Where can I take my mom for a fun, relaxing weekend where we can eat, drink (wine!), and be merry?
April 30, 2012 12:56 PM   Subscribe

Northern California wineries and B&B's in either 1) Amador/El Dorado wine country or 2) Napa/Sonoma (that won't break the bank)?

My mom has been having a rough go of it lately, so I would like to really treat her for Mother's Day this year. She loves wine (old-vine zins, specifically) so I'd like to take her wine-tasting (likely the weekend AFTER Mother's Day), and stay the night in a B&B or some charming, small hotel (to make it more of a 'getaway'). Fortunately we are in the Sacramento area, giving us several options within a few hours' drive. Please help me plan something marvelous for my dear mama!

The first choice would be the Amador/El Dorado area simply because it is more affordable and a little closer. I'm considering Renwood or Story but the lodging options seem kind of limited in the Plymouth area. I am trying to avoid a Super 8-type place--looking for something with a little character.

Napa/Sonoma is second choice but I am open to it. I've only been wine-tasting there once and otherwise I wouldn't even know where to start.

I did take a look at this recent question but it wasn't too much help because the asker was looking for romantic places (this is my mom we're talking about so that's not a priority!) and most of the responses suggested Mendocino and Big Sur/Monterey/Carmel and those are just too far away.

So I am looking for 1) cool wineries (preferably old vine) within a couple of hours' drive from Sacramento, 2) affordable lodging for what would likely be a Saturday night in mid-to-late-May, and 3) dining suggestions would be great too--cost is not so much a concern here.

As always I feel like I am probably forgetting something, so let me know if you need more details. Thanks everyone!
posted by lovableiago to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I forwarded this question to my parents who live in Sacramento and are regulars on the El Dorado wineries circuit. The only winery I know for certain they would recommend is their favourite: Dobra Zemlia. They are members of the wine club and love it.
posted by kendrak at 1:35 PM on April 30, 2012

That's a great start Kendrak! Funny because I actually went to Croatia a few years ago and brought my parents back a bottle of red-something-or-other and they loved it.
posted by lovableiago at 1:49 PM on April 30, 2012

I can't answer for Amador/El Dorado (though, great for Zin), but I live in Davis (while doing my PhD in the wine department of UC Davis) and go out to Napa/Sonoma a reasonable amount. For great wine, not insane bank-breaking, and cool little wineries, I heartily recommend Sonoma (specifically, Russian River and Dry Creek area) over Napa, which I consistently find to have jacked-up tasting prices, overrated wines for what they charge for them, and a scene-y atmosphere that I don't like (and I work with winemakers!)

Specifically, I like Porter Creek, Amista, and Unti all of which do good zinfandel and have a lot of estate-grown stuff. Also, the Viognier at Porter Creek, the Rose at Unti, and the Syrah/Sparkling Syrah/Port at Amista are AWESOME. Also, all 3 are $5 or no charge for tasting and waived if you buy a bottle.

They are all pretty close to Healdsburg, where I have never stayed but really like- there's a Flying Goat Coffee, Cyrus is excellent fine dining, and Bovolo inside Copperfield's books does great house-made meats and sandwiches and things.

And if you go for a bit of a drive, Ad Hoc, Bistro Jeanty, Bouchon Bakery, and Redd are all great (there's also the French Laundry if you have a large pile of money you've been meaning to burn)

N.B. not that I don't like amador wines, I'm just a bit more familiar with traveling in Napa/Sonoma.
posted by zingiberene at 2:07 PM on April 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Lodi is pretty well respected for its zins.
posted by kdar at 2:08 PM on April 30, 2012

Zingiberene nailed a few of my favorites . I love Sonoma which is known for Zin's and the Dry Creek Valley is littered with great Zins (can't say enough about Unti its one of my favorite wineries - and Porter Creek also has a delish Carinagne) also Nalle is phenomenal (ask if they have any of their Zinot Noir (spelling is correct) they can share. You can also hit the Ridge's Lytton Springs tasting room. Ridge has some phenomenal Zin's their Geyserville is one of my favorite wines and their Monte Bello is one of the best wines period. My wife and I hit Sonoma more frequently these days then Napa since tastings in Napa can run around $20 and its hard to find wines for less then $30 in a lot of the rooms.

If you're looking for something inexpensive for lodging try the Guerneville area my wife and I like to stay at the Santa Nella House which is under $200 a night most of the time. But you can find nice places in Guerneville for less and you can pop into Healdsburg for fine dining etc.
posted by bitdamaged at 2:56 PM on April 30, 2012

I am not a "wine guy" per se, but I know a little about wine (and much more about beer) and have been going to the El Dorado wine areas for about ten years or so.

Amador and El Dorado are actually somewhat different areas. El Dorado is pretty much along Highway 50 past Placerville, also near the Apple Hill area. Amador is south of there, and accessed via Highways 49 and 16. There is another somewhat distinct area called Fair Play that lies between. In my circle of friends and from my experience you typically go to one of these on a day out, but they are all somewhat close to each other so I don't know why you couldn't. The foothills are somewhat known for their Zins, so you've come to the right place. Also remember that at most of these places it is free to taste, unlike Napa. May not sound like a big deal but heading to Napa and hitting all the Opus Ones/Etc can cost an arm and a leg for a 1oz sip.

As this is the Sierra Foothills all of these are centered around what was historically mining towns, so there is a lot of mining era kitsch and sites to see. Lots of neat little old main streets with old shops. I don't know of any specific bed and breakfast locations, but I've seen several over the years along 49. I can't think of *any* decent hotels in there....

As far as where to go, we've been wine club members at Lava Cap in the Apple Hill area for years. Back before we had children they were the only winery were we really had any consistently good wines, and their tasting room that is bedecked in gold ribbons from wine festivals backs it up. If you go pay the extra $5 for the reserve tasting - their Petite Syrah Reserve is phenomenal.
posted by Big_B at 3:00 PM on April 30, 2012

Amador-wise: I hear good things about the Volcano Union Inn but I haven't personally been there, yet.

Also go get ice cream at Munnerlyn's.
posted by elsietheeel at 3:03 PM on April 30, 2012

I don't have specific recommendations, but I will say you shouldn't throw out the idea of staying in a regular highway chain hotel. Sometimes they are just as much of an escape as a b&b - and cheaper, especially for a non-couple, since you can split one room with two beds, which b&bs don't have. Find one with a hottub and a waffle bar for breakfast, and you are golden!
posted by yarly at 3:15 PM on April 30, 2012

So my mom said Dobra's not as good any more and that you should check out Wilderrotter. It's also in Plymouth.
posted by kendrak at 3:23 PM on April 30, 2012

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