Help decide - Napa vs Central Coast vs Oregon vs Washington

Hi all. I have been to Napa/Sonoma three years in a row. Prob a total of 8x. I do love to visit there, but feel it is time to expand my horizons. In the past I would do a LOT of tastings per day. I now plan to limit it to 3 ( okay, maybe 4 if we have the time ) wineries, and do more sightseeing. That said, which of the other areas has some high end wineries I can get into as well as some fun places to sightsee.

My fiance and I do like Pinot Noir. I also like rhone varietals, and of course Cab & bordeaux blends.

Just looking for some advice.

Realize never having been there, Willamette Valley is a name to me. I have no concept of the area, the local airports, sightseeing. Same for Wash and Central Coast in CA.

I’ve done Napa/Sonoma at length, Paso once pretty deep, and Oregon twice fairly deep. Just brushed thru Washington. All that said, since you like the Rhone grape varieties, I don’t think you can go wrong with Paso. It’s beautiful, laid-back, has several great restaurants, the ocean is within easy reach, you can visit Hearst Castle, if so inclined. I would need to focus on a map and airports, but think it might be the toughest to access, however.

Oregon will, of course, get you your pinots as well as nice scenery; just doesn’t do as much for me as Paso. And of course Washington will cover the cab/bordeaux side of your palate. The good news…whatever you choose, you can’t really make a bad choice.

Thanks for your input Chad. I am leaning towards a Central Coast vacation. Right now trying to get a feel for the areas involved and work out logistics. Usually we stay in one hotel and use it as our base and travel around, carrying a cheap styro cooler with ice in it for what we pick up daily on our tasting/tours. I am trying to NOT be in a diff hotel each night as that means having all the luggage and all the wine in the car during the trip in July. I am trying to see if I can limit to two hotels over 5 days and travel out from them, since the CC encompasses such a large area. That, and much less wineries/day than prior trips. Would like to take my fiance to Monterey on the Pier, go down Hwy1, maybe Hearst Castle, etc…

thanks again

If you have a short stay in Monterey, you can go down the coast and see Hearst Castle. Not far south from there, take Highway 46 towards Templeton and US 101, about 10 minutes south of Paso. You’ll pass a whole bunch of wineries just getting that far. Stay in Paso (lots of hotels) and you’ll have 200+ wineries within easy reach. That should keep you occupied for many days.

Yes, Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur, Morro Bay, Hearst Castle, Pismo Beach are all semi-close to the Central Coast wine regions.
Monterey to San Luis Obispo is over 3 hrs via Highway 1 depending on traffic and how many stops you make for sightseeing.
The Coast Highway drive and Hearst Castle are definitely worth the time.

2 days in Paso, and seeing Hearst Castle, elephant seals, etc. 3 days in Santa Barbara, and enjoying Pinot and Rhones, plus the beauty of Santa Barbara!

Monterey is beautiful, but the wine scene isn’t what Paso or SB are. Love the Big Sur drive.

Isn’t part of US1 closed due to it falling into the ocean. Thought I read it was a multi-year repair and several hour detour. But maybe that’s a different stretch.

That’s north of Half Moon Bay below Pacifica / South San Fran. Believe the stretch (and ongoing!) is Devil’s Slide.

With your tastes, Willamette Valley with a sojourn to either Cascade Valley or Southern Oregon would fit.

Oregon is of course PN central, but many pour Syrahs and other varietals. Especially places like Tyrus Evans, Firesteed, etc.

Paso Robles is much more Rhone style, and the issue with Paso is if you go midweek, much is closed. Not to mention
you miss a lot driving around, either up from Santa Barbara, or south from San Jose. (Yes, MRY is a possible airport, but usually

Then again, you can hit the Monterey wineries on the way from the airport, if you land in the morning/early afternoon.

Thanks all, doing my research. Getting a lot of good input!

Paso could keep me occupied the whole time, but a day by Monterey/Carmel for sightseeing is on the cards prob Thursday.

You could always fly into LAX, rent a one way car and head north on HWY 1, to Lompoc for the first night. Start at Loring Wine Company. That puts you at the base of the Santa Rita Hills and Brian will give you directions to work your way through the great folks/vineyards/wineries there, plus you need to see Solvang. If you get that all done in a couple days, off to Paso for another 2 or 3 days. Work your way up the coast for some sightseeing including Big Sur, Carmel and maybe dinner at Fandango’s in Pacific Grove/Monterey. From there, you have a choice of going up HWY 101 through Gilroy, (if you need garlic), or to Santa Cruz, where you pick up HWY 17, both of which get you to San Jose, where you take HWY 101 or HWY 280 in to San Francisco. From there, you can fly home or drive your dead ass up to Napa for dinner and wine with us. [cheers.gif]

Is that an open invite to any WBer?

Paso has a nice down town and I think SLO is even funner during the summer months. From SLO you can go both north and south and visit a greater range of central cost wineries.

The east side of Highway 101 is warm weather grapes and has a lot of excellent Rhone style wines, Tensley, Andrew Murrary, Tercerro, etc. The Ballard Inn is a great bed and breakfest and its restaurant is the Zagat top rated restaurant in Santa Barbara County. Chef Budi rocks. Los Olivos has over a dozen tasting rooms. The Santa Rita Hills is east of the 101 and is cold weathr grapes - Pinots and chards. The Wine Ghetto in Lompoc has 17 winery tasting rooms. Enjoy.

First post and unsure whether to make my own thread or bolt onto this one as it is nearly the exact topic I am writing about. I already typed up so see below and thanks for the help.

My wife and I are planning a late summer trip with another couple to wine country. All of the talk has been centered around Napa/Sonoma primarily so we can attempt to have lunch/dinner at French Laundry. We have all been to Napa/Sonoma several times, eaten at Bouchon but never made it to the FL. Now with the reopening, reservations are only a month out and I am thinking about changing the discussion to Oregon/Willamette or Washington/Walla Walla/Columbia as the destination instead. Both us and the other couple have been to Argentina, Chile and South Africa and really enjoyed the beautiful countryside, accommodations, world-class wines, amazing food, all at good price/value. They have two kids at home so 4 nights is the max trip for them which takes international travel out for this trip (partially due to perception as Chattanooga out West is nearly the same travel time to Europe). I am sure there are plenty of people who have been to Oregon, Washington, and Sonoma/Napa areas and I would like to get some advice on where to visit to make a compelling alternate case. We all love Pinot, Cab, Merlot, Chardonnay, have wines from all three areas, so wouldn’t necessarily go because of one varietal or another. We will want 4+/5 star accommodations (prefer to stay at one central hotel and explore from there), some fine dining along with great wine (probably taste 2/3 days). I did a quick google search for an article on the topic and could not find so feel free to point me to another thread or article. Thanks again.

Frankly, it sounds like you want the “lap of luxury” experience, and I’m afraid that the Willamette Valley from the standpoint of top producers, accommodations, and dining may be a little rustic for your tastes.

The only place in the Willamette Valley that meets your lodging parameters is the Allison Inn & Spa. It is located at the edge of wine country - convenient to Ribbon Ridge and possibly the Dundee Hills, but disappointingly far from Yamhill/Carlton, McMinnville, and Eola Hills AVAs.

If you stay at the Allison, I’m afraid that you won’t find any Thomas Keller restaurants (or their ilk) nearby, although there are lots of world-class options in Portland and plenty of very good restaurants in the Valley.

If you do come to the Willamette Valley, please know that we are not Napa (thank god), especially in terms of luxurious hotels, restaurants, and stuffy tasting rooms (though we’re getting more of these). But if you want to see something different, live just a little on the wild/funky side, and taste world-class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (and beer), this is the place.

I agree with Rick and would add I’m afraid Walla Walla doesn’t have anything better for you, especially no food of national caliber.

In Woodinville there’s exactly one winery I’d recommend and it’s in a business park warehouse but there is the Herbfarm for dining.

If you do come to the Willamette, you can dine at Castagna in Portland as you’ll need to fly through Portland anyhow.

If you want to explore another area for Pinot do Anderson Valley. Stay in Mendocino over on the coast, and its a breathtaking 40 minute drive back and forth.

Thank you all. I have been busy researching, which for me, is part of the fun of the trip.