When it comes to Valentine’s Day, Mike and I usually like to keep it casual and not make it that big of a deal. We’ve had times where we’ve had fun day trips to the beach, picnics, have gone on a Malibu Safari hike, and other times where we’ve stayed in and had dinners at home. As extra cheesey as this may sound, everyday does feel like Valentine’s with Mikey, so we don’t typically care to do an extravagant dinner at an extravagant restaurant with extravagant gifts, on this particular day. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s just not my style. We like to keep it light and casual as we know it can also be over-hyped and over-priced. This year, we decided to do something spontaneous and go on a getaway to Sonoma and Napa Valley.
We’ve always wanted to travel there and it so happened we decided to go right around Valentine’s Day. To be honest, it couldn’t have been more perfect and romantic, especially for our first time. The getaway was supposed to be mainly for us to step away from our busy day to day routines, go work on a few wedding related emails together, and finalize our wedding venue + date over a glass of wine, with zero distractions. Little did we know, we’d be having a little too much fun out there and well, let’s just say, our plans went out the window. Although, this didn’t get done on our trip, it did refresh and inspire us to get this done, as soon as we got home.
Both Sonoma and Napa Valley were more than what I expected. If you know me, you know I love a good road trip. Driving there was 6 hours from Los Angeles and I enjoyed every minute of it. Going back home, was a different story. Don’t even want to start a new paragraph on that 10 hour drive home. Did I mention, we checked out and embarked on this endless drive back home on actual Valentine’s Day? We basically had Inn N Out for our dinner, which was the best food option in the middle of nowhere – talk about a casual Valentine’s Day right!? However, it’s all good because looking back, it was an adventure, and I love adventures. Aside from that, everything else was perfect and worth every mile to the vineyards.
Mike and I got to experience a little bit of both (Sonoma and Napa Valley) – they’re approx. a 25-30 min drive away from each other. I would recommend to explore both places, if you can! We were out there for 3 days. Based on my experience, just by a notch, if I were to compare the two areas, I would have to say I loved and enjoyed Sonoma more than Napa Valley (just by a notch!). Not to say, I can change my mind, next time I go again. For this trip, I felt like Sonoma left a greater impression on me and stood out the most. Here’s why – I felt like it was less commercialized, more boutique-y, more home-y, had better dinner experiences, and most importantly, I fell in love with one of the wineries out there, that I can call my favorite, as of yet! This winery was recommended to us by a friend who frequents the area and gave us a guide that Mike and I were very happy and satisfied with – from where to eat to wine tasting. This is a guide that I will be sharing with you guys. This is a list curated thanks to the suggestions of our friend, locals we spoke with, and other friends – which made our experience, a memorable one.
Where we stayed at:
Let’s begin with, where we stayed at! This was actually a place I personally discovered and came across. I found it through one of the travel newsletters I’m subscribed to. We stayed at Olea Hotel. It’s located in Sonoma, near a cute little town of restaurants and surrounded by Olive trees. I loved that it was a boutique hotel with lots of greenery all around and near boutique wineries. My favorite part of the hotel was their brunch, comfy bed sheets, olive tree views, and bathroom floors!! The bathroom floors were heated. I get cold easily, especially in the mornings, and I loved walking to the restroom to get ready, it was very therapeutic in a way. It’s a feature that went a long way for me. For brunch, every morning, Mike and I would wake up excited to try out their menu. They had something different, daily. Their food was gourmet, pre-set, well presented, delicious, and unique – something you don’t often see in hotels. We also got a couples massage at out hotel, they used their homemade essentials body oils on us, which left both Mike and I on cloud 9! I also had the best sleep on their beds. Needless to say, we were very happy with our stay.
Sonoma Wineries we went to:
*Scribe Winery – my favorite one on this list. From the moment we drove up the driveway, I can see that it was going to be magical. The aesthetic was spot on (my vibe), the view, the light bites, of course the wine, it was all so perfect and romantic. We were welcomed with roses in the entry way – bonus!! I basically wanted to get married there. I actually inquired, but they don’t host weddings there, at the moment, due to restrictions and licensing, etc. We already have a place we want to get married at, but we asked more for the fun of it and out of curiosity. It’s just so dreamy and photo-esque. Put this one down as your MUST GO TO!
*VJB Cellars – This wine tasting venue is an Italian Style. Lots of Italian blends (which Mike and I love). They had a deli with cheese, jams, and meats. I felt like I was back in Italy!
*Benziger Family Winery – This winery has a long family history. It is a huge estate that you can tour. They have animals and pretty gardens. All their wines are sustainable, organic, or biodynamic.
*Imagery Estate Winery – Everyone was very friendly here. It has a nice and relaxing outdoor area where you can hang and sip on wine under the sun. This is the sister winery of Benziger. We left with quite a few wine bottles – so many good varietals.
Napa Valley Wineries we went to:
*Domaine Carneros – this was a French inspired mansion. Looked like a castle! They’re known for their sparkling wines. I loved their enclosed outdoor area, it had the perfect lighting coming through (for those selfie pics) and a beautiful sunset view.
*Darioush – This is another beautiful, photo-worthy winery. It’s something out of Italy. They have an amazing Cabernet Sauvignon. This one’s on the pricier side, to buy a bottle. If you buy a bottle or not, either way, their wine tasting is amazing to experience.
*V. Sattui Winery – I loved their cheeseboards and artisan deli. They have picturesque picnic grounds and a cool indoor gold room. Their homemade desserts were also amazing!
Where we ate at in Sonoma:
*El Dorado Kitchen – This restaurant is located in the main square in downtown Sonoma, inside a chic boutique hotel dining room. Mike had the seafood paella and I had their amazing mushroom risotto. It was an overall good vibe!
*The Fig Cafe – This is a gem of a restaurant tucked away in a quieter area, Glen Ellen. This place was near our hotel. It’s a place to go to for brunch or a leisure dinner. You can also bring a wine that they don’t carrie, as there are no corkage fees. Also, I loved their crispy risotto cake!
*The girl and the fig – This one can get busy and would recommend booking a reservation. They have an amazing brunch and dinner menu. I would recommend the White Chocolate & Fig Bread pudding – drooling as I write this. They also have cute outdoor garden patio seating.
Where we ate at in Napa Valley:
*CA’MOMI – Great spot for Italian and pizza! It’s situated in downtown Napa, with plenty of bars around to go to after. Think Italian flavors and California grown organic ingredients.
*Allegria – This is another Italian spot. We were craving those Italian flavors on this trip. It’s located also in downtown Napa. This is more of a formal dining ambiance with relaxing Italian music and candle-lit dinners.
*Sky & Vine rooftop bar – This place had quite the ambiance and panoramic valley views. It’s located in the Archer Hotel. They have fireplace spots where you can enjoy elevated bar bites and drinks from afternoon to sunset. On certain days, they have live music.
Hope this little guide will be helpful on your next Sonoma or Napa Valley trip! Can’t wait to visit this place again! Mike wants to do a whole week next time we go. I agree.