Napa and Sonoma Counties, CA

NAPA and SONOMA Counties are both similar and not-so-similar.

While both extol wine as the leading source, both have qualities that are comparable, and different. Here’s what we found:

NAPA is the big brother in the northern tier of California. It is the largest producing area of  fine wine production in the state. So says the Napa Valley Destination Council. It also may be the most attractive as an area to tour, cycle, dine out, or flame out. It includes the most lavish estates and wineries, and vistas.  It’s the first choice of savants, or the who’s who. It’s also the high end of the where to stay.

To sample some of the digs in Napa, my wife and I opted for the Auberge du Soleil, 4-star property of small, very intimate cottages in Rutherford. The property had amenities we hadn’t seen before, but very,very comfortable. Designed in the Western style, with large, open spaces between rooms, with large floor boards, a deep European tub, a  refrigerator with a full compliment of savories, including beer and a bottle of Napa wine for our choosing, and a roaring gas-fired fireplace that heated an early night’s chill, we felt that we had arrived. But only for one night. We slept like logs. The next morning we had the privilege of an early breakfast, French style, complete with fresh fruit, hand-rolled croissants, home made jam and fresh creamy butter. Only the private pool a few yards way was more inviting on this summery day. We left with fond memories. Needless to say it was worth the investment. The Aubege du Soleil is a Relais & Chateau property. It’s really a cool place to drop out. If you can, do! And the short ribs are to die for, says my wife. She oughtta know!

On the other end of the spectrum in SONOMA County was the Les Marsproperty in Healdsburg. Newer, and less than 5 years old, Les Mars is an in-city property, in the classic French period style. On only three floors, with lighted chandeliers, fine wood paneling,  brassy fixtures, but very understated and absolutely silent. Yet the room we were assigned, though not as large at the none we had in Rutherford, was ample enough for us. Here we found a jacuzzi tub, a lot of antique white brass plumbing, a duo of sconces adorning a nice cozy fireplace, with decanters of Zoom Water, and a smaller bottle of  Oak Hill wine at our disposal. Smart, neat, and not flashy is what we sensed, but well proportioned. The pillows were a soft as sand. We slept well. On the next morning we were served with a French continental breakfast on Bernadaud china and fine silverware, along with a copy of the New York Times. (Thank you!) Fresh fruit, Greek yogurt, a basket of warm pastries, and local preserves along with a pot French drip coffee. Not bad, we thought. Les Mars is also a Relais & Chateau property.

The service was courteous and prompt. And a $25 service charge took care of all our needs, including an arrangement to visit the largest winery in the area, Chalk Hill, which we discovered, owned the property we were staying in. The area is part of the Wine Road, an assembly more than 200 wineries over six areas. These included Alexander Valley, Green Valley, Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Rockpile, and Chalk Hill. The area is quieter than Napa, not opulent, more laid back, even conservative. Yet the shops that line Main Street in Healdsburg carry fine apparel along with a bevy of art galleries and shops. There are a number of noted restaurants in Healdsburg including Scopa, Charcuterie, and the Dry Creek Kitchen. You can relax here in shorts.

About The Author

Michael Zufolo, Producer/Co-Host of Let's Travel! Radio

Michael has been an active player in Media Relations and Marketing for the past 30 years with stints at The New York Times, Forbes, WOR Radio, TV Channel 11, Attenzione Magazine,, and with participation in the Caribbean Tourism Org.,/ CTO, the Pacific Travel Assn./ PATA, the Foreign Press Assn./ FPA, and the International Society of Travel Writers/ ISTR. Libra/ America, his latest signature, provides travel opportunities to VIP travelers and groups world-wide. Let’s Travel! Radio is an extension of his experiences.

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