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Author Topic:   First time
posted 03-14-2011 02:06 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for yesilovewine     Edit/Delete Message
Hello Charlie.
Wanted to check in and see how the plans are coming and to let you know about another company that provides a driver for YOUR vehicle to take you around to visit the wineries. Lexacon is the name; I have read about them on Trip Advisor via posts by innkeepermandie who is actually one of the staff at a lovely place called Honor Mansion in Healdsburg.
Anyway, I trust Mandies recommendations and she says that either Lexacon or Bee Driven are reliable for driver services.
If you haven't already booked, I recently read about a place called the Grape Leaf Inn which is in Healdsburg which sounded pretty nice.
Since you joined, we have been visited by Stacy who seems to be in the wine tour business and she may be able to give you the best help on that front.

[This message has been edited by yesilovewine (edited 03-14-2011).]


posted 02-16-2011 04:29 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for yesilovewine     Edit/Delete Message
Charlie, I was re-reading this thread and see that you mentioned an interest in barrel tasting. Wanted to let you know that barrel tasting is usually reserved for private tastings or part of a tour presentation so it isn't something you can just "do"; it requires a bit of pre-planning. If it is important to you, then you will want to make sure its even offered when you are choosing your winery visits.


Junior Member
posted 02-16-2011 08:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spencecharlie   Click Here to Email spencecharlie     Edit/Delete Message
brilliant, ill use the info and crack on with the planning and booking. ill leave you in peace for a bit, imagine ill be back again with an update!

thanks again for your help.


posted 02-16-2011 07:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for yesilovewine     Edit/Delete Message
I don't usually stay in Healdsburg myself, but I have heard good things about the Best Western Dry Creek Inn and the Hotel Heladsburg. There are numerous B&B-type facilites in Healdsburg that may fit your bill as well.
It is not necessary to make appointments to go to tasting rooms unless you would like to arrange a special event like a food and wine pairing or a private tasting. You would have to investigate the individual places to find out if any special options exist.
It occured to me after my last post that the Seghesio winery is very near the Healdsburg square ( about .5 miles) so there actually is a working winery you could visit without having to drive into the country. That is one of our favorite places to go, actually so I can't believe I forgot it!
( By the way,I have been assuming that you meant that you wanted to visit a winery facility and tour that place when you mentioned a tour...I hope that was correct. If by tour you were meaning a group that stops at many different places and has a guide, etc, then I have really missed the mark! Sorry...)
Winery facility tours DO need to be pre-booked. Wine Country has a good listing of the area wineries with their contact information and a description of the tours. The reason I asked you earlier about your expectations is that each place has its own focus....some want to explain wine making in general to help you understand how it gets from vine to glass, where others want to help you understand how they grow the grapes and why that matters in the production on their particular wine and there are lots of other presentations as well. So deciding what you want to learn from a tour would help you determine which tour will suit your interests the best. Korbel has a very good tour which includes area history and the general process of making sparkling wines and that would be on the way to Healdsburg from Armstrong Woods.
I suspect that you would really benefit from reading the tutorials about wine tasting on either Wine Country or Wine Road as I think it may be very different here than in Europe.
I think that most people just drive themselves from winery to winery and are careful about how much wine they drink at each stop, but if you are not comfortable with that you might look into a company called Bee Driven. Now I haven't used them, but Trip Advisor reviews are favorable. This company is based in Napa, but my understanding is that they will do Sonoma county trips as well. They will meet you at your lodging and drive you in YOUR VEHICLE ( even if its a rental) to the places you would like to go. Their rates are reported to be considerably less than the regular limo services. It is also possible to sign up with a tour bus like Platypus tours where the company has a pre determined set of wineries that they visit, and the riders vote on which places they would like to go on their trip. It takes the independence out of your wine tasting stops, but they apparently are much less expensive and plenty of people really like that format.
Just remember that its not rocket science so just enjoy the area and treat this as a precursor/orientation for your NEXT visit!

[This message has been edited by yesilovewine (edited 02-16-2011).]


posted 02-16-2011 07:29 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hawkeye   Click Here to Email Hawkeye     Edit/Delete Message
Good morning Charlie, I am not too familiar with lodging IN Healdsburg, but imagine they are all pretty pricey. We have stayed at the Dry Creek Best Western Inn on the edge of Healdsburg (http://drycreekinn.com/) and stayed in one of their Tuscan rooms which was quite comfortable. They are a little upscale from the normal BW. Be sure to check Sonoma.com for lodging selections. You could then drive to the Healdsburg square for your tastings and dinner.

In Healdsburg, be sure to taste at the Williamson Winery tasting room. Not only do they pour tastings, but they furnish a little tidbit of food to go with them . . . AND IT IS FREE. The owners are Australian, so you should be able to understand each other . Just a little humor.

At the Best Western, you will be on Dry Creek Road and just a little further out you will find many wineries for your tasting pleasure. Try Wilson, Mauritson, etc. for Zinfandels, especially Mauritson's Rockpile Vineyard Zins. Wilson has a lot of award winning Zins also.

Have a great trip. Cheers!

[This message has been edited by Hawkeye (edited 02-16-2011).]


Junior Member
posted 02-16-2011 05:23 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spencecharlie   Click Here to Email spencecharlie     Edit/Delete Message
thanks again. I am taknig steps to planning the journey up to the area. i have decided on Healdsburg, as it looks like its is walkable to a few wine tasting areas, and will sort out a tour or transportation to the wineries outside of the area. Is it best to do a tour like i mentioned before? And is it a turn up and sample at the tastings in the town, or do you pre book. I think ive nearly exhauseted you of all your resourses! just finally wnat do you reccommend for accomodation, i am on a fairly moderate budget.

many thanks again.


posted 02-16-2011 01:39 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for yesilovewine     Edit/Delete Message
Hi Charlie.
One thing I can pretty much assure you of is that you will need to plan to do some driving or hire a driver to visit actual wineries. It is quite possible to have a very nice day of tasting in the tasting rooms which are located in some of the towns, but to actually visit a winery you will need transportation.
The most logical approach I can come up with, since you only have the one day, would be to leave SF early and drive up to Armstrong Reserve, then head to your lodging. There are wineries that you could visit along the way if you like. My distance judgement isn't the best, but with favorable traffic I suppose that it would take about 1.5 to 2 hours to get to Armstrong Preserve from the city. The only way I know to get there is from Santa Rosa, and that route is following River Road to Guerneville where you turn North on Armstrong Woods Road. There is a lady on Trip Advisor who has given alternate directions many times but I never paid much attention. You could check the postings from Puter or Forestvillian and get excellent help with that.
There are lots of places where you could stop for lunch or get picnic supplies to enjoy lunch at the park.
After visiting the park, head toward Healdsburg for your lodging site. I think that I would choose to use Westside Road to get there. Healdsburg has lots of lodging options with many price points and styles available there, and once you are settled you can enjoy walking around the town square for shopping or wine tasting before having a nice dinner at one of the excellent restaurants.
As for a winery tour, you could do that on the way back to SF the next day. If you needn't hurry back, I would recommend taking 101 south to Santa Rosa and then exploring the Sonoma Valley ( Hwy 12) for your return route. It is quite different in character from the area to the west of 101 where you would have been the day before and the wineries are closer together. I would suggest that you actually do the tour at Chateau St.Jean or at Benzinger- CSJ will be more traditional but is reported to be very informative and interesting. The setting is what most people think of when they think of a winery. Benzinger's tour is a tram ride through the property with a very good explanation of their biodynamic farming practices. It gets very good reviews as well.
A few of the wineries in Sonoma Valley have a deli where you can buy picnic supplies and a bottle of wine to enjoy on the property and there are dining options in both Kenwood and Glen Ellen as well as in the town of Sonoma, but it may be getting a bit late for lunch by the time you get to Sonoma.
Anyway, this is just the way I would do it with your parameters as I understand them.
It affords you the chance to see the redwoods and to visit a few wineries and tasting rooms and since you don't have a real wine focus, why not just enjoy the area at a leisurely pace?
I would recommend that you choose at least one place where you can try some good Zinfandels since that variety is not grown in Europe. In Healdsburg the Seghesio winery has one of my favorites of that wine- their Rockpile Old Vine Zinfandel has been a consistent favorite of ours for a number of years.
Oh, be sure to look at the different wine related websites to find discount coupons! Winecountry.com has some as does Cheers2wine.com. Also, if you have a Visa "Signature" card you can show it to get free tastings and purchase discounts at around 70 places in Sonoma County.
Don't forget to look at the russianrivertravel.com website to get a good map for going to the redwoods.


Junior Member
posted 02-16-2011 12:05 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spencecharlie   Click Here to Email spencecharlie     Edit/Delete Message
thank you all for your help!

I enjoy all different wines, and my aim of the trip is mainly for enjoyment, and also to learn what i do and dont like. My girlfriend is more into her whites, and has a reaction to chardonnays,( so probably best to avoid those!)

My aim was to hire a car from sanFran, park at a lodging and spend the day going to different wineries barrel tasting etc. I wasnt sure the distance between each stop, so wasnt sure if bicycle hire was a possibility. I have emailed other places and one option was a private tour that drove us around the area for the day to selected areas, which was $300 for the car carrying up to 4 people.

The idea of combining the redwoods and the wine tasting would be perfect!

i have been reccommended the russian river area.

I live in London, and am originally from just outside in Surrey. I have some friends from Newcastle, all very nice people! my girlfriend comes from Scotland, so is probably more in the know than me, but i did cycle through the area over the summer, and parts are lovely.

many thanks for your help again.


posted 02-15-2011 01:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for damombo   Click Here to Email damombo     Edit/Delete Message
Actually, yesilovewine gets the credit for that well thought out response

Welcome Charlie! We are looking forward to our April trip, too.


posted 02-15-2011 11:10 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Hawkeye   Click Here to Email Hawkeye     Edit/Delete Message
Hi Charlie, I can't add much from what Damombo has written except to say that you will be able to taste some incredible wines in the whole County, but specifically to my tastes in reds to the Dry Creek Road area and the Alexander Valley. These are the two I am most familiar with.

Healdsburg would be the place to stay for lodging, restaurants and wine tasting rooms, which abound. But to get a better flavor of the wineries, you must visit them in person.

What part of the UK? My family came over from Newcastle Upon Tyne area, specifically Gateshead. My father was the only child in a large family to be born in the US. I still have a cousin in Gateshead.

If we can be of more help, let us know. Damombo has given you a great feeling for the area.

Have a great trip but wish you had more time to relish in the wine country. Cheers!

[This message has been edited by Hawkeye (edited 02-15-2011).]


posted 02-15-2011 08:46 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for yesilovewine     Edit/Delete Message
Hi Charlie and welcome to the message board.
I'm not an expert, but I think I can at least get you started on your quest. Hopefully some of the local folks will pipe up and offer you more specific information.

My understanding is that you plan to take one day from your San Francisco trip to visit wine country and that includes an overnight in the area. Right?
If so, its not at all difficult to accomplish this and you can actually include a visit to a local State Park ( as opposed to one of the National Parks like Yosemite) which is dedicated to the preservation of a Redwood grove.

First thing...are you planning to have a rental car and drive yourself around?
Second thing...when you say visit a winery, do you want to take a winery tour? And what types of wine do you like? There are over 400 wineries in Sonoma County that produce about any type of wine you can imagine, so it is pretty likely that there are several places that you might like to visit. They range from beautiful chateau-like facilities with manicured grounds to small barn-like places in the country.

Most people who take a day trip from San Francisco drive over the Golden Gate Bridge to start their trip and then drive up Hwy 101. The traffic can be pretty ugly, but it is a really neat trip and somewhat iconic to take that drive over the bridge. On a clear day the view is just amazing.
Sonoma County is a huge area and contains many different growing regions within its confines. It is about 3x larger than the Napa wine region and so for a single day trip it is really best to focus on one area to explore rather than try to see it all in a day. Since you would like to see some Redwoods, I would suggest that you set your sights on the Russian River Valley area. It is in this part of the county where you will find the Armstrong Redwoods State Preserve (in Guerneville).
Depending on your wine preferences, potential areas to plan for your overnight stay that would make the redwoods an easy part of the trip include the towns of Windsor, Forestville or Healdsburg. Healdsburg is the largest of these by a long shot and will have the best known options for dining and the most easily accessed wine tasting potential simply because there are so many tasting rooms located around the town square.
Forestville is a very small village that I don't know a lot about but have driven through. The Farmville Inn is a well liked lodging facility there and the restaurant is highly rated- it may even have a Michelin star, but I'm not sure. It is very rural and would not have a lot to do in the evenings but would provide a very authentic "Wine Country experience", in my opinion.
Windsor is a small town that is trying to come of age in recent years- there are areas that are under development and growing and some that are still pretty stuck in the doldrums. The Hampton Inn there offers some discounts with the "Ticket to the Wine Road" program, but basically this is not a place to consider if you are wanting to really be enveloped in the experience of wine country.
Access to the Russian River area is convenient, but ambience would be lacking.

The following websites should help you with your research:
WineCountry.com- the lodging and winery listings are good here, and they are developing good itinerary suggestions. They also have special offers that can help cut your costs. Sonoma.com is a sister site that deals with Sonoma County in particular.
WineRoad.com- is specific to the Russian River, Dry Creek and Alexander Valley areas of the county where the bulk of the wineries are located. The winery information is a little more detailed and I like the maps better.
Both of these also have a section about what to expect when you get to the tasting rooms and wineries- I think the tabs are named something like wine 101 or tasting rooms...not sure, but its helpful reading to get a little familiar with how things work if you don't know already.
RussianRiverTravel.com- is specific to the Russian River area and has the most comprehensive information about the "other than wine related" things to do in the area. This is also the most closely related to the Armstrong Redwoods park and has excellent information about it. This part of the county also includes the coastal area where you will find incredible coastal views so good information about that is here, too.

I hope this is the type of information you were looking for and that I didn't overwhelm you too much!
If you can say your wine preferences and give an idea of what you are hoping for in terms of the winery experience I may be able to suggest places for you to visit.

[This message has been edited by yesilovewine (edited 02-15-2011).]


Junior Member
posted 02-15-2011 02:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for spencecharlie   Click Here to Email spencecharlie     Edit/Delete Message
Hi there,

i am from the uk, and am coming to the area in April. I am staying in Sanfransisco and would like to spend one of my four days driving from there, then visiting some or a winerie, before staying in the area for the night, my plan is to then drive through one of the parks to see some redwood trees.

i would like to know what is the best way to do this, and anything anyone would reccommend.

Many thanks



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