Planning a Visit to Wine Country? Find Out if Napa or Sonoma Is Right for You.
When it comes to planning a visit to Wine Country, some of the questions we hear most often are, “Should I visit Napa
? Which is better?” Here, we’ll explore some of the differences and discuss what makes each region great.
Napa vs. Sonoma—Which Is Right for You?
When it comes to Napa vs. Sonoma, one is not better than the other—however, they are very different. Instead of asking which region is better, you should ask which one is more your style. To put it simply, Napa has a luxurious and ritzy feel, while Sonoma has more of a laid back, country vibe. The easiest way to decide between the two is to think about what kind of experience you’re craving.
It can also be helpful to keep your budget in mind. Typically, Napa is more expensive than Sonoma—although a trip to either is really more about what you make of it. Both Napa and Sonoma feature exquisite 5-star hotels, can’t-miss restaurants, and some of the best wineries around.
Visiting Napa: What You Should Know
A world-famous wine region, Napa also features many sub-regions, or AVAs, that are popular among locals and visitors alike. People flock to Napa from all over the world to sample the wine and experience the region for themselves. With nearly 400 wineries producing more than 1,000 brands of wine, it’s easy to see the appeal. Flagship wineries of Napa include Robert Mondavi
, Clos du Val
, and more.
Keep in mind that traffic can be very heavy through Napa, and drinking and driving is a definite no-go. Napa pros often ride with a designated driver, hire a limo or party bus for the day, take the Napa Valley Wine Train
, or even charter a hot air balloon to coast through the valley.
To avoid the rush of the summer crowds, consider visiting in the off-season. Visiting in May, September, or October can be a great way to beat the busy season, but we’d venture to say that winter is one of the most underrated times in Napa. Click here to learn more about visiting Napa in the winter
Visiting Sonoma: What You Should Know
Like Napa, Sonoma is a popular town in Wine Country. Compared to Napa, however, Sonoma is much more expansive and spread out, having more of a laid-back and relaxed feel. In fact, it is nearly twice the size of Napa and grows far more grapes of all varieties and conditions. Sonoma is best known for its Chardonnay, cool climate Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, sparkling wines, and impressive and inventive red blends.
Sonoma features more than 450 wineries of all sizes, from small boutiques to some of the biggest and most prestigious producers around. Flagship wineries of Sonoma include St. Francis
, Francis Coppola
, and more. You should always call ahead to see if reservations are necessary. One perk: some smaller wineries may not even charge you for tastings, and almost all of them will waive the tasting fee with the purchase of a bottle.
Given the expanse of Sonoma, renting a bicycle in town is a great option for touring some nearby wineries. Either stick to one area or grab a designated driver and rent a car to explore the wineries that are a bit farther out. As with Napa, traffic can be heavy, so patience is important. Visiting in the September through May off-season is a great way to beat the summer crowds.