Hey, hey, friends. It’s been a while! Between the holidays, new year, and preparing to finally go on our honeymoon, life’s been moving fast. Two weeks ago, we were in Northern California to celebrate our marriage and sample a lot of wine on our honeymoon, and it was the most incredible trip. If you’re traveling to wine country anytime soon, I have tons of recommendations for you that we wanted to share!
Luckily, John’s parents are wine lovers and have traveled to the area a few times, so they had a lot of knowledge and know-how to share with us. For example, I figured we would be staying in the towns of Napa and Sonoma, since we were going to…Napa and Sonoma.
Instead, we learned it’s better to stay in Healdsburg, a sweet and small town IN Sonoma County, and Yountville, another charming town IN Napa Valley. We went through/by the bigger towns of Napa and Sonoma during our travels and realized that the quainter towns were better suited for a vacation experience. I would’ve never known this without their expertise!
January is the slow season for these areas, but we absolutely LOVED the experience of going at this time of year. There was some rain during the trip, but overall, temps were in the 50s-60s during the day and a bit chillier at night. I expected all plant life to be dead, thinking Northern California is freezing in January, but just the vines were dormant! Much of the other plant life and farms and gardens were alive and thriving and gorgeous.
At many of our tastings, we were the only people there or two of just a handful. So, we got a lot more in-depth stories and information about the properties and wines because we went during this quieter time of year. It felt so special and personal, and I honestly think I’d really dislike going when it’s crowded and busy!
We flew into Oakland and rented a car before driving to Healdsburg for our first three nights. The drive is a couple of hours, so we broke it up by stopping at Scribe Winery an hour into the trip to have our first wine tasting. It was absolutely amazing; we sat outside on the patio facing the vineyards for our tasting that was paired with food, much of which came from the gardens on the property. Scribe was one of my favorite wineries of the whole trip. The old Spanish-style hacienda and the entire setting is just stunning — even in winter!
In Healdsburg, we stayed directly on the square at a small, 12-room hotel called Healdsburg Inn. It was super old school with real keys for the rooms, and everything was grandly decorated. (My in-laws recommended all of the lodging for our trip and absolutely nailed it with each stay.) This hotel was great because we could walk to any restaurant in town and several tasting rooms, too. They also provided a free and incredible breakfast every morning and a wine and cheese pairing each afternoon!
The highlights of Healdsburg included:
After our three nights in Healdsburg, we drove to the coast to spend two nights at the newly renovated Timber Cove Resort, which HOLY moly is the cutest and coolest hotel ever. We were there during a very slow time and hardly saw any other guests during our stay, but it was also storming like crazy. Most rooms face cliffs that overlook the Pacific Ocean. The decor is retro-chic, and each room has a record player that we loved and used every day.
The onsite restaurant, Coast Kitchen, was SO GOOD. We ate there for several meals because there really wasn’t much else close to us (and I didn’t want to drive anywhere along the cliffs while it was down-pouring). Our favorites were the fried squash (which we had twice), the bloody Mary (best I’ve ever had), and the filet mignon…obviously amazing. We were essentially rained-in for the two nights, but between games in the lodge, a little bit of hiking when it was dry enough, working out, eating a lot, and just relaxing in this cute place, we were just fine to hang there.
We drove to Yountville in Napa Valley on Thursday and stopped for lunch at Gott’s Roadside, a famous burger place. It definitely lived up to the hype, and I’m not even much of a burger person. We stayed at Hotel Villagio in Yountville, another insanely gorgeous place. The decor was everything my heart desires: natural woods, cool light fixtures, rustic-modern furniture, all the beiges and grays and whites… I was in love. Plus, they also had an enormous, free breakfast every morning. Want bagels, charcuterie, eggs, fruits, pastries, housemade granola, and more? THEY GOT YOU.
Our favorite stops during the Napa portion of our trip were:
Overall, we tended to enjoy the smaller operations for tastings and tours. We went to Sterling and Peju, two larger ones in Napa, and personally I wouldn’t go back to either. They were over-crowded and impersonal, even during the off-season. Find the quaint, family-owned places and plan ahead with a few reservations. We normally had one reservation for a tasting a day when we were in Napa and Sonoma, and then we’d wing it with the rest.
Get recommendations from locals, and try places you’ve never heard of before. You almost can’t go wrong with any of the food in either place, but the restaurants I listed here are just amazing. We ate GOOD the whole week. Others that we would like to try and have heard good things about are Mustard’s Grill (St. Helena, close to Yountville), Bistro Jeanty (Yountville), Ad Hoc (Yountville), La Calenda (Yountville), Campo Fina (Healdsburg), and Barndiva (Healdsburg).
Let me know your favorite places in Napa and Sonoma! I already can’t WAIT to go back and revisit our favorite places and try even more!