California Trip Part 4 {Napa Valley}

I'm wrapping up the recap and highlights of our vacation today with our day trip up to Napa Valley and Sonoma! Thanks for sticking with me for the past few days and letting me relive our vacation from last week. I know it deviates from the normal kinds of posts around here!

When I was originally planning our trip to California, I had no idea we'd be so close to wine country while we were up in San Francisco. (California was pretty much a foreign land to me before this trip.) Once I figured that out, there was no doubt in my mind that we'd make the quick hour and a half drive up there for at least half a day. I mean, we'd already driven 400 miles from LA to SF, so what was an extra 60?

Napa Valley and Sonoma are probably two of the most famous wine-making areas in the world, and I've always wanted to experience them in person. I'd heard it was a beautiful area, but I had NO IDEA it would be covered - literally covered - in vineyards. For miles and miles all you see are the most gorgeous rolling, green hills packed with rows and rows of grape vines. It's an amazing sight.

{view from Artesa Vineyards and Winery}

There are well over 1000 vineyards in the surrounding area and many, many cute little towns, so how in the world does one choose where to go on a short visit?

Well, thanks to a review from Kate (Centsational Girl), who lives over in Northern California and takes frequent day trips to various parts of Wine Country, I knew I there was one famous little town I wanted to visit: Yountville.

Yep, I took a photo of the post office to mark our visit. I know, I know, I'm cool. You don't have to tell me twice. :)

Yountville was made famous by Thomas Keller, chef extraordinaire (of The French Laundry fame). If you're a foodie (which I am not), you're likely to have heard of it, and if you aren't, you may have still heard of it! Though we only had a chance to breeze through, it is a charming town, and I'd love to go back some day. I'll start saving my pennies now to eat at one of Keller's restaurants there :). Kate does a much better job describing this adorable little town and what to do there than I ever could, so if you want more info, read this post.

We also utilized the friendly visitor's information center in Yountville to try to decide what vineyards to visit in the area. That was when I learned that there are over 400 vineyards along just one short stretch of road heading north from Yountville. Uh, what? Craziness! I felt overwhelmed. We just wanted to taste a few wines and experience some of the natural beauty of that part of the country. How could we possibly choose just two or three?

{Gorgeous grapes. We were told the harvest is only about a week away!}

Oh, and around the same time, I discovered that 99% of the wine tastings aren't free - they aren't even cheap! A tasting alone (not even including a tour or anything) at some vineyards can cost you $20 a person. Ain't nobody got time money for that. At least not us :).

So what did I do? I turned to my trusty iPhone and found an app (Winery Finder and Tasting Pass) that offers free or two-for-one tastings at certain vineyards in exchange for sharing about them on social media. Call us cheap, but hey, if it's there, why not use it?

That's how we found all three of our stops for the day - starting with The Hess Collection. Tucked back in the mountains off of windy back roads, we felt like we had found some sort of secret hideaway. They have a charming little garden area (complete with koi pond), a large art gallery, and a tasting room that has the feel of an old wine cellar. Our favorite wines there was by far were their Cabernet Sauvignons. It sure was fun to be able to taste a $40+ bottles of wine for nearly nothing! We're typically more $10 and under bottles of wine people. Oops, am I not supposed to admit that? Oh well, secret's out!

The second vineyard we visited, Artesa Vineyards and Winery, had the most breathtaking views. It was stunning. The wines were ok (Hess was better in our opinion), again with the Cabernets being the winners, but it was worth the trip for the views alone. (Side note: the first Napa Valley photo at the top of this post is from Artesa.)

You can see for miles from their vantage point up at the top of the hill.

Our last stop was Schug Winery. This one had a small, family-owned vibe, and we loved the friendly, laid-back servers in the tasting room. I thought both their reds and whites were lovely.

After Schug, we headed back to San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge. We loved our time up in Napa and Sonoma, and will definitely be making another trip there at some point. I'd love to spend an entire week there for a fuller experience!

Have you been up to wine country? What was your favorite part? What would you recommend we do on our next trip?

That wraps up our trip to California! Hope you enjoyed reliving our trip with me. I'll be back tomorrow with some Lovely Links to kick off the weekend!

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