This year we spent Thanksgiving in Sonoma with our families. It was equal parts incredible and difficult. On the one hand, we love wine country, it’s our happy place, and we’ll take pretty much any excuse to visit but traveling with kids brings a whole new set of challenges – especially in Napa Valley – which is NOT the most kid/baby friendly destination. But we powered through and really had a lovely time creating memories with our family.
For this itinerary, I’m going to abbreviate part of the week where I was working and posted up at our Airbnb and focus mainly on the things we did do. Strangely enough, we’ve been to Napa on at least seven different occasions in the last couple years, but I’ve never shared a Napa travel itinerary before so I’m excited to share some of our favorites now!
November 21, 2021 – Travel Day
We had a tasting reservation at Ram’s Gate Winery but ended up having to cancel last minute since our Sunday plans in San Francisco ran late. I was super bummed because this one has been on my list for awhile and looks beautiful. Luckily, we were able to use our tasting deposit towards wine so we have a few bottles headed our way to try at home. This winery is located on the southern side of Sonoma so it’s easy to hit on your way up or out of the valley, assuming you’re based in SF.
When we finally arrived in Sonoma, it was late afternoon so we checked into our Airbnb and then ordered takeout from Mary’s Pizza Shack. The food was just average, not anything I would go out of my way to eat again.
November 22, 2021 – V. Sattui Winery & RH Yountville
Monday evening we had reservations at RH Yountville Restaurant. To kill some time before our reservation, we went to V. Sattui Winery for a quick tasting. What’s great about V. Sattui is that you can basically walk-in without reservations and it’s family friendly. I understand too that may be unappealing to many people for those same reasons but it worked for us on this trip. With COVID they do seem a bit more organized with tables and tents outside but during normal times, it’s easy to stop in, grab a bottle of wine, picnic food and post up on the lawn or at a picnic table.
RH was beautiful and the food was delicious – no surprises there – but I was a little disappointed in the service. It took awhile to get the attention of the server, the food came out at different times and they were a bit clumsy when delivering and clearing the food.
November 23, 2021 – Kenwood Vineyards
One perk of working central time zone hours on the west coast is that your day ends around mid-afternoon so we were able to squeeze in a last minute tasting at Kenwood Vineyards in Sonoma. It isn’t anything fancy but they are kid friendly, had an available reservation and were generous with their pours. For dinner, we just grilled back at the Airbnb.
November 24, 2021 – Gott’s Roadside & Roche Winery
Despite my best efforts, I couldn’t find a winery for a tasting Wednesday afternoon [literally must have called 20 spots] with availability. We even tried a few tasting rooms in downtown Napa and were turned away. In the end, we grabbed food from Gott’s Roadside and then took a walk through Oxbow Public Market – a great non-wine tasting activity and also place to eat.
Back in Sonoma, we had a tasting scheduled at Roche Winery and Vineyards. The Airbnb that we rented was actually on the Roche Winery vineyard and our tasting was complimentary with the stay. The service was TERRIBLE and the wine was average but it was free so I can’t really complain. They do have a beautiful, recently renovated, outdoor tasting space at the winery. It seemed pretty casual when we were there so I would guess they’re open to walk-ins, families, large groups and pets [best to call or check the website to confirm].
For dinner, we tried El Dorado Kitchen and for as highly rated as it is, I didn’t think it was anything too special. The ambiance was great and they seated our large-ish group outside after only a 20 minute wait but the food just didn’t impress me. One spot I’ve heard great things about but haven’t been able to try is The Girl and The Fig.
November 24, 2021 – Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving morning stated with a big family tasting at Viansa Sonoma Winery & Tasting Room. Finding this place was a dream – they were open on Thanksgiving, accommodated our large party [which is not an easy feat in COVID times, especially in California] and were only about five minutes from our Airbnb. Sipping wine in the California sunshine with incredible views of the valley was honestly the perfect way to kickoff Thanksgiving day.
After the tasting everyone made their way back to our Airbnb and we picked up our entire Thanksgiving dinner from Whole Foods in Sonoma. This is my first time going the Whole Foods route and while it was super convenient, everything still needed to warmed up in oven safe dishes which didn’t necessarily eliminate the prep or cleaning like how I originally envisioned. Overall though the food was good and the family was satisfied.
November 25, 2021 – Opus One & Round Pond Estate Winery
Friday Kevin and I went on a kids free day date. Our first stop was Bouchon Bistro in Yountville for lunch and it was my absolute favorite meal of the trip. The food, ambiance and service all were impeccable and I would 10/10 go out of my way to eat here again. In fact, I’m still drooling over the chicken dish I ordered from there as I write this!
From Yountville, we made our way just a few minutes north to Opus One in Oakville for our first tasting. I honestly did not know what to expect from such a highly touted [and priced!] wine but we really enjoyed our experience. If you’re not familiar with Opus One, it’s the product of Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Chateau Mouton Rothschild in Bordeaux and Napa Valley vintner Robert Mondavi. They make just one wine per vintage and are absolutely meticulous about the grapes, flavor and quality that makes up their Opus One. We tasted their 2008, 2016 and 2018 vintages and all were incredible and extremely different. We also received a private tour of the barrel room and fermentation chamber. Our host was lovely and knowledgable and the wine tasting experience was peaceful, intimate and relaxed. The grounds are beautiful but the winery itself feels a bit cold and sterile – in stark contract to most other vineyards in Napa Valley.
Our next stop after Opus One was Round Pond Estate Winery in Rutherford. The Rutherford AVA in Napa is probably my favorite and we’ve been wanting to try Round Pond Estate forever but I’m either too late to make a reservation or the schedule doesn’t align with our itinerary. Regardless, we loved the wines and our Artisan Tasting experience here on the outdoor covered terrace next to the fireplace. We will for sure be back – especially considering we joined the wine club!
After Round Pond, we made our way back to the Airbnb to see our babies and enjoy Thanksgiving leftovers. That evening, after we put the girls to bed, we met up with Kevin’s family at B&V Whiskey Bar & Grill for a drink and to say our goodbyes as they were heading out early the next morning. We didn’t eat here so I can’t speak to the food but the restaurant had a very bar-esk type vibe.
November 26, 2021 – Napa Valley Reserve & Four Seasons
Saturday morning was a bit of a mess if I’m being honest! We had to pack everything up and check out of the Airbnb by 10AM but the lack of sleep, schedules and healthy meals plus a terrible cold/cough was really taking it’s toll on the girls. We had a tasting scheduled at 1PM and wanted to try and hit another winery before then but the girls needed to sleep so we ended up just driving around Napa for two hours while they napped. On the bright side, we did get to see St. Helena Catholic Church where we got married in 2018 and stop for an english muffin breakfast sandwich at The Model Bakery – my favorite.
Early afternoon, we made our way to The Napa Valley Reserve for a private tasting with family friends who are members there. The Reserve is located adjacent to Meadowood in the heart of Napa Valley surrounded by lush gardens and is absolutely stunning. Our tasting was located in The Reserve Library, the second level of the Blending Barn which houses an extensive collection of books and is gorgeously appointed.
After our tasting at The Reserve, we had lunch at the new Four Seasons Resort in Calistoga. The property is pretty and clean, food was good and service was decent at best but they had only been open a few weeks and I think were still working out some of the kinks. I will say, no one batted an eye when my fully dressed two-year old took it upon herself to take a dip in the heated pool and I’m very grateful for the large, luxurious towels in abundance around the pool deck.
That evening, we made our way back down to San Francisco, had dinner at our family friends house in Woodside and then went to the airport to catch our redeye back to Chicago. I was stressed about surviving the redeye, all things considered, but both girls slept the majority of the flight and the worst part was just how cold the plane was! It was a great trip but we are happy to be home and all sleeping again in our own separate respective rooms.
Until next time, wine country!
Accommodations & State Specific Details
My Airbnb Review: We had a great stay at Carrie’s house! It is located just 12 mins from Sonoma Square and comes FULLY equipped with everything you might need during your stay. The outdoor spaces are lovely and there are so many spaces both indoor and out where you can relax or entertain. We loved being close to Roche winery and enjoyed the complimentary tasting that came with our stay but the house is set back on a small backroad and we didn’t love the “neighborhood.” In general, I’d say the property could use some TLC. The back deck is a little rickety, the occasional cricket can be found hoping around inside and some of the appliances/fixtures could stand to be updated. Overall though we enjoyed our stay!
To Napa Valley: We flew into San Francisco (SFO) and actually spent the weekend there for a wedding before driving up to Napa Valley on Sunday afternoon. From San Francisco, it took us just over an hour. However, the return trip Saturday evening took well over two hours.
Around Napa Valley: We rented a car and drove almost everywhere. There are incredible car or wine tour services in Sonoma though!
Currency: US Dollar (USD)
Outlet Adapter: The standard voltage is 120 V. The standard frequency is 60 Hz. The power sockets that are used are of type A and B. Standard United States adapters.
Passport/Visa Requirements: No U.S. Passport required.
Vaccinations/Medicines: In general, I’d say California is pretty strict with their COVID mandates. We had to wear masks in all indoor spaces and there were limits on the party size at restaurants and wineries. We did not have to show our vaccine cards in Sonoma/Napa but we did while we were in San Francisco the weekend before.
Weather: We visited Napa Valley in mid-November and the weather was gorgeous. It was Thanksgiving week so past harvest and many of the vines were bare or starting to lose their leaves and had the most beautiful colors. The week we were there, the highs were in the upper 60’s and it was sunny every day. You could definitely get away without a jacket during the day in the sun but mornings, evenings and in the shade – it was much cooler. Manageable though with a few extra layers. Both Sonoma and Napa were decorated for the holiday and it was quite lovely and still very busy!