10 Places to Sip and Nibble In California's Napa Valley. #7 Is A Hidden Gem.

Northern California's wine country is a magical place. Each and every time I visit I feel like I am in a dream -- perhaps it's the wine that has this effect! There is a never ending list of wineries and tasting rooms to visit while in Napa or Sonoma. So, how does one go about choosing? That's the dilemma. Napa Valley contains well over 200 wineries, and most welcome guests with tours and tasting rooms. While enticing, the wealth of options can be overwhelming for all but the savviest of insiders. I'm breaking it down for you, the best places to sip on wine tastings and nibble on small pairings.

1. Sip Tiny Bubbles at Domaine Chandon

Domaine-chandon-greenpoint-roomDomaine Chandon

Chandon is one of the few Napa Valley wineries permitted to have a restaurant, the excellent Étoile. For the tasting lounge, chef Perry Hoffman created dishes to go with Chandon sparkling wines. chandon.com

2. Experience Wine and Olive Oil tasting at Long Meadow Ranch

Long Meadow Ranch 2 Long Meadow Ranch All of the tastings here include samples of the estate's wonderful olive oils, too. Reserve a spot for a Farm-to-Table Experience ($85), which culminates in a three-course lunch at Long Meadow's Logan-Ives House. Dishes from chef Tim Mosblech are tailored to the wines, from Sauvignon Blanc to Cabernet. longmeadowranch.com

3. Explore 20 Small Wineries at Ma(i)sonry

Charles Rovegno House, 6711 Washington St., Yountville, CAMa(i)sonry

Twenty small California wineries offer tastings at the Ma(i)sonry collective. Guests can taste from whichever wineries they choose in whichever setting they prefer, from a steampunk-art gallery to a contemporary sculpture garden to a blanket on the lawn. maisonry.com

4. For the Cabernet drinkers, you'll love O'Shaughnessy

O'Shaughnessy Everything about Paul and Betty Wooll's secluded, Cabernet-focused winery is state of the art, from the glass-and-stone cellar to the 11,000-square-foot cave drilled into the side of Howell Mountain. Yet the building manages to blend into its natural surroundings. oshaughnessywinery.com

5. Taste one of the oldest producers, Beaulieu Vineyard

Beaulieu Vineyard One of the oldest producers in the valley, BV offers tours of the original winery building, which dates back to 1885. These are followed by barrel samples of Cabernet and a stop in the new Heritage Room, which chronicles the history of wine in Napa. bvwines.com

6. Wine Taste in the Louis XV-styled Château that is Domaine Carneros

Domaine CarnerosDomaine Carneros 2 There’s no better way to soak in Carneros than by sitting on the terrace of Domaine Carneros with a glass of sparkling wine in hand. The winery, set gracefully on a hill, was designed to evoke the 200-year-old, Louis XV-styled Château de la Marquetterie, which Champagne’s Taittinger family has owned since before World War II. The tableside service on the patio allows visitors to sit back and feel the signature Carneros breezes while sampling Domaine Carneros wines by the glass, flight or bottle. Munch on the complimentary almonds or dig into the well-priced selections of cheeses or caviar. The intimate Balcony Package for two is a private tasting of top cuvées overlooking the vines, for $250. Inside, a painting of Madame de Pompadour dominates the foyer leading to the marble-floored, high-ceilinged tasting room. www.domainecarneros.com

7. Relax in the unpretentiousness of Scribe

ScribeScribeWinery_Web-12 Just a short drive away from San Francisco, Scribe Winery in Sonoma provide an exceptional setting for an enjoyable wine tasting while nibbling on snacks in Wine Country. Andrew Mariani's two hundred acre farm/winery is certainly an outstanding experience. harming, rustic, and indie are three words to describe Scribe. The tasting room? Simple. A few out door rugged tables to the view of the vineyards, not scripted, down to earth wine servers that willing to have conversations with you and not there to clean your wallet or forcing you to join their wine clubs. The kind of service that make you come back to buy more wines and worth-of-mouth to promote their wines on social media without anything more. Scribe is by appointment only.

8. Enjoy a glass in resort style at Ram's Gate

rams gatejpeg Ram's Gate Winery is something pretty spectacular and worth checking out. Located at the entrance to the Carneros region of Sonoma just across from Infineon Raceway. The facility and tasting room just opened about in 2012, offering an excellent hospitality experience, amazing wines from some of the best vineyards in Carneros and Sonoma County, stunning architecture and views, and excellent food pairings to complement our wines and round out the experience.

9. Try the Cheese and Wine Pairings at Far Niente

Far NienteFar Niente 2 Far Niente is one of Napa’s most elegant estates, with beautiful grounds and a deep history. A visit includes a winery tour and tasting of current release and library Cabernets and Chardonnays, with a seasonal cheese match. Not bad for $50. The 40,000 square feet of wine-aging caves are spectacular, as is the carriage house, where you’ll get to peek in on founder Gil Nickel’s car collection. www.farniente.com

10. Plenty of photo opps at Peju Province Winery

Peju Province Winery 1 Peju Province Winery 2 Outside, a long line of sycamore trees, gardens, fountains and sculptures offer plenty of photo opportunities. Inside Peju, there is plenty more to look at—an art gallery, an antique stained-glass window and shopping—and multiple tasting spaces; be sure to make a reservation if you want a tasting of older library wines. It all has a quirky, colorful, friendly vibe, and the staff is very accommodating. www.peju.com

Have you been to any of these? Share your favorites!

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Insiders Guide To An Idyllic Escape to Northern California


There is nothing like an impromptu adventure. My husband, Gregg, and I had been talking about taking a road trip up the northwestern coast and explore the big redwoods in Northern California, venturing into Oregon and Washington. Plus, gluten-free travel within my own backyard, per se, is obviously not as stressful as traveling in a foreign country.

An Idyllic Escape to Northern California

In a ramblist manner, this weekend we did just that.

On Mother's Day weekend? See—my dad forgot it was Mother's Day weekend and surprised my mom with a vacation in Playa del Carmen. This gave us the perfect opportunity. We packed our bags, gassed up and headed up the 101-N about 3.5 hours north of San Francisco. This peaceful Sunday drive took us through wine country, and into Mendocino County.

The twists and turns of the winding roads lined by trees that seemed to get taller and taller by every inch and mile, eventually lead us to our first stop.

Goldeneye Winery in the small town of Philo of the Anderson Valley specializes in Pinot Noir. We enjoyed a tasting accompanied by a spread of local cheeses on the beautiful estate.


Their "tasting room" is the whole outdoor patio. The view is beautiful—one can sit on the back patio and just gaze at the perfect rows of vines that lead the eye into the forests in the back.

Goldeneye had provided the reds and whites served at Obama's '08 inauguration dinner (menus are still on display).

We finished our tasting we hit to the road again to stop just about a minute at a stand that said, "APPLES." We knew we had to stop.


Gowan's Oak Tree, a roadside stand featuring homegrown and local produce in the Anderson Valley, along Highway 128--2 1/2 miles west of Philo, and 8 miles from Boonville. We purchased a basket of apricots and a bag full of apples to enjoy as we journeyed to Mendocino.


We drove through the winding roads as our jaws dropped at every twist and sharp turn, fascinated by the Navarro River State Park Redwoods; we pulled over to take it all in. The Navarro River Redwoods State Park consists of 660 acres of second-growth redwood forest in a narrow stretch 11 miles long on both banks of the Navarro River. Majestic.

valerie fidan northern california ramblist.com

As we made our way to the coast onto Highway 1, better known as the Pacific Coast Highway to Southern Californians, we were mesmerized by the stunning ocean views with vivid blues, waves crashing upon a dark sand beach and the fog slowly creeping in. Navarro Beach is located at the bottom of the Navarro River, is a place where surfers mingle with fisherman and hippies in a laid back community.


After taking picture after picture at the beach, we hit the road again--Mendocino not too far, about 7 miles north. We checked in at the Stanford Inn by the Sea, an eco-friendly lodge with organic gardens, where they harvest threat own food for their vegan, famed restaurant, The Raven's. Everything was five star delicious.


We noshed at The Raven's. This place was amazing! A fabulous plant-based gluten-free menu, with only a handful of gluten items.


We started off with the Tamari-Maple Glazed Tofu with a wasabi emulsion, sesame seeds, and scallions.

I enjoyed a Moroccan Mushroom Salad made with romaine, diced red bell pepper, celery, red onions, olives all mixed with cilantro dressing.

Gregg enjoyed a Mushroom sandwich that was amazing! It tasted like a crab roll. The mushrooms were breaded in corn meal and dressed with avocados, picketed red onions, and delicious pesto on a gluten-free roll.

As we continue our journey up through the Northern California coast, my search for gluten-free food sounds very promising.

Ramblist Need To Note

Sip on this:Goldeneye Winery, 9200 Hwy 128, Philo, CA 95466; (800) 208-0438 Stop here:Gowan's Oak Tree, 6600 Highway 128, Philo, California 95466; 707-895-3353 Wander off here: Navarror Redwood State Park; Navarror Beach at Point Arena Nosh here:The Raven's, Located within The Stanford Inn By The Sea; Reservations requiredStay here:The Stanford Inn By The Sea, 44850 Comptche Ukiah Rd, Mendocino; (707) 937-5615

Do you have any recommendation on gluten-free (and vegan) spots? Let us know in the comments or by sharing it with the social media links! We’d love to keep giving you travel tips so feel free to subscribe by e-mail. Don’t forget you can follow Ramblist on facebook, twitter, and instagram