It’s no secret that Matt and I LOVE to travel! We’re always been up for a trip, even if it’s just for the weekend. It could be a 2 hour drive to Savannah, a 19 hour road trip to Connecticut, flying to a tropical island or across the country to our favorite state, California.
So when we were contacted about Linelle & Jonathan’s wedding in San Ramon, CA, we decided to spend a few extra days for the 4th of July and do some wine tasting. It was the most relaxing weekend, and we had a fantastic time without breaking the bank! Wine country can definitely get expensive very quickly. A hotel in Napa/Sonoma is $200-300/night. Wine tastings can range from $10 to $50, depending on the winery and the type of tasting. And you can’t have great wine and NOT have great food, so wine country has an impressive selection of restaurants, most notably French Laundry, which is considered one of the best in the WORLD! A 9 course prix fixe dinner is over $500 for two people – and that doesn’t include your wine! Ouch!
Well, we don’t have that kind of budget, but you don’t need to in order to have a great time in wine country! First, we stayed outside of wine country. Our hotel was in Pleasanton (just 10 minutes from where the wedding was) but on our last trip to Napa we stayed in Vallejo, which is just 30 minutes from Napa. You can easily find a hotel on Priceline for around $50 if you’re flexible on what area you stay in. I always bid on 3 stars and up for hotels and have not been disappointed. When we stayed in Vallejo we scored a 4 star hotel for only $50/night. Not bad!
We spent one day in San Francisco and two days in Sonoma and had a FABULOUS time! Here are some ways to enjoy San Francisco and Sonoma on a budget!
Day 1 – Point Reyes National Seashore and San Francisco
We started off at lunch at a small Mexican restaurant that we found on Yelp called Taqueria los Pericos. I just searched for “Best Mexican restaurant in Pleasanton,” and the reviews were great. We split a quesadilla and a soda, and even between the two of us we were barely able to finish it!
We then drove out toward the coast. On the way, we saw a road sign for a mission, so we made a slight detour and stopped at Mission San Rafael Arcangel. After learning more about the mission, we continued onward to the Point Reyes National Seashore. This is possibly one of the most diverse and beautiful places I have ever been! Our main purpose was to visit the lighthouse, but the long drive took us past a quaint small town, several ranches, and beautiful beaches. We saw deer crossing the road and LOTS of cows! I absolutely adore cows, so I was thrilled when we had to stop while they crossed the road! There are over 300 steps to get down to the lighthouse, and the hike back up is pretty intense, but it was so worth it! The view was incredible!
After leaving Point Reyes, we made our way toward San Francisco, making a stop at Muir Woods. We got there right at 6pm, and as it turns out they let you in free at that point! I wish I could tell you that we are so savvy that we timed it that way, but we were just lucky! The redwood trees at Muir Woods are an impressive sight, and it’s a great place to just get in touch with nature. There’s a stream, mossy tree stumps, and tons of wildlife. We saw a variety of birds, a deer and two fawns, and my FAVORITE – a baby chipmunk! Matt had a hard time dragging me away from it! I can’t resist cute fuzzy little critters!
Once I realized that I couldn’t take the chipmunk home with me, we made our way down to San Francisco for “Friday Nights at the deYoung Museum.” Free admission to the museum, music (that night’s band was LoCura, and they were PHENOMENAL), and free coffee from Peet’s Coffee & Tea! Sounds like my kind of night! We had a great time and ended our visit to San Fran with a late dinner at Tommy’s Joynt. We’re suckers for any place that has been on Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives!
Lunch at Taqueria los Pericos – $10
Mission – .25 to park
Point reyes – free
Muir Woods – free
Museum – $26 (parking and drinks)
Tommys Joynt – $28 for two sandwiches and beers
Total – $64.25
Day 2 – Sonoma
Our second day was much more relaxed! We stopped at Trader Joe’s to get some goodies for a picnic at Cline Cellars. The grounds at Cline are so tranquil that we spent the entire afternoon there! The tasting was free, but we loved their wines so we joined their club. We bought a bottle of Mourvedre to enjoy with our picnic, found a spot in the grass and listened to the wind blow through the trees and birds singing.
If that wasn’t perfect enough, Cline Cellars is also the site of the beginnings of the Sonoma Mission. They have a mission museum on site with models from all of the missions that were on display at the World’s Fair. Fascinating, but it gets better! They also have a bird sanctuary and two Sicilian miniature donkeys named Pudding and Fancy! Too cute! But the BEST part of all… the Cline family bought Villa Laura – the house from “Under The Tuscan Sun!” As if we needed another reason to LOVE this winery!!
After spending most of the day at Cline, we went to Sonoma Plaza and shared some ice cream (because when you’re on a trip you should always have dessert first!). We also saw Mission San Francisco Solano, the last of the California missions. Then we shared a fantastic pizza from The Red Grape for dinner. A perfect end to a wonderful day!
Picnic lunch from Trader Joe’s – $12
Wine tasting at Cline cellars – the tasting is free, but we spent $15 on a bottle of Mourvedre
Missions museum – free
Sonoma plaza – free
Mission San Francisco Solano – free
Ice cream – $7
Dinner at The Red Grape – $22
Total – $56
Day 3 – Sonoma
We had such a wonderful time in Sonoma that we decided to go back again the next day. We knew we would spend most of our day at Cline Cellars, so we decided to visit a few other wineries to compare. Cline was by FAR our favorite for their wines and for the scenery. We spent the afternoon there before heading out to the airport for a redeye flight.
Lunch at Taqueria los Pericos – $10
Picnic dinner from Trader Joe’s – $15
Nicholson ranch winery – $10
Gundlach Bundschu – $10
Sebastiani – $15 (we joined the club, so our tasting fee was refunded)
Cline Cellars – free tasting, but we bought another bottle of their smooth Mourvedre ($15)
Total – $75
We hope this inspires you to take a trip out to the Bay area and wine country! And if it does, please bring back a bottle of red for us! Cheers! : )