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Wine Tasting In Sonoma And Napa Valley

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When in wine country wine tasting is a must do event!

I think you should go to Napa Valley for the culinary scene but most people come for the Wine, and I don’t blame them. Napa Valley itself boasts over 400 wineries while Sonoma County has another 400+ in 16 different appellations. That’s a whole lot of wineries to visit and a lot more than I can do during my 30 Days In SF adventures. Even though I am carless for my entire SF adventures I do have some friends that also love wine and want to join me in on my Napa side adventures so with Geoffrey at the wheel we embark on a wine tour through Sonoma and into Napa. Now there are many wineries to choose from of course but we’ve selected four to visit. Two of them we visit on our way to Napa from San Francisco while the other two we visit after our experience on the Napa Valley Wine Train. It’s a tough life but someone has to do it.

Russian River Vineyards in Sonoma County

Our first stop is at Russian River Vineyards at 5700 Gravenstein Highway North. Russian River offers up wine tasting but also has a nice little restaurant called Corks. A perfect first stop on our journey. We sample five different wines, a Chardonnay, a Pinot Noir Rose, a Zinfandel, a Merlot and a Pinot Noir which was my personal favourite. Because we are in the winter season the tastings are all indoors but come the spring all tastings take place outside in the beautiful gardens. I’d love to come back again just for this experience.

Russian River Vineyards

Ruissian River Vineyards wine tasting

Wine tasting at Russian River Vineyards

Summer time wine tasting area at Russian River Vineyards

After our wine tasting is complete we head over to the the restaurant for a little bite to eat and of course a bottle of wine. We ordered the Pinot Noir Rose and I ordered the Chicken Mole Tostada. Fantastic and two thumbs up from me. Reasonable prices and farm to table ingredients from Russian Rivers own farm, it doesn’t get fresher than that.

Russian River Vineyards Pinot Noir Rose

Chicken Mole Tostada at Corks Restaurant

Our next Winery takes us to Markham Vineyards in the town of St Helena at 2812 St. Helena Hwy North. We are at the North of what is considered Napa Valley and Markham is a very well known winery that holds many events in its expansive tasting room that is also part Art Gallery. Another fine selection of wines to try here including some very nice reserve wines thanks to Geoffrey and Daniel being wine club members here. I think my favourite was again the Pinot Noir although the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon was a very close second. Thanks to Geoffrey and Daniel knowing the staff here we were invited into the Barrel Room where the wine is aging. This also happens to be the original winery building which dates back to 1879. Talk about history.

Markham Vineyards

Entering Markham Vineyards

The Markham tasting room wine shop and Art Gallery

Wine tasting with friends at Markham Vineyards

Inside the orginal Winery which is now the Barrel aging room

The next winery we visit isn’t an actual winery but its tasting room in Yountville. Cornerstone Cellars has vineyards both in Napa and in Oregon State but the tasting room in Napa is located in Yountville at 6505 Washington St. I had never heard about this winery but while I was on the Wine Train rolling through wine country I received a tweet from the owner inviting us in for a tasting. How could I refuse. Ten wines were available for tasting today but our tasting guide actually opened up a few special ones for us to try as well. We sampled wines from both the Oregon and the Napa Valley vineyards. Absolutely fantastic. My favourite was definitely the 2010 Howell Mountain Cab Sauvignon but at $100 a bottle a bit out of my everyday drinking range, for that purpose the 2011 Napa Valley Cab Franc won the day. During the winter touring season it’s easy to walk in for a tasting but for the busy summer season I bet you need to make a reservation. Put this on your list to visit when you are in Yountville. A tasting here then a fab dinner at one of the Michelin-starred restaurants just steps away.

Conerstone Cellars tasting room in Yountville, Napa Valley

The tasting room of Cornerstone Cellars in Yountville

With every tasting comes cheese and crackers at Cornerstone Cellars

Perfect pairings at Cornerstone Cellars

The last winery we visit was actually recommended by the folks at Cornerstone Cellars. Just a short 150 yards away is Hope & Grace. Located at 6540 Washington St in Yountville this is another tasting room and not a winery per se. A small boutique winery, Hope & Grace started out in 2001 with a small production of Pinot Noir, today they make just 3000 cases of Pinot Noir, Cab Sauvignon, Malbec, Chardonnay, Dry Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc. Another fantastic tasting experience. I’ll be honest by this time my palette was starting to wane as I’d already had quite a bit of wine throughout the day. It’s no surprise though that my favourite of the six wines we tried was the Pinot Noir. It’s what started out the winery and it is at the moment my favourite varietal.

Hope & Grace Winery tasting room in Yountville

Geoffrey and Daniel at the Hope & Grace tasting bar

Two tasting bars to choose from at Hope & Grace

Cheers to wine tasting

So there concludes my adventures in Napa. In 36 hours I went on a train, slept in a Heavenly bed at the Westin, ate at two restaurants and sampled wines from four wineries! Phew I’m exhausted, I’d better go back to San Francisco where I can relax a little bit Smile Just kidding, there is so much to do in Napa and I’ve only just scratched the surface of the surface. I definitely need to come back and stay longer next time.

Here’s a little map of the wineries I visited on this trip, Hope & Grace doesn’t show up because it’s right next door to Cornerstone Cellars.

Winery Maps Sonoma and Napa Valley

What are some of your favourite Napa or Sonoma experiences? Please tell – who knows I may do them next time.

30 Days In SF Over the course of 30 posts I’m exploring Where to Stay, Where to Eat and Drink and What to Do in San Francisco and the Bay area. I won’t get to everything awesome but I welcome your suggestions and if I don’t get to it on this visit there is always the next time!

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Marc Smith is a former event planner turned vagabond adventurer. He loves strong Americano's, great wine, cold beer and zip lining over tree tops. Formerly of Vancouver, most of Marc's time when not travelling is in Canada's largest city, Toronto. Follow along on his nomad adventures and discover places to stay, things to do and where to eat & drink as he explores the world one city and region at a time.


  1. Marlene Hunter on

    Thought you might like a little sidelight to your visit to the wine country. My grandparents owned Markhams from 1910 to 1920 when it was called The St. Helena Winery, Joseph Brovelli, Proprietor. Two of my uncles were born there during that time, while my mother and her two older sisters were born at William Tell Hotel in downtown St. Helena earlier. Interestingly, when I left for college in 1951, there were only @ eleven wineries in the valley. Times have changed…to say the least.

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