Napa or Sonoma?

Sonoma 2012-182Napa or Sonoma? That is the question.

If you are going on a wine-o weekend, stuff which do you choose? Inquiring minds. Well, remedy after umpteen trips to this wonderful Northern California region, I hope that I’ve got an informed wine-o-opinion.

First, let’s talk about Sonoma. Wineries here tend to be smaller, friendlier, and more intimate. Wine lovers like Ben from Deerfield Ranch will make you laugh while they pour, pour and pour. Then pour again if you show a flirty exhale when that red comes back around. People like Ben are just enthusiastic about their offerings. Ben said “this tastes like – a double rainbow, wrapped around a unicorn, deep-fried and cover in Sriracha” while he shared that expensive bottle of Pinot.

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It was a meaningful review. He kept up with our group, just fine.

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More Sonoma, the Doobie Brother’s manager owns this one. They do concerts on the property once a year and are well-loved by the community. Rightfully so, good people here.

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Smaller wineries are where you will find happiness in Sonoma. Buy a bottle while tasting and usually the tasting is free. Unlike Napa, where tasting centers have become a profit center for the wineries. This is key to remember when choosing between the valleys. Yes, you need to choose, the drive between the two is gnarly. Thanks JL.

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Take my advice, save your money for a driver.  It’s just plain smart, safe and sane.

Sonoma 2012-189Now Napa. The wineries are many. There are tours and tour buses and hordes making appointments for tastings. It can be overwhelming. Which one do you choose?

They are all amazing, just pick one. Promise, you can’t go wrong. I’ll share my absolute favorite. Duckhorn. Ask for Abbey. Two years in a row she has pampered our group. She makes me hold on tight to that Wine Club Membership. Just so I can visit her and she can bring me worldly cheese while I sip her Duckhorn pours. Good friends have been born.


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Something more to consider, in Napa the restaurants are numerous and committed to culinary excellence. French Laundry, Morimoto, Gott’s Roadside and the Kitchen Door are just to name a few. I was so impressed when we drove by Gott’s. The masses where in line to order their ahi tuna burger on a toasted egg bun. Memorial day weekend was huge for them. The line was too long for us to stop, Duckhorn was calling. All of these places have me coming back to the valley for good eats someday.

Final things to consider:

Navigating traffic – Traveling north on the Napa Highway 29, DANG. While navigating traffic in Sonoma Valley, EZPZ.

Hotels in Napa Valley, both big and boutique are fancy pants. Sonoma Valley, well, there are only a handful of places to stay. Otherwise go vacation rental by owner – VRBO.

Bottom line, both Napa or Sonoma are splendid, just in different ways.  Love me some Sonoma Russian River Valley wines. While in Napa, Carneros dirt?  I want to be buried in it.

Napa is to Paris as Sonoma is to New Orléans. Different, but both definitely should be on your bucket list. Each amazing, complete soul candy, just unlike.

We’ll round it out today with some snap shots from Memorial Day weekend. Here is what the Polaroid spit out while I was sober, kinda.

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On a last note, timing to choose Napa or Sonoma?  I’d recommend November. The October Harvest has ended, the wine-o’s have thinned, traffic is as light as it will ever be, and the rolling hills are green. The air is brisk, dress warmly.

Just book that trip friends.

See you there,







  1. I love both, and your points about both are excellent. Sounds like you’ve done plenty of time in both. Before I was married my parents took me up and we did two days in each valley. I think I gained 7 pounds in 4 days. It was wonderful and awful. 🙂 I did love the wine train- the food was really excellent and it was a neat way to see Napa without rushing around. Plus there were movie stars on the train, which was a nice bonus! Great post!
    Natalie recent posted..Nobody’s Perfect: Blogging!

    • Kathleen says

      Honey I think I gained 5 pounds in 3 days. Pasta with cream sauce with appetizers of cheese cheese cheese all day. No complaints.

      I wondered about that wine train. It looked super duper loaded when we drove by it. It made me castrophobic just looking at it. Perhaps in November when the crowds are gone, I should give it a go. 🙂

  2. I actually ADORE Sonoma. I love some of the wineries in Napa as well, but it’s pretty dang hoity toity for my taste. The favorites so far though are Cliff Lede, Silveroak, and Robert Sinskey… super expensive but gorgeous wines. Also can’t go wrong with Greystone at the CIA. I LOVE ME SOME CHEF.

    But really? Small and local is more my cup of tea. Sonoma square is adorable and very small town America. Hit a couple of local wineries (Bartholomew Park is a favorite) followed by lunch at Girl and Fig can’t be wrong! Next time you’re up here, let me know!! 🙂 Would LOVE to meet IRL.
    Ashley @ It’s Fitting recent posted..Good Enough to Eat : The Chicken Series – The Carnage | Or How to Make Chicken Stock

    • Kathleen says

      WHAT EXCELLENT SONOMA WINERIES. Next time be sure to hit Deerfield. Our server, Ben, was Andy Dick, but only better. Good golly I am having vacation withdrawls.

      Let’s save our coins and do French Laundry some time. Can’t wait.

  3. Definitely avoid the crush season. It’s a little crazy up there. Totally agree… November is the BEST time to go. I love the tree lined streets in Napa, but when I used to live in Marin, for practical reasons, I spent more time at the wineries in Sonoma. I found so many great little places there. Cakebread and Gloria Ferrer were two of my favorites.

    Several years ago, we ventured out to check out Sacramento’s Gold Country. There are some great wineries popping up out there. I think they’re keeping it a secret from all of us. LOL.

    PS: Beautiful images!
    Sugar Jones recent posted..Bye Bye, Bridge

    • Kathleen says

      SUGAR!!!!! Hiya honey.

      I did not know you were a fellow Northern Californian?

      Love the outer region wineries too. We ventured over to Sebastopol to have an extraordinary experience at the Scherre Winery. Fred Scherre is known as the Einstein wine-maker across the valley. He was an uber cool cat who taught us all about his blends.

      Your right, the tiny secret place are being kept secret for a reason. 😉

      Hope to see you soon toots. xoxo

  4. I was just thinking today that I need to start drinking for fun. I think I am going to head north and learn this type of fun from the pros. I’ll let you know my vote when I get back!
    Nicole recent posted..Sunglasses | Future’s So Bright

  5. I haven’t been to either Valley and would love to go! Maybe the husband and I will take a belated anniversary trip in November!
    Wendy recent posted..Blogging Conference Season | Are You Going?

    • Kathleen says

      Wait… what? GO GO GO. Do you need a tour guide? I would be more than happy to hold your hand and drink with you. 🙂

  6. I personally prefer Sonoma, I find it to be less snobby and like the options for foodies. It is also a green city, a slow city and less crowded than Napa.
    Andi recent posted..J’adore #38 (Home Edition)

    • Kathleen says

      Andi, you are so right. However, being a Wine-o, I love it all. But I do agree, Sonoma is charming. I will definitely be back. The other analogy I was going to use was an Avenger comparison. But it was over kill in the post. Just for you, because I know you will get it:

      Napa – Iron Man/Tony Stark
      Sonoma – Captain America


      Clinky – K

  7. I am more of a Napa girl…because of the Duckhorn wines, but did you get to Paraduxx? As much as I love the Duckhorn wines, the Paraduxx ones I really, really like. Very lovely, lovely blog…good, clean design. Glad my friend, Andi, above shared it.


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