If you’re like me, upon hearing “wine country” you start envisioning idyllic wineries in a hard to reach locale – a once in a lifetime destination, if you will. It turns out only part of that is true. I just returned from my bachelorette trip with my sister and can report that the wineries were definitely idyllic, but getting there was not so difficult after all.
Oh, and did I mention that wine country is a perfect place to vacation while social distancing? Below is our four day itinerary for wine country and San Francisco.
My sister, Holly, and I started the trip by flying into the San Francisco International Airport from our respective cities. I had no idea how fabulous this airport is – what a great start to the trip! We hopped on the AirTran to go to the car rental center, picked up our rental car, and we were off. Getting a rental car was super easy, and a definite must if you’re going up to wine country.
About 20 minutes into our drive north, we came upon the Golden Gate Bridge – a first for both of us.
Once across the bridge, we were in need of a snack, so we stopped in the very cute town of Mill Valley. We spotted Joe’s Taco Lounge and ordered tacos, chips & guac, and margaritas. Because of the Covid restrictions in California you’re only allowed to dine outside, so we found a spot right outside the restaurant and had a delicious lunch in the sun.
Next up, we wanted to get our toes in the sand before heading to our hotel, so we drove on the panoramic highway through Muir Woods to Stinson Beach. It was a beautiful 20 minute drive, though very winding before opening up to the beach.
Now it was time to head to wine country. We drove about an hour inland to Sonoma, where we checked into the uber cute Inn at Sonoma.
This Four Sisters property was an excellent place to base ourselves in Sonoma. It’s centrally located just two blocks from the Sonoma Plaza, and features several fun amenities like breakfast for two, a daily wine and cheese picnic, bicycles to borrow, and more. We checked into our Deluxe King Room, which had a box of chocolates waiting for me on the bed (thanks Holly!). We loved our room – a second floor corner spot with a balcony, fireplace, and beautiful natural light.
After enjoying our wine and cheese picnic on the balcony, we walked across the street to Hopmonk Tavern Sonoma for dinner. They had a cozy outdoor patio with a good menu, capping off a great first day.
Because of Covid, the Inn at Sonoma was offering in-room breakfast, so we took advantage of this and ate our breakfast on the balcony or in bed every day. Can you say living large??
Now, for the main event: wine tasting. Our first stop was at Viansa, a picturesque winery sitting on top of a hillside with awesome views. All of the wineries were limiting capacity during our visit, so we were one of about four parties total at Viansa, which gave us plenty of room to space out and feel comfortable (and like VIPs). We did the seasonal wine tasting, had a great server, and even got some complimentary bubbly since we were celebrating my bachelorette party. I daresay Viansa might have been my favorite.
Next, we drove to Napa for a tasting at Domaine Carneros. This winery specializes in sparkling wines, with formal gardens and a beautiful chateau atop a hillside. This winery felt more like how I imagine wineries in France would be, and was a bit more formal than the others we visited. It was a gorgeous property and a fun wine tasting, though overall I preferred the more laid-back California vibe of some of the other wineries.
We finished our evening with a walk around Sonoma and dinner at The Girl and The Fig. Pro-tip: order the off-menu fig flight, and revel in satisfaction.
On our last day in Sonoma, we borrowed bicycles from the Inn (+ helmets and a lock) and rode to a couple of nearby wineries. The bicycles were beach cruisers that were in good shape, especially considering that they were free rentals. We rode two miles out of town to Bartholomew Estate, which was easy and fun to get to. The route was flat until the last half mile or so, where the road became pretty bumpy and a little uphill – so if those don’t sound good to you, maybe opt for other transportation.
We walked around the grounds a little but decided to do a tasting at the next winery over, Buena Vista. Back on the bikes we went!
We didn’t have a reservation at Buena Vista, but because we got there early we were able to get a table. This winery was more secluded than the others – it didn’t have the sweeping views, but it was cozy and whimsical, and we had a great time. The owner of the winery was even on site that day, so we sat back and sipped our wines while watching him record a show for a French TV station (so they told us).
For our last stop, we had a tour scheduled at the Benziger Family Winery in Glen Ellen. This biodynamic winery was probably the prettiest of all the ones we visited, and it was really interesting to tour the property and learn more about their wines. At the end of the tour, we had one last tasting on their patio and might have accidentally drank our water out of the spittoons.
We finished the evening with a wine and cheese picnic on our balcony, and carry out Thai Food in bed. You will soon learn that I take every opportunity I can to eat in bed.
Holly and I said our teary-eyed goodbyes to Sonoma, and drove back to San Francisco for a day of exploring the city. It was both of our first times in SF, so we started by fueling up with ramen at Hinodeya in Chinatown.
Then we walked to Lombard Street, “the crookedest street in the world,” and watched cars painstakingly drive down. It was steep! But the street was full of flowers and very cute, and the views weren’t bad either.
After that we walked to Fisherman’s Wharf to see what all the hype was about. My summary: touristy shops and restaurants: thumbs down. Sun bathing sea lions: two thumbs up.
We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering around different neighborhoods before finally making our way to the Painted Ladies. The Painted Ladies were cool, but the park across the street was even cooler, with awesome views all around.
We rounded out the day with In-N-Out for dinner, and retired to the Westin SFO before our early morning departures.
Overall, I loved my time in wine country, and a day in San Francisco was a fun bonus. You could easily make it a 3-4 day weekend getaway, or stretch it out to a week long affair. I even thought about cancelling Joe and I’s Arizona honeymoon to reroute it to wine country, but decided I’ll have to settle for planning someone else’s wine country honeymoon instead (any takers?). This was such a versatile destination that would be perfect for anniversaries, girls’ trips, or even adult family vacations (providing everyone likes wine, of course).
I was surprised at how much easier and more affordable it was to get to wine country than I expected, which can only mean one thing: I’ll definitely be planning a trip back.
Interested in planning a trip to wine country or San Francisco? Give us a call at 260-482-8251 to start planning your getaway today!