This weeklong itinerary encompasses much of the best of Northern California’s Napa and Sonoma wine country. The area has long captivated oenophiles and gourmets with its delightful towns, stylish boutiques and magnificent landscape, much of it covered by a tapestry of vines. On our most recent trip, we discovered three new properties and several excellent wineries and restaurants. On this customizable road trip, you can easily opt to spend a few days in San Francisco, which lies about a 90-minute drive from the Napa and Sonoma valleys. An alternative would be to spend a night or two at Cavallo Point, a peaceful recommended property in Sausalito, which is close to the city and just 20 miles from the international airport.
Read the full account of our editor’s trip to Napa and Sonoma valleys.
Our itineraries are for your inspiration. Please contact a travel advisor to customize this itinerary to fit your needs.
After landing at San Francisco International Airport, drive some 60 miles north to the hamlet of Glen Ellen, located in the middle of Sonoma Valley. The village is closely associated with famed writer Jack London, who purchased a ranch here in 1905. Check into Gaige House + Ryokan, a 23-room property that has been designed in a traditional Japanese style. The soothing Zen ambiance of the inn is heightened by its grounds, which encompass towering bamboos, mature oaks, manicured rock gardens and miniature pagodas. Though all guest accommodations feature a minimalist Japanese design, we recommend booking one of the Zen Garden Suites; lodgings in the main mansion are smaller and can be noisy.
Although the hotel lacks a restaurant, there are notable options in Glen Ellen’s downtown, a five-minute walk away. Before heading out to dinner, you may wish to stop in the lobby for the excellent wine and cheese reception hosted there each evening. One of our favorite restaurants in town is Glen Ellen Star, an inconspicuous farmhouse-style brasserie serving innovative Mediterranean- and Middle Eastern-inspired cuisine. An entire page of the menu is dedicated to wood-roasted vegetables, dishes that are deceptively unassuming. The star of the show here, though, is the pizza, which the kitchen churns out from a custom-built woodburning oven. Make reservations far in advance, as this is a popular neighborhood destination.
Gaige House is a perfect place to unwind, so spend the day enjoying the hotel’s secluded swimming pool and the hot tub and relaxing in the meditation barn. For dinner, try Cafe La Haye, located just off Sonoma Plaza, where the menu features farm-fresh California cuisine with appetizers such as seared tombo tuna with cucumber wakame salad, carrot-ginger vinaigrette and aromatic rice with almonds, and mains like tagliarini with rock shrimp, spinach, queso fresco, white wine and basil oil, and marinated filet mignon with a balsamic-Worcestershire vinaigrette and caramelized garlic-herb butter.
After a leisurely breakfast, check out and head to Jack London State Historic Park and enjoy a nice hike. Continue on to Santa Rosa for lunch at Gerard’s Paella Y Tapas. This casual restaurant is an excellent place to enjoy traditional Spanish cuisine. The key to a perfect paella is the socarrat (caramelized rice from the base of the pan), and the paellas here do not disappoint. The appetizers — including piquillo peppers stuffed with goat cheese and dry-cured olives, and crispy chickpea calamari accompanied by a smoky paprika aioli — are also delicious. Exploring the boutiques and charming local coffee shops along Santa Rosa’s main street is a pleasant way to spend the afternoon. The Charles M. Schulz Museum, dedicated to the cartoonist famous for the “Peanuts” comic strip, should also not be missed. Afterward, take the winding but scenic Mark West Springs Road northeast to the town of Calistoga. (Read about other things to do with children in Napa and Sonoma.)
Renowned for its geyser, natural mineral hot springs and mud bath treatments, Calistoga is a delightful town that has maintained its authenticity and low-key charm over the years. Check into The Francis House, a new hotel just off Calistoga’s main street. With just five uniquely decorated suites, it features a contemporary French design and a swimming pool set amid a landscaped garden. Originally built as a family home in 1886, the property was slated for demolition before being purchased by husband-and-wife team Richard and Dina Dwyer, in 2015. Today, The Francis House is an elegant property that has been infused with a tasteful modern design and all expected amenities.
For dinner, try Veraison, an intimate bistro on the main street. Chef James Richmond offers a menu predominantly composed of French classics, but a number of Italian and American dishes are served as well. After dinner, you may want to head to Hydro Grill or Calistoga Inn’s brewery for live music. (Read about our other favorite restaurants in Napa and Sonoma valleys.)
In the morning, enjoy one of the excellent spa treatments offered in town. Calistoga is famous for mud baths, but some people find the weight of the mud to be claustrophobic. Indian Springs Calistoga on Lincoln Avenue offers luxurious spa treatments. For lunch, try Evangeline nearby.
In the afternoon, head into Napa Valley for a private winery tour. Ovid, one of the area’s new superstar wineries, has a stunning hilltop location, while Spottswoode Estate Vineyard & Winery is set within a beautiful 1880s Victorian mansion. We also recommend Eisele Vineyard and Lokoya. (Read more about our experiences touring these wineries.)
For dinner, you may wish to consider Auberge du Soleil, located 13 miles to the southeast. The Dwyers have close ties with the resort and can arrange hard-to-get reservations in its restaurant.
After an hour or so beside the pool, check out and head to the town of Napa for a light lunch at Hog Island Oyster Bar in the buzzy Oxbow Public Market, downtown. Though this sprawling marketplace can be very noisy and crowded on weekends, at other times it is a perfect spot to grab a quick bite and sample specialty goods from local favorites like Three Twins Ice Cream, the Model Bakery and Oxbow Cheese & Wine Merchant.
After lunch, drive 15 minutes southwest of Napa to Carneros Resort and Spa. This discreetly located property, set on the border of Napa and Sonoma counties, offers numerous amenities, including a 3,000-square-foot fitness center, a hilltop pool and a hot tub overlooking the vineyards, a general market store and three restaurants, all varying in design, cuisine and setting.
The 86 board-and-batten cottages are clustered into micro-neighborhoods and connected via a series of lush garden paths. Specifically request room 1, 2 or 10 in either the Madrone or Juniper neighborhoods.
For dinner, try the signature Farm restaurant, which serves an excellent à la carte menu, as well as a seasonally inspired multicourse tasting menu, in a calm, elevated setting.
Carneros Resort is a wonderful place to decompress and disconnect from the rest of the world, watching the cows in neighboring pastures while lulled by the wind rustling through the prairie fields. Spend the day relaxing beside the adults-only hilltop pool and enjoying treatments in the spa. If you are feeling more energetic, the concierge can arrange activities such as whitewater rafting, bike tours, fly-fishing, hiking, kayaking and canoeing, golfing, horseback riding and hot air balloon rides. This evening, enjoy a casual dinner at the resort’s Boon Fly Café, which serves “modern rustic cuisine.”
After a leisurely breakfast, head back to San Francisco. Stop for lunch at Buckeye Roadhouse, 40 miles away, a charming restaurant offering quintessential American fine cuisine in a white-tablecloth setting that oozes old- world charm. Afterward, cross the Golden Gate Bridge and drive 25 miles south to the airport to catch an afternoon flight.
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