Mapping out an ideal 2 to 3 days in Napa and Sonoma itinerary can be a joyful, if not overwhelming, task. There is so much to see and do in this iconic wine region of Northern California and you don’t want to miss anything – even if you’re short on time.
Both Napa and Sonoma County have more to offer than just wineries, as well, and is known for its fantastic restaurants, charming towns like Calistoga and Healdsburg and lovely hiking opportunities. Easily reached from San Francisco, it’s also the perfect getaway from the Bay Area.
So if you’re planning a trip to California Wine Country, use this itinerary to plan a few days exploring this wonderful area.
How Many Days in Napa & Sonoma?
So how many days should you spend in Sonoma and Napa in order to do the region justice? It can be tough to put your finger on it when you consider all there is to do in the area.
In general, if you want to see the highlights of both Napa Valley and dig a little bit deeper, then plan to spend at least 2 days in the area. With 2 days, this will give you ample time to visit some wineries and also explore the towns.
If time grants you a third day, venture out further to where wineries have been built on top of the hills, some straddling the line between Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley. The further you get from downtown, the more beautiful views you’ll get to enjoy while sipping the region’s most delicious wine.
Getting To and Around Napa & Sonoma
You’ll absolutely want a car when you visit Sonoma and Napa, especially if you’re visiting for several days. Most wineries are spread out throughout the valleys. As we mentioned before, plan your days around certain regions of each valley.
This decreases your driving time between each destination and allows you to spend more time enjoying the wineries. If you need to rent a car for your trip, you can browse Rentalcars.com which shows deals across a number of major car hire companies.
You can also choose to hire a driver for the day. Most hotels in the downtown areas have connections to a driver service. You pay by the hour and are transported in your own car, which can be very convenient.
If you prefer to prebook, one option is this private wine tour for up to 6 people or this group tour if you prefer to join with other people. If you want to spend your day in style, you can even hire a private limo tour!
By hiring a driver, you remove any risk of driving while intoxicated and can rest assured you’ll be safely transported between stops during your day of wine tasting.
2 to 3 Days in Napa & Sonoma Itinerary
Kick off your time here by spending day one exploring Napa Valley. If you have 2 days in Napa, use the second day to explore wineries seated deep in the valley and enjoy their breathtaking views. Finally, use day three to check out Sonoma Valley and downtown Sonoma.
Day 1 – Visit Napa Valley
Explore Downtown Napa
For your first day, spend the morning exploring downtown Napa. Enjoy breakfast by the waterfront, stop by Oxbow Market, and check out the many shops and tasting rooms this downtown area has to offer.
Several companies offer food and wine tours of downtown Napa. You can also opt for an historic kayak tour along the Napa River. Oenotri, Morimoto, and Allegria are three excellent food options to choose from, however there are countless opportunities for tasty meals in Napa.
Keep in mind that downtown Napa will have more tourists than Sonoma, which is worth noting when trying to determine if you want to spend more time in Napa or Sonoma.
It’s larger and offers more commercial wineries and lodging, therefore, usually sees more tourists each year. However, if you have a morning, afternoon, or evening to spend in the area, you won’t regret it.
Throughout Napa Valley, you’ll find an assortment of wineries with a range of specialties. Mumm is located near Rutherford and is renowned for their sparkling wines and an excellent first stop while tasting in Napa Valley.
With roots in GH Mumm, the leading Champagne brand in France, Mumm Napa has mastered the art of sparkling wine. They use traditional French techniques in their winemaking and have been doing so in Napa since the 1970s.
The tasting patio at Mumm overlooks vines backdropped by lush green hills. It’s quiet, quaint, and a peaceful destination to begin your wine tasting in Napa Valley. Make sure to book your reservation in advance.
Upon arrival, you’ll select which flight of wines to taste. At Mumm, you’ll sample the winery’s flagship wines as well as some of Napa Valley’s best sparkling wine.
Pride Mountain Vineyards
If you can survive the drive to Pride, there’s a t-shirt saying such ready for purchase upon arrival. Pride Mountain Vineyards in Helena is known for its robust red wines.
A visit here includes a brief estate tour, wine cellar tour, patio tasting, and barrel tasting. The tour guide might even test your taste buds by offering a taste from a barrel and a bottle of the same wine. Can you taste a difference?
Pride Mountain is famous for its stunning views. The curvy road to the vineyard rewards guests with outlooks over the valleys.
When visiting Pride, you might notice a brick line through the parking lot dividing the vineyard in half. This line marks where half of the winery is in Napa and half in Sonoma. Pride has several tasting options when making your reservation, so you can choose the one that works best for you.
As one of the most popular wineries in the Valley and a must-visit when planning a Napa itinerary, Domaine Carneros is the perfect final stop on your day of wine tasting.
The winery is known for its Pinot Noir and sparkling wines. We recommend Domaine Carneros as the final stop for the evening sunset view that comes with an end-of-day tasting here.
The estate is beautiful and stands out against the hillside. The patio at its front is where most wine tastings happen. This patio overlooks hills and valleys that are glowing in hues of pinks, yellows, and oranges during the evening hours.
During your tasting, you’ll choose from three flights of Napa Valley wines. A flight of reds, flight of sparkling wines, and a mixed flight composed of the winery’s best of both categories. Domaine Carneros is located in the Carneros region of Napa Valley and was established in 1987.
Since it was created, the winery has been using the same traditional winemaking methods that the founding Taittinger family. It’s the perfect place to wrap up your first day of three.
Day 2 – Calistoga & More Vineyard Tours
Located on the northern tip of Napa Valley is Calistoga.
If you’ve heard of Calistoga before it was probably in conjunction with mud baths. The area around the town is volcanic. Many spas have transformed this natural feature into volcanically-heated mineral springs and mud baths. Downtown Calistoga is filled with shops, restaurants, and bars.
There are several spas with a variety of relaxing packages for you to enjoy. Try sitting in a mud bath followed by a massage and mineral pool soak. You can also opt to stick with just a classic massage, manicure, or pedicure. If you want to spend a night in Calistoga, that option is also available to you.
From Calistoga, you can also hop on a hot air balloon for an unmatched view over wine country. You can visit a geyser, explore Calistoga’s Petrified Forest, go for a hike on Palisade Trail, as well as visit the nearby Castello di Amorosa.
Visit St. Francis Winery & Vineyards
As one of the few certified sustainable wineries in Napa and Sonoma, St. Francis Winery is one to add to your Napa Valley itinerary. Not only is the wine delicious, but the estate is also stunning and the views from the back tasting patio are unbeatable.
While sipping from your flight of wine, you’ll look out over rows of vines toward rolling hills. St. Francis also accommodates dinner parties, large groups, and other kinds of visits aside from a classic tasting.
Visitors can also opt to take a pedal wine trolley through the vineyards to sample the winery’s most renowned wines and see the vineyard.
Chateau Montelena’s estate will rival some of the most famous French vineyards. A visit to this winery is in such high demand that their tastings are fully booked out months in advance.
The winery prides itself on crafting wine from traditional methods, without the assistance of modern technology. Wines from this estate have consistently ranked among the best wines of the year by countless publications. Everything from Departures to Forbes has highlighted a wine produced by Chateau Montelena.
Your experience wine tasting at the chateau and can be as personalized as you like. Reserve a private, customized tasting with a wine specifically curated to your preferences.
Stick with a classic tasting of Chateau Montelena’s premium wines or opt for an estate tour. Regardless of the route you take, a visit to this winery ensures a memorable time.
Day 3 – Explore Sonoma
Hike Sonoma Overlook Trail
To break up your time in wine tasting rooms, try getting outdoors with a short nature hike in Sonoma Valley. The Sonoma Overlook Trail is an easy and pleasant 3-mile hike that offers great views of the valley at the end.
The trailhead is just a few blocks north of Sonoma plaza, making it an easy stop during your two to three days in Sonoma and Napa.
Along the hike, visitors are treated with colorful wildflowers and local wildlife. Guests should also keep in mind that dogs, bikes, and horses are not permitted on the trails. The lower portion of the trail is usually closed during the winter.
Those who have completed the hike remark that it’s well maintained, but it can get muddy and slippery during wet or cold weather. A hike earlier in the day lends to a quieter and more peaceful walk. The trail sees more traffic later in the day.
Taste at Landmark Vineyards
If you’re a lover of pinot noir and chardonnay, and if you want some of the best wine in Sonoma Valley, pay a visit to Landmark Vineyards. Landmark Vineyards was founded in 1974 by the great-great-granddaughter of John Deere.
Here, grapes are aged in French oak barrels and use naturally occurring yeast to ferment the fruit. Visitors can taste in one of two places when sampling Landmark wines.
The Kenwood Estate Tasting Room and the Hop Kiln Estate Tasting Room both offer opportunities to taste the winery’s most delicious wines.
Visit Buena Vista Winery
Buena Vista Winery is the oldest commercial winery in California wine country. Located on the southern tip of Sonoma Valley, Buena Vista was founded in 1857 and is now a California Historic Landmark.
The founder, known as the “Count of Buena Vista” bolstered an unwavering love of wine. He had a vibrant and eccentric career filled with adventures in the American West and political exile.
The Count’s sentiment toward creating excellent wine has been carried on through the years. Buena Vista produces everything from pinot noirs to zinfandels to champagne. Visitors can choose a classic tasting on the outdoor patio or indoor tasting room.
They can also opt for a tour of the winery’s barrel room. Buena Vista Winery comes highly recommended as a destination on your Napa and Sonoma itinerary.
Take a Bike Tour
Try mixing up how you experience Sonoma by taking a bike tour. Explore historic downtown Sonoma or nearby vineyards. Starting from Sonoma, you’ll have easy access to paved bike paths that lead you throughout the area.
You can choose to take a full-day or half-day tour. Each tour is hosted by a knowledgeable guide who provides Sonoma wine and cultural history.
Bike tours lead you through the quieter roads of Sonoma Valley to visit wineries by an off-the-beaten path route. Some options include this 16-mile bike tour that visits up to 3 wineries or this leisurely small group tour.
Many bike tours change their path each day, so if you enjoy yourself one day, feel free to hop on a bike and cruise through a different part of Sonoma the next. Bike tours offer a unique and personalized visit to Sonoma Valley. You can prebook a bike rental here where they will also give you tips on routes.
Where to Stay in Napa & Sonoma
Inn at Sonoma – If you’re looking for a luxe stay in Sonoma but still want something quiet and cute, then look no further than this hotel. They have a number of wonderful rooms available, fantastic amenities, a central location and a full breakfast and afternoon wine and hors d’oeuvres are served daily.
Archer Hotel – Another great luxury option for your time in Napa, this hotel is an excellent choice for those with a bit of a higher budget. They have a range of plush rooms available and countless amenities to ensure that your stay is a great one.
Blackbird Inn – If it’s a cute bed and breakfast you’re after, this place is a fantastic choice in Napa Valley. They have a handful of wonderful rooms available, off freshly baked biscuits daily and have a number of other options to make your time in Napa truly memorable
Cinnamon Bear Creekside Inn – Another family-run bed and breakfast, this place is a great choice for those wanting a boutique stay in Sonoma. They have a handful of clean and comfortable rooms on offer, a full English breakfast available each morning and a great location for discovering the regions.
Private Rental – If you’d rather have your own place than stay in a hotel, then a private vacation rental is a good choice for you. There are tons of options available in the area — this cottage on a private vineyard or this beautiful, modern cottage are just two great examples of many choices.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Napa hotels!
There are so many great experiences to be had in Sonoman and Napa that it’s impossible to map out the perfect itinerary for everyone. However, one thing is for sure – you’ll taste some of the world’s best wines and learn about their unique histories.
Are you planning a trip to Napa Valley and Sonoma? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!