How To Plan The Ultimate Girls' Weekend In Napa
As a self-proclaimed wine connoisseur + a huge advocate for girls’ trips, I couldn’t have been more excited when a group of my friends suggested a weekend away to Napa, California. We had the BEST time + I am already planning my return trip…as well as scoping out homes to buy for retirement. If you follow us on Instagram (@hellohenrys), I’m sure you saw all of of the adventures + fun stops from the trip, but wanted to be sure to put together a guide on all of the can’t miss spots + helpful tips for planning the perfect getaway!
Napa Valley does have a local airport, Santa Rosa, that is definitely the closest option for getting to wine country. The convenience, though, comes at a price. With just one terminal + a limited number of daily flights, tickets were pretty expensive. We opted to fly into SFO (San Francisco’s airport) as we were able to score much cheaper plane tickets. Both San Francisco + Oakland are just about 60-90 minute drives from Napa Valley + at least $200 cheaper to fly into. We rented a car + made the scenic drive up to Napa Valley, stopping for lunch in Sausalito - the cutest beach town just across the Golden Gate Bridge.
tips + tricks
Use a map to pick which wineries to visit. There are over SIX HUNDRED wineries between Napa + Sonoma. It is a HUGE area. When planning the trip, it was super helpful to use the “My Maps” feature on Google Maps. I entered all of the wineries that we had received recommendations to visit + chose a handful of options based on proximity to one another. No joke, it could take an hour to drive between each winery if you don’t use a map to help you choose.
Hire a driver. Surprisingly, it was pretty difficult + time-consuming to call Ubers in wine country. It could take upwards of 30 minutes for an Uber to arrive, given the size of the area, + each ride really adds up. If you have a whole day of wine tasting ahead of you, hiring a driver is super cost-effective + saves so much time, as you never have to wait. For a group of 8 girls, our driver charged just under $500 for the entire day - breakfast to dinner. If you’re looking for a driver for your trip, look no further than George at All Day Wine Tours.
Make reservations. A majority of my past wine tasting experiences have been at small tasting rooms or wineries that are all about walk-ins + first come, first serve. Not the case in Napa. Especially for a group, you absolutely need to make reservations for all of the wineries that you plan to visit. We made all of our appointments a month out + some of our top choices were already booked at this time.
Set a spending expectation. There is a huge range of prices when it comes to tasting fees in Napa. Before the trip, I was used to a standard $15-20 tasting fee. When planning the Napa trip, it was few + far between to find anything for $20 - with many tasting fees ranging well over $80-100! Before making your reservations, decide how much you feel comfortable spending + research the costs. We ended up setting $40 as the cap for our tasting fees + it’s definitely possible to find some amazing wineries for under $50, but be sure to set a budget + plan your tastings accordingly.
Give yourself plenty of time. Given the distance between many of the wineries, it’s important to plan plenty of time between each tasting. You can expect the tasting alone to run a minimum of 40 minutes, but you’ll also want time to explore the insane grounds of each of the properties. I would recommend setting each of your reservations 2 hours apart to give you ample time to enjoy each place without feeling rushed. Most wineries are open from 10-6, so you can, comfortably, squeeze in just 4-6 in one day.
where to drink
I think it’s safe to say that if you’re planning a Napa trip, finding the best places to drink is high on your priority list! Below are a few of my top recommendations. We definitely explored more wineries than the ones below, as well as passed by a few that we would definitely add to our list of next time, so please email or comment with any questions on wineries beyond these!
Jacuzzi Winery - This was our first stop upon arrival Friday afternoon + it was jaw-droopingly beautiful. Everything I imagined Napa to be. Stunning Italian architecture with vines as far as the eye could see. We all did a tasting to decide our favorite wines + then bought several bottles to enjoy outside on the patio. Best way to spend the afternoon after our flights + the drive in. Tasting fee was the most reasonable of the whole weekend at just $15. The same owners have the neighboring winery, Larson, that we didn’t get to visit, but heard amazing things about.
Domaine Chandon - Chandon is most famous for its sparkling wine which made it the perfect first stop for Saturday morning. 10 AM felt a little early to be enjoying a bold red. There was even a mimosa bar which was a great touch. The grounds were so beautiful + reminded me of a mix between an arboretum + a zoo. I knew going into the tasting that Chandon would be a little more commercial, as I had seen their wines in pretty much every local grocery store in Seattle, but figured I still should pay it a visit. Ultimately, I’m glad I visited, but wouldn’t return. It was great to visit for my first Napa trip, but definitely felt a bit commercial + touristy.
Inglenook - Favorite winery of the entire trip! The estate was absolutely stunning - a gorgeous yellow mansion at the end of a road winding through the vineyards. Our tasting was in a private dining room with our own sommelier. The tasting was also complete with a meat + cheese plate for pairing. For the whole experience, the tasting fee of $40 seemed totally reasonable - especially given that some of the wines we tasted retailed for over $400 a bottle!
V. Sattui - Great winery + perfect place to stop for lunch! The winery has a huge market + delicatessen where you can grab sandwiches, salads, pasta, you name it, to enjoy on the grounds complete with a bottle of wine from the shop. This was the one spot that actually did not take reservations for groups 8 or under, so it was kind of a madhouse, but we were lucky to find a spot for all of us to taste. It was a super chill environment + they actually ended up giving us 12 tastes, even though the menu quoted just 5. We learned a ton about how to taste + how to evaluate the quality of different wines, which was a great experience!
SIGH - We absolutely fell in love with this sweet champagne bar in the heart of Sonoma. We loved it so much that we went two nights in a row. This is a great spot to add to your list for after dinner or before heading out for the night. They serve champagne by the glass or bottle, as well as a variety of tasting flights. It’s super Instagrammable + the owners were SO friendly + accommodating to our group.
where to eat
the girl & the fig - Cutest bar + restaurant in downtown Sonoma. We ate here for dinner, but also heard they serve an incredible brunch. We were able to sit outside + the patio had tons of string lights hung up which gave it a great ambience. The restaurant had a ton of great options for charcuterie + cheese boards - which I basically live for - as well as a great wine list + delicious, reasonably-priced entrees. Definitely make your reservations well in advance if you plan to dine here. Great location if you plan to visit some evening tasting rooms or take on the limited nightlife options.
The Red Grape - Super unassuming spot in Sonoma, but seriously delicious food. Very casual vibe. A great place to just relax + enjoy a few bottles of wine over conversation without feeling like you’ll be rushed out. Prices were super reasonable which was also great knowing how the tasting fees at the vineyards can add up.
Basque Cafe - We stopped at Basque for breakfast on Saturday morning before embarking on our big wine tour day. It definitely seemed like the hangout for all Sonoma locals + everyone seemed to know one another. The cafe served breakfast sandwiches, pastries, coffee + was a great spot to grab a quick, but hearty, bite before our day started! If you want to pack in as many vineyard visits as possible, you won’t have a ton of time to sit down for a lengthy brunch, so a cafe + easy breakfast is definitely the way to go!
I seriously had the best weekend exploring Napa + I know there is so much that I still have to experience there. It is the perfect getaway for people of all ages (obviously over 21 though) + I cannot wait to go back - hopefully bringing Kelda along next time!! If you have any questions, we are always happy to answer, so don’t hesitate to reach out.
I know that Napa is a hot spot for couples’ trips, weddings + bachelorette parties, so I’m sure you all know at least one person that could benefit from this guide! If you enjoyed reading the post, or any of our content, the greatest compliment you could give us is to share with others in your life! Thank you so much!