Having been to wine country a number of times now, I always find myself coming back with modified opinions on the age-old debate of “which is better” – Napa or Sonoma. I initially fell in love with Napa, but then cheated on it with Sonoma – and am admittedly probably still more attracted to the new kid on the block. But they both really are magical and I would never turn down a trip to either. Below, I’ve listed an updated set of thoughts and reactions for each.
- More expensive tastings ($15-30 apiece)
- Less picturesque, aside from the Silverado Trail, where the topography starts to yield better views of the valley
- Generally yuppier clientele
- More hidden gems than I recall (e.g. Saintsbury)
- Bigger and more famous vineyards
- Much more corporate and quick to push product on tasters
- Upscale, recently-reconstructed downtown area
- Less residential areas (more of a Bed-and-Breakfast scene)
- Best Pinots around, with other varietals the compliment the portfolio (but don’t hold a flame to the Pinots)
- Less expensive tastings (mostly $20 and under)
- More picturesque, with rolling hills, and a generally “greener” landscape
- More laid back clientele
- More hidden gems than I recall (e.g. Cast)
- Smaller and more quaint vineyards
- Less corporate, more independent, and you feel less pressured to purchase product
- Older, more quaint downtown area
- More residential areas (more ideal for an Airbnb)
- Less impressed with their Pinots, and more impressed with varietals I didn’t previously associate with the area (e.g. Zins, Cabs, Syrahs, blends, etc)
All in all, I think Napa probably still has a higher ceiling, with more of the top-end names (both wineries and restaurants, like French Laundry). It definitely has more money invested in it, and it shows – as evidenced by comparing the town squares. But I still prefer Sonoma because of the quaint and less arrogant feel.
Much more to come as I review some of the stops along the way!
Til Next Time,