If you’re a wine lover, Napa is the ultimate California destination. Where else can you view the very grapes that go into famous labels like Chandon, Beringer, and Mondavi, or sample the newest vintages straight from the barrel? With 400 plus wineries to visit (most of them family owned, all with distinctive personalities), you’re sure to discover new favorites — and our expert concierge can help craft a custom itinerary based on your personal palate. Even if you’re not a wine fan, a Napa trip is still a fabulous way to spend the day: the rolling hills and immaculately manicured estates offer a relaxing respite from the bustle of the city. And though it’s only a short drive from San Francisco, getting there can be half the fun – cruise across the Golden Gate Bridge and enjoy hiking, shopping, dining, or sightseeing along the way.
Getting There: Making the Journey
Looking for a hassle-free way to experience the best of wine country? Kimpton Sir Francis Drake Hotel partners with boutique tour companies to escort you to top wineries, offering insight and historical context along the way. Whether you want a leisurely lunch or multiple tasting opportunities, talk to the concierge to learn which tour best suits your needs.
If you prefer a more intimate experience, the concierge can arrange a limo or town car to take you on a custom itinerary based on your favorite wines. Love Pinots? Crazy for Cabernets? The concierge will work with you to ensure your personalized route lets you sample Napa’s best examples of your preferred varietal.
If you’re planning to make the picturesque journey on your own, the concierge can book your rental car for the day. The hour-and-a-half drive offers many tempting detours (stop by Jack London State Historic Park to visit the famed author’s former home or grab a burger and fries at In-N-Out). Chart your own path and make a full day of it.
For a retro-chic experience, opt to explore Napa by train. Ride antique Pullman railcars on a vintage rail line with the Napa Valley Wine Train. Be transported to a moment in time when train travel was the height of elegance as you dine in style and sip wine, gazing out at miles of grapevines and rolling hills.
Know Before You Go
Dress in layers. While it’s not too far away, Napa can be surprisingly breezy (or blazing hot) in comparison to the city. Sunscreen is also a must. Many wineries have expansive gardens to explore, and you’ll want to snap some pictures of grapevines, so don’t forget your camera.
Be prepared to pay to sip. Nearly all wineries charge a tasting fee, typically from $5 to $25, but they’ll often waive the fee if you buy a bottle or two.
Call in advance to avoid disappointment. At some of the more boutique wineries reservations are a must. The same is typically true for cave or cellar tours. If you’re traveling with a large group, making a quick call to confirm availability is never a bad idea.
Plan a picnic. When the weather’s nice, there’s no better way to spend a day in the Bay Area. Many wineries have ample picnic areas where you can lounge for hours (with the purchase of a bottle). Stroll down to Trader Joe’s (just a few blocks from the hotel) to stock up on supplies, then enjoy snacking and sipping in the Napa sun.
Take It From Us
If you’re driving to Napa, consider hitting the road early and making a day of it. Before you leave the city, stop at the Golden Gate Bridge and take some pictures, or even walk across. (Spoiler alert: It will most certainly be windy.) Want the city skyline in your bridge shots? Stop at the Marin Headlands for a gorgeous view and great hiking options.
Just across the bay, Sausalito’s the perfect place to take in city views and stroll through a quaint downtown. (It’s where Otis Redding penned “Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay,” so it’s got to be pretty chill.) Pick up one of the unique sandwiches at the popular Davey Jones Deli for your winery picnic.
Feeling energetic? Stop by Muir Woods for a hike among majestic redwoods. Go early to maximize your parking luck; it’s a super popular spot — and for good reason: the lush, stately trees transport you to another world.
Consider Sonoma. Think of Sonoma as Napa’s hip little sister. With a great variety of smaller wineries and a happening town square with highly rated restaurants (The Girl and the Fig is a favorite), Sonoma is not only a shorter drive, but it can also be less crowded during peak times and is certainly no less fun.
If you’re in need of relaxation, consider heading a bit further north to Calistoga, a spa town famous for its hot springs and mud baths. Whether you find your bliss poolside at the historic Indian Springs Resort or with the three-step detoxifying mud bath at Golden Haven Hot Springs, you’ll drive home perfectly refreshed.