the wine country
Just drive one hour north on Hwy 101 across the Golden Gate Bridge and you will enter the world famous Sonoma County Wine Country: 4 distinct valleys make up the region: Napa Valley + Sonoma Valley and the lesser known, but even more beautiful and intimate Dry Creek Valley + Alexander Valley
north of the Golden Gate Bridge, Hwy 101 enters Marin County and will also be called the Redwood Highway from now on.
heading to the Wine Country you will stay on Hwy 101 North - passing through the charming towns of Sausalito, Mill Valley, Larkspur, Corte Madera, San Rafael and Novato before entering Sonoma County - the gateway to the wine country. The key wine country towns in Sonoma County are Sonoma, Napa, Calistoga, St. Helena, Yountville and Healdsburg
here are some of our favorite ideas for day trips to the Wine Country - wherever we send you - be assured that it is going to be beautiful. always keep your eyes open - our suggestions will guide you to the best places - the ones you want to see + feel + explore further
since wine tasting is more of a mid day and afternoon activity we highly recommend to explore the Marin Headlands with it's breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean before you head north to the tasting rooms - more information about this can be found on the Marin County page
also - make sure to stop at the Marin County Mart in Larkspur - located across from the Larkspur Landing Ferry Terminal - stop at Rustic Bakery for the best ever breakfast or lunch - or for dinner try Farmshop or the Mexican Restaurant - this place is an outdoor marketplace loved by those who live in Marin
this is a day trip: however if you have time spend a night or weekend in one of the many charming boutique hotels in Sonoma, Glen Ellen or Kenwood
from San Francisco head north on HWY 101 across the Golden Gate Bridge. stop for breakfast at Rustic Bakery in the Marin County Mart in Larkspur - just off Hwy 101. after breakfast continue north on 101 to Hwy 37 in Novato. Head east on 37 towards Sonoma. This will take you approx. 45 minutes. follow the signs to Sonoma - shortly after the Sonoma Raceway you will see the wineries and their tasting rooms. we love RamsGate, Viansa ...make sure to stop at Cornerstone Market Place. then follow the signs to Sonoma/ Hwy 12.
Sonoma is a wonderful small town with great restaurants, tasting rooms and shops. including the famous Williams + Sonoma original store - from here follow Hwy 12 to the small town of Glen Ellen, then on to Kenwood. if you didn't eat in Sonoma then grab lunch In Glen Ellen at the Jack London Saloon. HWY 12 will continue to Santa Rosa and back to Hwy 101. Take Hwy 101 South to head back toward San Francisco.
in case you want more wine country extravaganza - head 15 minutes north on Hwy 101 from Santa Rosa to the charming town of Healdsburg. here the Alexander + Dry Creek Valley await - with their amazing boutique wineries....Dry Creek, Ferrari Carrano etc. Healdsburg is a wonderful charming + elegant small town - brimming with visitors every weekend in the summer + around harvest time. from here you are approx. 1.5 hrs back to San Francisco via 101 south.
In case you have more driving in you then we highly recommend to take the very scenic Napa Valley Route home - thru the Alexander Valley to Calistoga - via why 29 to Napa - to San Francisco.
or you can head to the Pacific Coast from here - in that case head north on 101 towards Healdsburg and take Guerneville Road to the coast. from here follow famous coastal Hwy 101 to Bodega Bay - down south to San Francisco
napa valley via alexander valley
this is a day trip : if you have the time spend a night or weekend in one of the many charming boutique hotels in Healdsburg or Calistoga or Yountville
from San Francisco head north on Hwy 101 across the Golden Gate Bridge. stop for breakfast at Rustic Bakery in the Marin County Mart in Larkspur off Hwy 101.
after breakfast continue north on 101 past Santa Rosa to Healdsburg. this will take you less than 1.5 hrs drive time. After a stroll thru Healdsburg - a charming, elegant small town and a stop at the Oakmont Grocery + Flying Goat Coffee Co. head 10 minutes north to the Alexander Valley. drive thru the Alexander Valley to Calistoga. Alexander Valley is filled with small family wineries. Calistoga is the beginning of the Napa Valley. Follow Hwy 29 thru the Napa Valley - and the towns of Calistoga, St. Helena, Yountville to Napa. Make sure to stop and stroll thru Calistoga Town - and later at Villa Amarosa outside of Calistoga. the valley is loaded with tasting rooms, restaurants and vineyards and small towns such as Calistoga, St. Helena, Rutherford + Yountville. take your time + savor the valley.
tip: all kitchen lovers + chefs must stop at Dean + De Lucca outside of St. Helena and the Oakmont Grocery on the way to Yountville.
La Travigne is a fantastic Italian Restaurant in St. Helena - but he choices are endless in each of the towns. Clos Pegase Winery close to Yountville has an impressive art collection - including a Thomas Moore Sculpture.
Yountville is worth a visit - it is boutique hotel + tasting room heaven - the famous French Laundry restaurant is located here
continue on Hwy 29 and soon you will arrive in Napa. Follow the signs to downtown Napa and go to the Oxbow Market - after that walk across the river to the the Riverfront area to get a gelato. you will also find one of best japanese restaurants in California at Riverfront row.
Back on Hwy 29 follow the signs to San Francisco - it is a 1 - 1.5 hour drive back to the city