California wine country: How to visit Napa and Sonoma in one day

If you find yourself in San Francisco with a day to spare, make tracks for wine country. With some smart navigating you can get a snapshot of both Napa and Sonoma and still be back at your hotel in time for bed. Here’s how we’d do it:

Start by heading north out of San Francisco on Highway 101 towards downtown Sonoma. Within 45 minutes you’ll come upon your first stop – the charming family-owned (for 40 years) Schug Winery. You can stretch your legs while exploring underground caves or hiking the mile-long vineyard trail that traverses the 50-acre estate. The Schug family is well-known for their silky, feminine pinot noirs but they also put up commendable chardonnay, merlot and cabernet sauvignon. The Estate Tour and Seated Cave Tasting ($55 per person) offers a nice overview of the wines in a cool setting. 

A bit further north just off the main plaza in Sonoma you’ll find Walt Wines. This intimate tasting room requires reservations on the weekends, but given their small size it’s best to book ahead either way. This is the place to take a deep dive on the range and expressiveness of pinot noir with the Walt Root 101 Tasting ($60 per person). During this experience, guests explore the impact of terroir by tasting six pinot noir wines from six different vineyards. Each wine is paired with bites from Sonoma restaurant The Girl and the Fig. Grab a sandwich and refuel before moving on to Napa. Sonoma Plaza has several options; try Harvest Moon Cafe for local fare or Basque Boulangerie Cafe for more European selections.

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