Tips on Planning Your First Trip to Napa and Sonoma

Oh heeeey, summertime! I bet you were just as excited as I was when the season officially arrived. I love summer. It’s my favourite out of the four seasons. It is THE season for us winos, isn’t it? You don’t even need an excuse to drink. Hey, the sun’s out and it’s warm. Let’s have drinks on the patio!

Before summer came along, I visited the Okanagan and then Napa and Sonoma two weekends after. I loved both trips. I was completely in my element, tasting wines all day and thoroughly enjoying discussions with those who shared the passion and the history behind the winery and the regions.

Napa and Sonoma Valleys are neighbouring AVAs and although they’re right beside each other, their microclimates produce different wines. Indeed, you’ll find big bold Cabernet Sauvignons in Napa, while in Sonoma the Cabs there are softer.

I have three tips and insight you may want to consider if you plan on visiting.

Don’t try to see it all

There was a lot I could’ve done if I had more time, but I was only at each region for one day. It can be overwhelming. There’s lots to cover both geographically and  in wineries if you want to do it all (or a lot).


Map of Sonoma County & AVAs

Based on my travel experience (and I’ve done my fair share; it’s another passion of mine), the best thing to do is to pick a small area, slow down and enjoy.

Sonoma wineries and tasting rooms.

Impossible to go to all these tasting rooms, even if you are there for a few days.

Don’t confuse the county with the AVA

The WSET book doesn’t explain this very well, so I’ll make it clear here. County is the political and administrative division within a state. There’s Napa county ad there’s Sonoma county. But there’s also Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley AVA which lie within the respective counties along with other AVAs.

Napa is nice, but so is Sonoma for a fraction of the price.

You have to visit Napa though, especially if you love high quality Cabernet Sauvignon. Cab is king there. But because everyone knows about Napa, everyone goes there. It’s simply supply and demand.

Robert Mondavi

At the Robert Mondavi winery in Napa Valley. California’s wine was put on the map by this man.

Napa was more chic whereas I’d call Sonoma rustic. Way back in the day, tasting rooms in Napa used to be free, then they charged a small fee. Now, expect to pay at least $20 per person. There are also two tiered tastings offered. In Sonoma, tastings were $5-$10 per person and some were even free.

Are you headed to Napa and/or Sonoma? If you have any questions, please leave me a comment.

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