Planning Your Perfect Wine Tour: Comparing Napa Valley vs Sonoma
California tourism brings in a whopping $126.3 billion annually. A healthy chunk of that change is tourism to the northern part of the state, where thousand-plus-year-old Redwoods abound, the Pacific Ocean creates breathtaking sites as it smashes up against the rocky cliff sides, and of course, grove upon grove of our nation’s richest, most productive farmlands sprawl as far as the eye can see. One of the most lucrative and impressive of these crops is the grapevine — the source of some of the world’s most celebrated wines.
Most people immediately think of Napa Valley when it comes to wine touring, tasting, and vacationing. But Sonoma is just a few miles west of Napa (that means closer to the beach, folks), and offers a completely different atmosphere and array of wines and wineries to try. Stuck in a quandary? Here’s your guide for choosing the perfect NorCal wine vacation for your personal taste and style.
Exploring Napa Valley’s Pros & Cons
Napa caters to wine elitists: the people who know the difference in a good wine and a great one, and are willing to pay the difference in price. That isn’t at all to say that newbies aren’t welcome — budding oenologists are encouraged to come here and learn to experience, critique, and enjoy various wines. Just prepare to spend a bit more for a Napa wine tour, averaging about $460 per day compared to about $290 per day in Sonoma.
There are just under 400 tourable wineries in Napa, producing more than 1,000 brands of wine. The most popular and prolific wines in Napa are Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Merlot. The flagship wineries in Sonoma include Beringer, Stag’s Leap, Chateau Montelena, Grgich Hills, Rombauer, and V. Sattui. There are also some astounding wines produced in Napa’s smaller, lesser known wineries, so be sure to include at least a handful of these little gems on your tour.
The cost of a wine tasting in Napa ranges from free to $10-$50, which is on par with Sonoma’s prices, and you can get all-inclusive packages when you book your wine limo tour of Napa. Many of the wine tastings, especially at the smaller, mom and pop type shops, are free. It is customary (and courteous) to buy a bottle at all your free tastings, though. Most of the wineries offer bottles in the range of what one of the less-expensive tastings cost ($10 to $25), so pick a wine you particularly like and make a wine maker happy that day.
Since a sizeable portion of Napa’s income comes from wine tours, not simply selling (exporting) wine, Napa wineries tend to do a little more rolling out of the old red carpet. Wine tastings in Napa are truly an experience. Napa also has more to offer in terms of fine eating, so foodies tend to flock here more so than Sonoma, which offers lots of good food, but not quite as much excellent dining experiences.
Another consideration for a wine tour in Napa is the traffic. It’s much more congested (due to the heavy emphasis on tourism), so you’ll definitely want to leave the driving to the pros at a limo wine tour service. That’s doubly important since you’ll be sipping and enjoying wine all day. Napa cops take DUI quite seriously, and there’s no pulling the wool over the eyes of these experienced guys and gals in blue. They can spot a tipsy driver a mile away.
Exploring Sonoma’s Pros & Cons
Incredibly, Sonoma actually produces a larger quantity of wine grapes than Napa. There are nearly 20,000 more acres of vineyards planted here, and 800 more growers. But there are fewer actual wineries, especially for touring, with Sonoma weighing in at around 500 wineries, compared to Napa’s approximately 700. Of course, not all of those in either region are open for tourings and tastings. A lot more people call Sonoma home, too, with a population of over 450,000 compared to Napa’s 150,000. Sonoma is primarily a farming community of hardworking families, many of whom just happen to also own and operate wineries.
There are about 450 wineries offering tours in Sonoma, ranging in price from free to $15-$50 for a wine tasting. Sonoma is most known for producing unoaked Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, Reds, and Sparkling wines. There is actually a wider variety of different wines to taste and buy in Sonoma, so if you like trying new things (which is what a wine tour is all about), you’ll love Sonoma.
There’s a bit less hand-holding on a Sonoma wine tour than what you typically find in Napa. If you like to take your own pace and enjoy a little less mother hen-ing, you’ll love a Sonoma wine tour. But don’t worry about getting lost, because just like in Napa, you can get a Sonoma limo wine tour, so you have a built-in designated driver who knows all the back roads and in’s and out’s of the area and its wineries.
And the Verdict Is …
Overall, Sonoma isn’t quite as polished for the visiting eye as Napa. If you’re a spa treatment, followed by a slick, guided tour, finishing with a 5-star restaurant kind of guy or gal, Napa is ideal for you. If you’re the roughing it while still managing to experience the best life has to offer kind of person, Sonoma is just your style.
The Sonoma experience is pretty much all about the wine. For a full vacation experience, complete with swimming pools and gyms at your hotel and some swinging nightspots, Napa has more of that to offer. Sonoma is quaintly charming, while Napa is sleek and polished.
They’re both great places to visit. The deciding factor simply boils down to your personal taste and vacation style. Better yet, try them both!
What are you waiting for? Call Allure Limo Wine Tours for the best Napa Valley Wine tours today! You can also check out these other helpful links below to help you plan the perfect tour.
Best Reasons To Take a Napa Wine Tour This Fall
Wine Tasting Tips
Wine Tasting Etiquette
Napa vs Sonoma Wine Tours
Why use a Custom Napa Limo Tour
Napa Valley Winery Map
Best Wine Tours in Napa
Napa Valley Facts
Napa Travel Tips
Why Ship Home Wine Bought in Napa
Napa Valley Food Pairing Tips