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Sonoma town: base for 4 days in Napa/Sonoma/Russian River?

Boston...
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Sonoma town: base for 4 days in Napa/Sonoma/Russian River?

Hi, the topic kind of says it all, but let me add a little more background.

I've been to the Napa/Sonoma region once before, as part of a Backroads trip. My wife has never been and is really into wine.

I think my perception of relative distances might be distorted, because I was on a bike all day, and then shuttled to a new hotel almost every day via van. However, it seemed to me that Sonoma town might make a good central location to go to visiting other places.

I probably wouldn't even list the Russian River Valley, but that was, to me, the most amazing scenery I encountered, and want to go back. Probably check out the redwoods. Other than that, this trip is about wine and food.

So, do you think Sonoma town would be a good base? I'm also considering doing two nights somewhere in Sonoma and two in Napa, but it would be nice to just stay in one spot. I also liked Calistoga, but unsure about driving distances from there.

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1. Re: Sonoma town: base for 4 days in Napa/Sonoma/Russian River?

It would be an excellent base.

A day trip to the Russian River area, to include Armstrong Redwoods Nature Preserve, and even Bodega Bay is an easy trip. Healdsburg is also within this area. Armstrong Grove is about 44 miles from Sonoma. Healdsburg is northeast of there, 17 miles, and Bodega Bay is 12 miles west of there to the coast and 10 miles driving south on the coast.

Sonoma is near the southern end of the Sonoma Valley, so you can visit the many vineyards and wineries along its 18 mile scenic length. There are fewer and smaller towns than in the Napa Valley and the wineries are more spread out.

One of the nice villages to visit, which is a short detour off the main Highway (12), is Glen Ellen. The Benziger Winery here gives interesting tram tours of its biodynamic, sustainable vineyards.

Also here is Jack London State Park, with his grave, library, and the ruins of his "Wolf House", the dream house which burned to the ground just before it was finished.

There are also miles of hiking trails and good spots for a picnic, which can be picked up at the market in Glen Ellen.

The town of Sonoma, also, is only 14 miles from the town of Napa if you should feel like popping over there, without changing hotels.

Calistoga is at the northern end of the Napa Valley, about 29 miles north of Napa. You can get back to the Sonoma Valley from here, but the drive involves some narrow twisty roads to get over the mountain.

If you should decide to stay in the town of Sonoma, it is nice to be within walking distance of the historic Plaza and the excellent restaurants around it, and the boutiques housed in historic adobe buildings and the cheese factory with its cheese samplings and deli.

I will give you three websites.

The El Dorado Hotel is a restored and modernized historic one just across the street from the Plaza. There are two rooms on the second floor with large "porches" facing the pretty Plaza. It has a very nice restaurant, strangely called "The El Dorado Kitchen" which includes outside patio seating.

http://www.eldoradosonoma.com/

The Inn at Sonoma is a newer Three Sisters property just about a block from the Plaza.

http://innatsonoma.com/

MacArthur Place and Spa is the historic former summer estate of a San Francisco newspaperman, who had some acreage and also raised trotting horses as a hobby. The barn is now a restaurant, aptly called "Saddles". The manor house is still there. I am not sure whether it is used for lodging, but newer lodgings were added to the property when it became a "hotel". There is a pool.

http://www.macarthurplace.com/

There are several good wineries a short drive from town and you can actually walk from the Plaza to Sebastiani, through a residential area which was once "company housing" for the wine workers. These were typical 'bungalow' architecture, all alike, circa 1930's. They have all been remodeled, added to, modernized so that you might not recognize their origins. It is a very pleasant walk. I believe the trees on the street are still olive trees.

There are also several tasting rooms right on the Plaza.

On Old Winery Road, a mile or so from the Plaza, there is a charming small stone winery under oak trees on the property where the Hungarian, Agostin Harasthy, brought the first wine grape cuttings to California from France, in the mid 1800's,thus starting the whole thing.

It is Buena Vista, not known necessarily for premium wines, but I often stop and get a bottle of the "Green Hungarian" blend :~) I believe there is a kind of 'history board' posted outside. The last time I was there, they had an elderly guide to explain it all.

I think you would do well to base yourself in Sonoma town. From there you can get easily anywhere in the Napa and Sonoma County areas.

My expertise is not wine, just the area, so I hope that others will describe the wineries to you. I only know the names, and they have changed since I lived in Sonoma.

Also, the restaurants around and near the Plaza..

El Dorado Kitchen, already mentioned, The Girl and the Fig, across the street from there, Della Santini, Cafe La Haye, Estate.....etc.

Have a wonderful trip and please do a trip report when you return.

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2. Re: Sonoma town: base for 4 days in Napa/Sonoma/Russian River?

We loved our time in Healdsburg last March, we stayed at the Inn @ the Plaza. We have also enjoyd the Hotel Healdsburg in this area. Cyrus, one of the best restaurants in the wine country is walking distance from both of these places. We have been 3 times to Cyrus, if you're a foodie you must try it! :)

Boston...
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3. Re: Sonoma town: base for 4 days in Napa/Sonoma/Russian River?

Healdsburg was another town I was considering. My recollection of it from my very brief time there was that it was more like a quaint small "city", than a "town" like Sonoma, if that makes sense. Or maybe not. I wasn't in either spot very long (though I did have dinner in Sonoma). I mean, I think that would probably be a good place to stay as well, I just want something a little more "country" without being completely out in the middle of a vineyard or whatever.

Puter, excellent information. Thanks.

Santa Cruz...
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4. Re: Sonoma town: base for 4 days in Napa/Sonoma/Russian River?

Sonoma and Healdsburg are similar in that they both have a central square. I wouldn't call one more a "city" than another, necessarily. Healdsburg is located on the Hwy 101 corridor, and Sonoma is in its own valley.

I do think that you could enjoy both Healdsburg and Napa and the Redwoods by staying in Sonoma for a base.

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5. Re: Sonoma town: base for 4 days in Napa/Sonoma/Russian River?

Calistoga is very relaxed and has a country feel to it, it's a cool little community. The Indian Springs Resort is the place to check out there. :)

oregon
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6. Re: Sonoma town: base for 4 days in Napa/Sonoma/Russian River?

So, Rantipole, you are one lucky duck to get 4 whole days in wine country!

So, this trip is mainly for the food and wine- ok, got that. You like Russian River Valley- got that and ditto your feeling. Looking for central location to tasting venues- got that.

You're thinking Sonoma town, and I love that place, but quite honestly I think I disagree on it as a central location for wine tasting adventures. It does have good places to eat, and several nice lodging options and a quaint atmosphere which is very nice for keeping things in "relaxed mode", and there are lots of very nice wineries in close proximity, but its a bit of a drive to get out from Sonoma to explore the rest of the county..its around 40 miles from Sonoma to Healdsburg, to give you an idea.

Had you given any thought to staying in Santa Rosa, or thereabouts? It is the county seat so its a regular city, which may be too "urban" for what you have in mind, but it offers a lot in the way of dining options and activities that aren't wine-driven. And its more 'central' to the area which would give you more time for exploring everyday. Also, since you like the Russian River area, take a look at www.russianrivertravel.com, and see if something jumps out at you as a good lodging place. It covers Alexander Valley and Dry Creek as well.

About Calistoga- I just found a chart with driving distances and this is interesting to me...From Calistoga to Healsburg=26 mi, to Santa Rosa=21mi, and to Sonoma=39 mi! Hmm...that also gets you in the Napa region...

Since we haven't been there, I didn't know about Calistoga, but maybe that would be even better...

www.winecountrythisweek.com is the online site for the publication that had the chart- maybe you should check it out, too.

Let us know what you decide and please write a trip report when you get back.

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7. Re: Sonoma town: base for 4 days in Napa/Sonoma/Russian River?

I cannot agree with the idea of staying in Santa Rosa. If I want to be in the wine country I do not want to be in the county seat of Sonoma County, in the middle of the city.

It is 37 miles from Sonoma to Healdsburg, about 40 from Sonoma to Guerneville and Armstrong Redwoods.

If you stay in Santa Rosa, you are 20 miles closer to those destinations, but 20 miles further from Napa.

oregon
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8. Re: Sonoma town: base for 4 days in Napa/Sonoma/Russian River?

Point made Puter- it was just the opportunity to give Rantipole some other options to consider. Its true that Santa Rosa is a city, but not everyone is opposed to the conveniences offered in a more urban situation when they visit the area. It is also true that the Santa Rosa area meets the criteria of being close to Russian River environs, the redwoods, and offers a significant number of choices for food and wine experiences.

And, as you well know, there are other small towns near Santa Rosa which might appeal to our friend, such as Windsor or Sebastopol, that he might not know about unless he was looking at options other than the town of Sonoma.

I think that it is important that people who ask questions on the forums recieve a broad range of answers so that they can make well informed decisions about their vacations. Its quite possible that Rantipole will not be interested in what I have to offer, and that's just fine with me; I'm not trying to argue with anyone else or debate their opinions, I'm just offering another point of view

for him to consider. The forums aren't supposed to be a contest about who knows more or who is the best advice giver, the point is to help people get information to make the best choices for their vacation.

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9. Re: Sonoma town: base for 4 days in Napa/Sonoma/Russian River?

>>The forums aren't supposed to be a contest about who knows more or who is the best advice giver, the point is to help people get information to make the best choices for their vacation.<<

Of course, but the information can be disputed from one poster to another if the second one has more knowledge of the area. Right? I just dispute your idea of a wine enthusiast basing himself in Santa Rosa.

oregon
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10. Re: Sonoma town: base for 4 days in Napa/Sonoma/Russian River?

Yes, Puter, you are certainly entitled to your opinion.