Twenty Four Hours in California Wine Country
I'm continuing my Pacific Northwest road trip posts with our second stop: Santa Rosa and California's wine country. Nick and I headed north from San Francisco with the intention of spending roughly 24 hours in the area.
Only 24 hours in wine country?!? Yes, seems kind of crazy. But when you're four months pregnant, it's kind of hard being surrounded by so much temptation. At the same time, I was also pleasantly surprised at how many other things you can do besides sipping wine in Santa Rosa. That said, I can't wait to return when I'm able to sample the wines.
Before we begin: three quick tips for spending 24 hours in wine country
Pick 2-3 wineries in the same area - California’s wine country is pretty big and you can waste a lot of time driving from winery to winery. Do a little research and figure out a few wineries in the same area so you can maximize your time. You can also pick a bigger winery (like Kendall-Jackson) as the main attraction and see what’s nearby.
Choose to stay in a town - if you’re going to spend a lot of time in the Napa area, you’ll probably want to stay in a town like Santa Rosa or Yountville. If you have more time, there are so many gorgeous bed and breakfasts and boutique hotels that have views of vineyards.
Do your research when it comes to where to eat - Napa is home to some of the most gourmet restaurants with the freshest ingredients. There are also not a lot of options when you’re on your way between wineries (at least we didn’t find many) so be sure to figure out meals ahead of time.
Where We Stayed in Santa Rosa
While I researched so many beautiful hotels and resorts in the Napa Valley, I ultimately chose to go with another Airbnb as a cheaper alternative. And to make it even better, our digs for the evening was the coziest airstream trailer!
Tucked back in the dreamiest garden, the airstream was fully renovated. It was also perfectly located within walking distance of downtown, though we opted to drive in because it was hot while we were there. And did I mention that there were chickens in the garden too? Yup, this was probably one of the best places we stayed our whole vacation.
Where We Ate in Santa Rosa
Russian River Brewing Company Brew Pub, Santa Rosa
Of course you know Nick and I love a good brewery and Russian River is a pretty famous one from coast-to-coast (diehard beer drinkers swear by Pliny the Elder). We were excited to discover that Russian River Brewing had a pub in downtown Santa Rosa.
Being that it was a Friday night, it was crazy crowded. For a well-known brewery, the brew pub was small and bar area was difficult to get a drink at. The wait wasn't too long for our table and Nick enjoyed his Pliny while we waited. Since we weren't too hungry, we shared pizza bites and wings. They were good pub food but of course, you're going to want to visit for the beer.
Acre Coffee, Santa Rosa
One of my favorite things to do on vacation is sipping something delicious at a local coffee shop (just wait for Portland and Seattle!). I knew we had to get breakfast at Acre Coffee after spotting it in downtown Santa Rosa and many recommendations as a top spot.
I was totally correct. The ladies working there that morning were the loveliest and just look how beautiful it is! I had a nice pot of delicious Earl Grey tea (#pregnancyproblems) but got a few sips of Nick's delicious cold brew. I want to be back there already!
Korbel Winery Delicatessen and Market, Guerneville
On our little adventure through wine country, we needed to grab lunch. Since I can't drink champagne, I decided being in the vicinity of champagne was the next best thing. Korbel's winery is absolutely beautiful. The delicatessen and market is full of fresh local ingredients and specialty items. I had a roast turkey breast with cranberry chutney and tarragon mayo and it was incredible. Definitely a great place to stop on your wine travels!
What We Did in Santa Rosa
Since we checked in to Santa Rosa and then checked out the next day, there is admittedly so much we didn't do. We also some of our stops were on our way in to or out of town.
Lagunitas Brewery, Petaluma
I'm a big, big fan of Lagunitas' Little Sumpin' Sumpin' and this was definitely a time that I was sad I couldn't have a beer. But their taproom is not to be missed. It's huge and it's fun and it's a very relaxing place to spend an afternoon. Despite the fact that I was only sipping on water, we spent a couple of hours there enjoying the laidback atmosphere and snacking on chips and salsa. They have some evening and weekend entertainment in their airy and open outdoor spaces. It's a great place to stop, especially with a group or with kids.
Snoopy's Home Ice - The Redwood Empire Ice Arena and the Charles M. Schulz Museum
Charles Schulz, the Peanuts cartoonist, lived in Santa Rosa so there's plenty of Peanuts attractions. There are bronze Peanuts characters in various parks but the main attraction is the museum, ice rink, and gift shop.
The Charles M. Schulz museum celebrates Schulz's life, his cartoons, and cartoon drawing in general. We popped inside the front foyer but decided against touring the museum since we were short on time. Next time!
What I thought was pretty cool was Snoopy's Home Ice - an ice rink built by Schulz when the local ice rink was shut down. He was a big fan of ice hockey and the ice rink hosts the annual Senior World Hockey Tournament. It's designed like a Swiss chalet and even has a little cafe inside for hot chocolate!
Outside the arena are statues of Peanuts characters and hand prints of skating celebrities who've visited the arena. There's also a gift shop that has a bunch of Peanuts memorabilia upstairs and it's free.
Kendall Jackson Winery Estate and Gardens, Santa Rosa
Fun fact: I'm named after Kendall Jackson wines! We couldn't miss stopping here and if you're visiting Santa Rosa, I would say it's a must. There's the main estate house where they host their tastings and wine pairings and then beautiful, luscious gardens surrounding it. It's a winery oasis.
We were there on a Saturday and it wasn't too busy; just one big bus stopped while we were there and one big, well-behaved bachelorette party in floral dresses and flower crowns. Even though there was a bit of a crowd, we still got a table and a very attentive staff member guided Nick through the tasting. He enjoyed it a lot and we wrote down the names of the wines he liked to enjoy when I can finally drink again.
Francis Ford Coppola Winery
Our final stop in wine country before heading on to Eureka, and later Portland, was the Francis Ford Coppola winery. Our main reason for stopping here was that some of the Coppolas’ movie memorabilia is on display here plus the grounds looked pretty amazing.
The winery definitely didn’t disappoint. The main building is huge, with several bars for wine tasting and a gourmet restaurant. Since we’d already eaten at Korbel, we just popped our heads in but the the menu looked phenomenal. Besides the restaurant and bars, there are huge display cabinets with movie memorabilia and some of the awards Francis Coppola won. You can also find the Don Corleone’s desk from The Godfather on the upstairs level.
Right outside is a pavilion with a pool, a bar, and cabanas. Each day they have pool passes that are first come, first served or, for quite a bit more, you can reserve a cabana for a group. It was over 100 degrees when we visited and it looked so cool and refreshing! It was pretty crowded everywhere, from inside to out at the pool, so just keep that in mind if you’re looking for a more laid back atmosphere.