Wondering what to do with your free day in San Francisco? Hop in the car and in just 45 minutes you can be at the door of your first winery in the spectacular Carneros wine region.
There’s a distinct feel in Carneros, whose location at the confluence of Napa and Sonoma makes it part of both regions. Yet Carneros has its own unique and inimitable spirit, fed by its world reputation for fine sparkling wine, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Highway 121 is the gateway to Carneros, and within a few minutes you’ll hit some world-class wineries on this scenic stretch of road. On either side of the highway are sister wineries Cline Cellars and Jacuzzi Family Vineyards. Cline is best known for its highly-rated Rhone varietals, but this 350-acre estate offers so much for visitors – picnic grounds, spring-fed ponds and colorful gardens.
Across the highway, Jacuzzi pays homage to Cline proprietor Fred Cline’s Italian heritage. Jacuzzi features a wide array of interesting Italian varietals served in a sprawling 18,000 square-foot villa modeled after the Jacuzzi family home in Italy.
Just up Highway 121 at its junction with Highway 116 (Arnold Drive) is Schug Carneros Estate. Founded in 1980, Schug Carneros Estate Winery is the showcase and life-long dream of one of California’s most celebrated winemakers, Walter Schug who built his reputation at Joseph Phelps Winery.
Traveling eastward and deeper into the region along the Carneros Highway (Highway 12, running concurrent with Highway 112) takes you to two more great stops on the Napa side of Carneros.
Just after you pass the iconic Domaine Carneros estate, go left on Old Sonoma Road, then left again on Henry Road to Artesa Vineyards and Winery. Artesa is widely recognized as the crown jewel of Carneros. It is a modern architectural wonder with sculptures, fountains, and a world-class art collection. Enjoy a classic or reserve tasting of Artesa’s elegant wines while enjoying this memorable stop.
From Artesa, your last stop is just south of the Carneros Highway at Etude Wines. In French etude means “study.” Etude Wines was founded as a study in the art of making Pinot Noir, considered by winemakers to be among the most challenging of wines to make.
For lunch try the Carneros Bistro & Wine Bar in the town of Sonoma not far from Schug, or Boon Fly Cafe in Napa near Artesa and Etude.
Itinerary for a day in Carneros
Where to Taste:
Cline Cellars, 24737 Highway 121, Sonoma; www.clinecellars.com, 800-546-2070; Open 10 AM-6 PM daily
Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, 24724 Highway 121, Sonoma; www.jacuzziwines.com, 707-931-7575; Open 10 AM-5:30 PM daily
Schug Carneros Estate, 602 Bonneau Rd., Sonoma; www.schugwinery.com, 707-939-9363; Open 10:00 AM-5:00 PM daily
Artesa Vineyards and Winery, 1345 Henry Road, Napa; www.artesawinery.com, 707-254-2140; Open 10 AM-5 PM daily
Etude Wines, 1250 Cuttings Wharf Road, Napa; www.etudewines.com, 707-257-5300; Open 10:00 AM-4:30 PM daily
If you decide to stay overnight:
Ledson Hotel, 480 First Street East, Sonoma; www.ledsonhotel.com, 707-996-9779
The Carneros Inn, 4048 Highway 121, Napa; www.thecarnerosinn.com, 888-400-9000
Where to Eat:
Boon Fly Cafe at The Carneros Inn, 4048 Carneros Hwy (Hwy 121/12), Napa; 707-299-4900
Carneros Bistro & Wine Bar, 1325 Broadway (at The Lodge at Sonoma Renaissance Resort & Spa), Sonoma; 707-931-2042
From San Francisco, take Hwy101 North across the Golden Gate Bridge; to Hwy 37 East; to Highway 121 North (Napa/Sonoma) for 4.5 miles to your first stop, Cline Cellars. From your last stop, Etude Wines, take Carneros Hwy east to Hwy 29 South, to Hwy 37 East, to I-80 South to San Francisco.