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January 28, 2009

Week in Wine Country

North Beach
North Beach, San Francisco's Italian
neighborhood, was a favorite
of Beat poets.

Earlier this week, Daily Traveler readers tpoqa04 asked: My husband and I are being sent on a weeklong trip to wine country and San Francisco, including a dinner at French Laundry. I think we will probably stay close to the Laundry for the first couple of nights to dine, see some vineyards and maybe have some spa time. Then the rest of the week we'll be in SF. Thoughts on what to do/where to go? Oh, tpoqa04, we have many. One of the DTers is a born-and-bred San Franciscan, one lives there now, and the rest of us have done our fair share of hopping (and eating) around that hilly city and the nearby wine country. Here goes:

Responsible Traveler and San Franciscan Brook Wilkinson recently plotted out five perfect days in California wine country for Condé Nast Traveler. You could pick anything from this piece--Brook has ferreted out the Napa Valley's treasures and secrets. She advises that you stay overnight in Yountville, so that you can dine at the Laundry and other places in town without having to drive home. The Vintage Inn, home to a great spa, is offering 25 percent off through the end of the month, and might well have another deal after that. Here are some more Napa Valley properties from CNT's 2009 Gold List--Solage Calistoga also made last year's Hot List.

While in Yountville, go for a dinner at the modern but plush Redd, one of Brook's favorite restaurants anywhere, and if you like the French Laundry, you can enjoy Thomas Keller's cuisine a second time for quite a bit less at Ad Hoc. There, the wünder-chef takes a step back and lets you serve yourself from family-style platters. The menu is scrawled on a blackboard and the servers claim to be the best-fed staff in town. Ubuntu is another top spot to keep on your radar. As for wineries, Brook enjoys Ceja and Swanson, and heartily recommends the Round Pond Olive Oil Tasting--"they give you so much food you can call it lunch."

Read after the jump for San Francisco ideas.

In SF, you must check out the new California Academy of Sciences. It's a Renzo Piano design, the latest green building technology, a fabulous show at the planetarium, and the cutest penguins! If you want a romantic night in the city, go for drinks and dinner at Ducca. And S.P.Q.R. is a great new spot from A16's Shelley Lindgren and Nate Appleman.

As far as lodging goes, check out the Hotel Vitale. Part of the hip, affordable Joie de Vivre (JDV) group, the Vitale has a great bar, a nice staff, and cool contemporary rooms. JDV has a bunch of properties in SF (including the Adagio near Union Square), but we like the Vitale because you can roll out of bed in the morning and hit the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market. We're sure that San Franciscans are sick to death of hearing about how great their twice-weekly market is, but the fact remains that it's heaven. Finally, walk everywhere! The hills, the views, the neighborhoods (North Beach, the Haight, the Mission, Hayes Valley)--this city was meant to be explored by foot.

Further reading:
* Heaven's Gate: San Francisco places and prices
* Daily Traveler Mollie Chen suggests an extra quick trip: A crazy, serpentine drive from San Francisco, recently opened Nick's Cove occupies a surreally gorgeous stretch of Tomales Bay. Sit in the light-filled patio and order the oysters. If you can afford it, rent one of the cabins perched on stilts over the rocks--then you can settle into your own rocking chair for the sunset
* How to ship wine
* Next-best hotels and restaurants in California wine country
* Wine essentials from A to Z

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