vineyards and Rodney Strong on the same property, then hit Foppiano and Acorn up the road. A couple miles further up is downtown Healdsburg where you have tasting rooms galore. Seghesio, Road House, Holdredge, Sapphire Hill, Wilson, Topel, KJ, Toad Hollow, Thumbprint etc...

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Reply by Molly4006, May 18, 2012.

Thank you so much.

I just discovered a great perk of my Chase Visa...complimentary tastings and discounts at many of the Sonoma area wineries!  Yay!

 

http://www.sonomawine.com/visa-signature-perks/vs-winery-guide

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Reply by dmcker, May 18, 2012.

Definitely stay in Windsor rather than Santa Rosa, is one thing I was going to say in my last post, but others have already chimed in. Santa Rosa is a bit sprawling, and has too many other focii than wine (and food), which are I belive the aim of this trip. Windsor is a bit more cozy and focused in that direction.

For me, though, and especially if I wanted to cycle around, I'd decide first which wineries I wanted to visit, then hunt accommodations in a convenient, cozy location.

Cost is always a factor in our decisions, but I'd also personally use up all of outthere's reccs on places to visit long before i fell back on Visa's business needs. Of course if there's any overlap....

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Reply by Molly4006, May 18, 2012.

Windsor - along the western edge - is the winner for lodging.  it looks as though the biking is a real possibility for outthere's recommendations.  And while the tasting costs are a drop in the bucket in the sense that I don't want to skimp on quality of wines and experiences after traveling some 2500 miles, but happily, virtually all outthere's recommendations are in the Visa program, including some of the reserve and estate tastings.

Do most out-of-towners ship their selections home or pay for an additional checked bag?

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Reply by dmcker, May 18, 2012.

I'd do both, though that's because I like to buy wine.  ;-)  Shipping would be my default, and check-in depending on circumstances (wanting wine immediately, weather dodginess, problems with shipping the wine, etc.).

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Reply by outthere, May 18, 2012.

You can do it either way. It costs about the same to check a case of wine as it does to ship but on the plane you will need one of these or the wine will be destroyed. Plus shipping during the summer is sketchy because hot weather can ruin your wine during a long ground shipment.

We can really hone in the tastings when I get a good feel for your palate. There are good wineries and there are great wineries. Might as well get the best for your time based on where your tastes lie.

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Reply by dmcker, May 18, 2012.

That WineCheck really is a light, low-cost alternative to others I've dealt with in the past...   :-)

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Reply by JonDerry, May 19, 2012.

Don't you love airbn'b? My wife and I have a guest right now, nice guy from France who has a girlfriend here in Marina Del Rey.

Sounds like a fun trip, I've been meaning to tour Sonoma for a while now, but I hear great things about that area, and Healdsburg from the residents here. Look forward to your trip notes. A 99' Rodney Strong cabernet was the first wine I remember tasting when young that got me interested in wine to begin with.

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Reply by EMark, May 19, 2012.

I may be missing something, here, Molly, but if you are going to be biking to winery tasting rooms, and you do want to buy some wines, do you really want to bike your purchases back to your lodging?  I guess you could bike to the wineries, see what you like and, later, drive back and make purchases.  I would avail myself of any wineries' shipping offer.

Also, however, do make sure that it is legal for them to ship to your state.

Somewhat interesting story.  A few years ago I stopped at a Central Coast winery and asked if they could ship to Michigan.  They said yes and I sent some wine to a colleague back there.  Less than a year later I was at a winery in Napa Valley.  Right on the counter was a tent showing which states they shipped to.  Interestingly enough, Michigan was not listed.  I asked the tasting room fellow about Michigan, and he said if it's not on the list, then they can't ship to it.  I told him about my previous experience with the Central Coast winery, and he suggested that occassionally smaller wineries will "bend the law" and hope they don't get caught.  However, the larger wineries have to be more careful because they are under much closer scrutiny.

I can't say how accurate his logic was.  All I can say is that the wine transportation laws in the U.S. are ridiculous--a sentiment with which I know many on this board will agree.

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Reply by dmcker, May 19, 2012.

Jon: AirBnB is a great concept, but still a bit hit 'n miss on the ground. This coming from someone in the industry. For every two or three 'great' stories there are one 'ehhhh', and one quasi-disaster. Assume they'll be working to iron out the real-world wrinkles.

Also wonder how the IRS is going to start auditing. Imagine they may already have someone writing scripts to do so. A lot easier to throw light on this type of digital transaction than blackmarket plumbing services.

Mark: Yes, well absurd. Too many lobbyists in D.C. (and too many legislators who have forgotten if they ever knew how real people live and think, and talk too much to those lobbyists) is the only conclusion. How to grow a consumer revolt?  ;-)

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Reply by JonDerry, May 20, 2012.

Agreed D, it's a far superior concept than say, to Groupon. Point taken about the situations that inevitably arise, I was a bit skeptical at first but went ahead and let my wife take in some requests. Has gone well here at 3/3, and maybe we'll just quit while ahead. With the baby on the way we won't be able to use the room much longer anyway.

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Reply by Molly4006, May 21, 2012.

I definitely had some reservations, but this particular couple/property came with universally glowing recommendations, and their communication has been fantastic thus far.  I guess I'm a bit of the Midwestern optimistic when it comes to these things...a little circumspect but always hopeful if not expecting the people and situation to be good.

I wondered about the wine/bike/carrying bottles/getting them to Missouri.  I don't plan on buying a great deal, and most of the rental bikes come with baskets.  I will also have the rental car and, if I find myself getting a bit carried away with the purchases, could go back with the car and wrangle the goodies.

Missouri is a legal ship-to albeit Tier 3 state. The WineCheck looks great...thank you.  I had never heard of it before.

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Reply by outthere, May 22, 2012.

We can really hone in the tastings when I get a good feel for your palate.

OK Molly, what are the dates? I'll check the local event calendar and see what might be happening while you are here.

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Reply by Molly4006, May 22, 2012.

I'm still trying and learning, so forgive me my elementary knowledge and descriptions, but I'm partial to dry reds and so, far, the buttery Pinot Noirs, well-bodied Zins and Cabernets, Merlots, and some red blends. On a hot Missouri day, I like Grenache with BBQ. I drink Pinot Noir often with my favorite dish - salmon - and, admittedly, rather like the unique woodsiness of the good Missouri Nortons and some Chambourcins. And I just recently had my first Super Tuscan and first Cotes du Rhone and really enjoyed both. 

And I'll be there Thursday, August 16th in mid-afternoon and will head back to SF sometime later on Sunday to make an early Monday flight.

and you have all been so kind and helpful - thank you. 

 

 

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