Advice needed: Napa/Sonoma visit

I have a good friend who is headed to Napa/Sonoma for a weekend & since I’m the resident wine geek, she has asked me for advice for wineries, etc. to visit. Since I am mostly a Francophile & haven’t been to California wine country in a very long time, I’m asking for advice on recommendations. She & her friend are not wine geeks at all & know very little about wine. They probably just need some places to go that will be interesting to the average Joe.

I’ve recommended staying in Healdsburg, as I think Sonoma is a little more low key than Napa, but other than that, I’m stumped.

All advice is appreciated.

Thanks in advance…

Todd - I guess it depends on what they like. If they lean toward Syrah, Pinot and Chardonnay, I would recommend staying over in Healdsburg. If they are into Cab, Merlot and Chard then Napa for sure (more like Calistoga or Yountville or St Helena for a better winecountry experience).

If Sonoma County - then Healdsburg is a great choice. They can walk to quite a few restaurants/shops/wine shops-tasting rooms (although most of the tasting rooms are for admittedly average wine).

Wineries to visit in Sonoma Cty for novices:

Lynmar (Graton, CA 20 min from Healdsburg) - beautiful grounds, very good Chardonnay/Pinot. I believe you can do some food pairings as well.

Ferrari-Carano - beautiful grounds, interesting range of wines from Chard to Cab to sweet wines.

Tour down Westside Road from downtown Healdsburg and stop in the tasting rooms of Rochioli (probably pouring Estate Pinot and SB), Arista (terrific Pinots), Gary Farrell - amazing views plus SB, Chard and Pinot. They can also stop at the self serve heirloom tomato stand just outside downtown Healdsburg on Westside Road.

A little further south, they can venture to Martinelli off River Road and then further west out to Forestville to Hartford Court. HC is probably 20-25 minutes from downtown Healdsburg so they won’t be too far away.

For a fun down home tour something like Forth wines in Dry Creek.

If they want they can also go a little east into the Chalk Hill AVA - visti to Verite (appt).

That should get them started.

I’m a tour guide in Napa and Sonoma. If you pm me with their likes and dislikes I’m happy to make recommendations. Please include their interests outside of wine.

My 2 cents:

Pick the place you stay for restaurants and shopping, not what kind of grape you like. During the day you can go anywhere. For this reason I love Healdsburg and will put a plug in now for the Grape Leaf Inn.

I have had a few decent visits but my visit last month to Iron Horse (sparkling wine) was absolutely rockin. And a great view. Also Gary Farrell has a nice view and the pinots have improved, esp. the Halberg vineyard. Martinelli does not give you enough wine to actually taste. Copain has a new tasting room which is good, but don’t expect to taste the good stuff. Faillia in Napa totally rocks for pinot and syrah. A hidden gem in Napa is El Molino. If you want to spend a day driving on one lane roads Peay in Annapolis is great. Bring a sweater.

…As I mentioned in that other forum not to be named…Bella up in Dry Creek Valley, just across the bridge from Ferrari Carrano, is a fun/casual/relaxed stop. The tasting area is in a barrell cave, and there’s a lawn with picnic benches. Definitely an comfortable option for wine novices.


If they’re Berserker material David Coffaro’s world’s largest home theater in the barrel room is not to be missed. The wines are interesting, too.

I always send people to Hop Kiln for the building alone. I haven’t had one of their wines in years so I don’t know how they are, but they used to be excellent.

if you call and make an appt you will taste whatever you wish. i tasted 11 wines there yesterday.