- Napa Valley,
- North America,
- Sonoma County,
- United States
Become a Sonoma wine insider when you visit one of the world’s best and friendliest wine regions. With complimentary tastings and other perks at more than 60 Sonoma County wineries, Visa Signature can help refine your palate and expand your knowledge of wine and viticulture. With so many great wineries to visit, why not take your time and soak in the beautiful scenery? Receive best available rates at a nearby Hilton hotel where you can recharge before discovering more Sonoma wine country secrets
Hilton Sonoma Wine Country
French Laundry, California
Yountville, California 94599
Tel: 707 944 2380
At this culinary mecca, perfectionist chef Thomas Keller coaxes otherworldly flavors and textures from familiar ingredients. His famous salmon tartare "ice cream cone" is the first clue that there's alchemy in the kitchen, and the subsequent parade of nine courses confirms it. Service is flawless, and the pace is languorous—allow at least three hours. The French Laundry has won almost every award a restaurant can get, which accounts for the strict reservations policy: You have to call at least two months prior to the day you want to dine. The wine list is possibly the best in the region, but don't finish all those little pours or you won't remember what you ate. If you can't score a reservation but still want to try Keller's cooking, either book a table at his brasserie, Bouchon, or at Ad Hoc, an informal eatery serving his favorite comfort-food dishes at far more affordable prices.
Open Mondays through Thursdays 5:30 to 9 pm, Fridays through Sundays 11 am to 1 pm and 5:30 to 9 pm.
See + Do
Preston of Dry Creek, California
Healdsburg, California 95448
Tel: 800 305 9707 (toll-free), Tel: 707 433 3372
Preston is one of Sonoma County's flagship organic wineries. In 2000, Lou and Susan Preston cut their wine production from 25,000 cases to 8,000 in order to farm more sustainably. An agrarian Shangri-La, the little winery looks like a storybook farmstead, with a white picket fence surrounding the Victorian-era house that serves as the tasting room. Rhône varietals and blends are the standouts here. While not all of them are impressive, there are several noteworthy wines, including a sauvignon blanc with sparkly citrus overtones, the rich barbera, and the L. Preston blend of syrah, cinsault, carignan, and mourvèdre. The tasting room also sells homemade bread, olive oil, and organic homegrown vegetables, perfect for a picnic in the shade of the hundred-year-old walnut tree outside the tasting room. Tasting fee $5, waived with purchase; no appointment necessary.
Open daily 11 am to 4:30 pm.
Yountville, California 94599
Tel: 707 944 2222
When you want to don high heels and rock your new Marc Jacobs dress, book a table at Redd. On most nights, a who's who of the local wine industry gathers to feast on Euro-Cal-Asian concoctions such as pan-seared John Dory fish with jasmine rice and saffron curry nage, and spring lamb braised and roasted with mascarpone polenta. The wine list is interesting for its "featured discoveries"—lesser-known picks from around the world—and its extensive selection of half bottles. But you won't find any bargains: Prices skew high. The minimalist-chic dining room is sexy and austere, with wide-open sight lines. But despite a recent upgrade in the ceiling tiles, the room is l-o-u-d. If shouting across the table bothers you, sit outside on the terrace.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 11:30 am to 2:30 pm and 5:30 to 10 pm, Sundays 5:30 to 10 pm.
See + Do
Frog's Leap, California
Rutherford, California 94573
Tel: 800 959 4704 (toll-free), Tel: 707 963 4704
Frog's Leap provides a playful counterpoint to Napa Valley's stuffier wineries. Built around a big red barn, Frog's Leap feels like exactly what it is: a farm. Outside the tasting room, wander past a frog pond through meandering organic gardens of heirloom vegetables and flowers, and pluck sun-warmed fruit right off the trees (come in August, when the peaches ripen). All of the wines are made with organically grown grapes. Though the winery produces some very respectable and long-lingering merlot, its sauvignon blanc is the star of the show: Delicate, with bright fruit overtones, this is one of Napa's best-known wines. Because of legal restrictions, you'll have to take the full tour to sample the juice, but the light-hearted staff and magical gardens will make you glad you did. Tasting fee, appointment required.
Open Mondays through Saturdays 10 am to 4 pm.
See + Do
Domaine Chandon Winery, California
Yountville, California 94599
Tel: 707 944 2280
One of the first French-owned wineries in California, Domaine Chandon opened with a splash in 1975 and is best known for its wide range of sparkling wines, including brut, blanc de noirs, extra-dry, and rosé varieties. Regularly scheduled tours guide visitors (up to 30 at a time) through the process of crafting and bottling bubbly. Purchase a flight of tastings and take your glass (included in the tasting fee) out to a café table on the terrace for majestic views of the surrounding Napa Valley countryside. There's also Étoile, a formal restaurant that's great for lunch (reservations essential). Although you'll find better sparkling wines at Schramsberg, Domaine Chandon provides more amenities, and it has one of the area's only late-night drinking permits. When the rest of the valley shuts down, drop by the Étoile wine lounge for drinks and entertainment (summer only). Tasting fee, no appointment necessary.
Open daily 10 am to 6 pm; wine lounge open Thursdays through Saturdays 6 to 11 pm, summer only.
Woodhouse Chocolate, California
St. Helena, California 94574
Tel: 800 966 3468
Go ahead—just try to resist the seductive window display at this high-end chocolate boutique, where white-gloved salespeople lovingly tuck artisanal delicacies (made in the European tradition, without preservatives) into china-blue boxes reminiscent of Tiffany & Co. The offerings extend far beyond your typical truffle; here, chocolate is transformed into intricately patterned stilettos, squirrels, poison-dart frogs, and other precious shapes, filled with exotic ingredients such as Thai ginger, passion fruit, and honey. But confections like this don't come cheap: One pound will set you back nearly $80. Be sure not to leave your purchases in a hot car.
Open daily 10:30 am to 5:30 pm.
See + Do
Jack London State Park, California
Glen Ellen, California 95442
Tel: 707 938 5216
Carve out a couple of hours of non-wine time for a visit to Jack London State Park, named for the author who once owned the land. London constructed an enormous dream home here in 1913, known as the Wolf House, and on the day before he was to move in, the house burned to the ground. The foundation still stands today, as does the house London's widow built after his death—the House of Happy Walls, which now doubles as a museum about the author. Look for the peephole above the living room; during parties, the reclusive Mrs. London used to spy on her guests from the second floor. Hiking around the park ranges from easy to moderately difficult, through ancient redwood forests; some trails ascend as high as 2200 feet above the valley floor, providing stunning views of the bucolic landscape. If you'd rather see the park by horseback, contact Triple Creek Horse Outfit (707-887-8700; www.triplecreekhorseoutfit.com).
El Dorado Kitchen, California
Sonoma, California 95476
Tel: 707 996 3030
At the El Dorado Hotel's surprisingly sceney restaurant (located in low-key Sonoma), large parties gather at a communal table fashioned out of wood from a 200-year-old Vermont bridge, while couples huddle at candlelit tables around the periphery. The kitchen of chef Ryan Fancher, previously at Thomas Keller's French Laundry and the Auberge du Soleil, turns out Mediterranean-meets-California dishes (lamb loin roulade with saffron potatoes, artichokes, olives, and rosemary; a risotto topped with white truffle foam) that are available à la carte or in a six-course tasting menu.