San Francisco

9 Napa Valley Wineries That Are Worth the Drive From SF

P.S. One is a castle!

Photo courtesy of Sterling Vineyards
Photo courtesy of Sterling Vineyards
Photo courtesy of Sterling Vineyards

Napa Valley is known for its stunning landscapes, hillside vineyards, grand estates, Mediterannean climate, gourmet food, and phenomenal wine, traits that have made it one of the most popular wine regions in the world and the second most visited tourist destination in Cailfornia (that famous mouse and his friends are the only bigger draw). And though the American Viticultural Area (AVA) is actually very small as compared to other wine-making regions (just five miles across and 30 miles at its longest point), it is still home to over 400 wineries, 95% of which are family-owned. With so many wineries to choose from, it can be a little overwhelming to figure out where to start. Our advice: Be flexible. Ask for recommendations. Seek out smaller vineyards for more intimate experiences. Don’t try to go to too many wineries in one day. Hydrate. And also, make it a point to explore at least a few of the wineries on this list, all of which not only produce excellent wine, but offer unique experiences to break up the monotony of sidling up to tasting room counters.

Editor’s note: Please be sure to check with each specific winery for current visiting options. Most are open by reservation only until California fully reopens.

Photo courtesy of Brasswood Napa Valley
Photo courtesy of Brasswood Napa Valley
Photo courtesy of Brasswood Napa Valley

Brasswood Napa Valley

St. Helena
Wine is often best enjoyed with food, which is an area where Brasswood excels. You can visit the standalone restaurant on its own or indulge in the Brasswood Lunch Pairing at the winery, where you’ll enjoy seasonal dishes paired perfectly with premium small production wines. If you’re constantly confused when people say they smell notes of “blackberries” and “coffee” and “leather” (?!?), the Sensory Tasting may be a good option. You’ll use a Sensory Globe  and a flavor wheel to focus on using smell, touch, and vision to uncover what’s in your glass.
How to book: Appointments aren’t required for signature tastings, but are for curated experiences. Make one on Resy.

Photo courtesy of Castello di Amorosa
Photo courtesy of Castello di Amorosa
Photo courtesy of Castello di Amorosa

Castello di Amorosa

Calistoga
Travel back in time to a 13th-century- and Tuscan-inspired castle where you can tour the wine production area, underground cellars, armory, torture chamber (!), and do a barrel tasting in the Grand Barrel Room. You can also do a standard tasting and explore the castle on your own, but you won’t get to see the torture chamber, so it’s really not a hard choice to make.
How to book: Walk-ins are accepted for tours and tastings, but reservations are recommended and can be made on the website.

Photo courtesy of Charles Krug Winery
Photo courtesy of Charles Krug Winery
Photo courtesy of Charles Krug Winery

Charles Krug Winery

St. Helena
Charles Krug is the oldest winery in Napa Valley and was home to the first tasting room in California, two facts that alone make it a worthy destination. The single-vineyard cabernet is an easy third. They’re currently offering tours and tastings, as well as private cabanas where groups of six can do a tasting flight or order full bottles along with food. Visit on the weekend when they fire up their classic Mugnaini Pizza oven for delicious wood-fired pizza.
How to book: Reservations are not required for the tasting room, but are required for tours and cabana rentals. You can make them on the website.

Photo courtesy of Domaine Carneros
Photo courtesy of Domaine Carneros
Photo courtesy of Domaine Carneros

Domaine Carneros 

Napa
Domaine Carneros uses the labor-intensive méthode traditionnelle (the one that’s used in the Champagne region of France) to make its sparkling wine, and while that is certainly one draw, the other is the that you can enjoy your tasting on the terrace of a grand chateau with perfectly manicured formal gardens and views of vineyards. Splurge for “The Ultimate Chips & Dip” pairing and you’ll sip your bubbles with Tsar Nicoulai Caviar and gourmet potato chips.
How to book: Walk-ins are allowed, but reservations are recommended, especially for the high-end experiences and tours. They can be made on Tock.

Photo courtesy of Hall Wines
Photo courtesy of Hall Wines
Photo courtesy of Hall Wines

HALL Wines

St. Helena
A 35-foot tall Bunny Foo-Foo sculpture greets guests at this winery that’s located at the base of the Mayacama Mountains and sets the tone for the experience to come. The 33-acre property is home to the historic Bergfeld Vineyard, which was originally planted in 1859 by a New England sea captain, as well as 35 pieces of contemporary art dispersed across the land. You’ll see all of that on the signature tour that’s followed by a seated tasting, but you’re also welcome to explore the grounds on your own before or after your tasting.
How to book: Reservations are recommended and can be made on CellarPass.

Photo courtesy of Robert Mondavi Winery
Photo courtesy of Robert Mondavi Winery
Photo courtesy of Robert Mondavi Winery

Robert Mondavi Winery

St. Helena
Robert Mondavi was a winemaking pioneer who helped put Napa Valley on the map. Learn more about him and the history of winemaking in this region at a seated tasting or on a tour of the historic To Kalon Vineyard, cellar, and barrel aging room. New to wine tasting? Reserve the Wine Making Basics tasting where a wine educator will teach you how to swirl, smell, and sip.
How to book: Tastings and tours are available for walk-ins and reservations. Reserve your spot on Tock

Photo courtesy of Tank Garage Winery
Photo courtesy of Tank Garage Winery
Photo courtesy of Tank Garage Winery

Tank Garage Winery

Calistoga
You can get acres of vineyards, rolling hills, gorgeous views, and classic tasting room experiences at most wineries in Napa. At Tank Garage, you won’t get any of those things. What you will get is a chance to taste unique, one-off wines while hanging out in a garage with the door open at a vintage gas station. You’ll also get good music, vintage pinball, and a laidback vibe. 
How to book: Reservations aren’t usually required, but right now are available on Tock.

Photo courtesy of V. Sattui Winery
Photo courtesy of V. Sattui Winery
Photo courtesy of V. Sattui Winery

V. Sattui Winery

St. Helena
V. Sattui does offer tours and tastings, but we think the best way to enjoy the winery is to arrive hungry and dp the following: Get lunch to-go at the artisan deli where you’ll choose between gourmet sandwiches, paninis, house-made charcuterie, and over 200 cheeses. Grab a bottle (the cabernet sauvignon is excellent), and then enjoy it all at a table on the two-acre picnic lawn that’s surrounded by oak trees and vineyards. Not able to find something you like at the deli? First of all, that’s impossible, but second of all, there’s also a food truck serving barbecue and wood-fired pizzas on most weekends.
How to book: Walk-ins are accepted, but reservations are recommended. Tours and tastings can be reserved on CellarPass.

Sterling Vineyards
Sterling Vineyards
Sterling Vineyards

Sterling Vineyards

Calistoga
Sterling is currently closed as it repairs the damage from 2020’s Glass Fire, but we couldn’t leave it off of the list because we wouldn’t be doing our job correctly if we didn’t tell you about the only estate in Napa Valley where you have to/get to take an aerial tram to the hilltop winery 300 feet above the town of Calistoga. Once there, you’ll enjoy a tasting on the terrace that looks like something straight out of Mykonos, except with wine country views for miles. And be sure to check out the art collection with originals by Picasso and Renoir before riding back down to the bottom. While you wait for the winery to reopen, you can book a virtual tasting that’s curated to your tastes, or shop from their reserve collection
How to book: Inquire about booking a virtual tasting on their website. Reservations are encouraged when the winery reopens.

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Daisy Barringer is an SF-based writer who is constantly disappointing people in wine country when she tells them her last name is spelled B-A-R-R-I-N-G-E-R and not B-E-R-I-N-G-E-R. Follow her on Instagram @daisysf.

San Francisco

How to Celebrate Black History Month in San Francisco

Support and celebrate SF's Black community.

Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade

Though it’s something we need to be doing every day of every month of every year, Black History Month encourages us to pay tribute to the struggles and oppression generations of Black Americans have faced, as well as their often-neglected triumphs and achievements that have helped shape this county and make it better. It’s a time to reflect on how we can do better to confront racism and oppression, which this year’s theme, “Black Resistance,” echoes. This is especially important in a town like San Francisco, where the Fillmore District was known as “the Harlem of the West” before the city displaced a vast portion of the neighbourhood’s Black community in the ’60s and ’70s. This displacement continues today, as the Black population is the only racial group that has declined in every census since 1970.

If you’re looking for ways to celebrate Black History Month, there are lots to do. Whether you want to educate yourself by attending films, performances, or conversations, share the joy at a parade or dance party, or do a little bit of it all at a drag show, here are just a few ways you can get involved and have a lot of fun while doing so:

Visit San Francisco Public Library branches for workshops, films, performances, and more

February (and throughout the year)
Library branches and online
SFPL’s “More Than a Month” celebration focuses on the theme of resistance this year. Family-friendly and adult events include film screenings, musical performances, book clubs, workshops, and more.
Cost: Free

Museum of African Diaspora
Museum of African Diaspora
Museum of African Diaspora

See art, poetry, films, talks, and more at MoAD

February (and throughout the year)
SoMa
Right now, at the Museum of African Diaspora, you can see the first and only West Coast exhibition of “The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion,” which highlights the work of 15 contemporary fashion designers “whose images present radically new perspectives on the medium of photography and art, race and beauty, and gender and power.” The museum, which has a robust year-round program and event calendar, has a slew of events to attend, including youth poetry readings, film screenings, open mic nights, book clubs, artist talks, and more.
Cost: Event prices vary; GA to visit the museum is $12 but free every second Saturday of the month

Check out films, art, reading, talks, and more at BAMPFA

February (and throughout the year)
Berkeley
There is always something interesting to discover at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA). During Black History Month, you can see films by Pratibha Parmar, “Felwine Sarr: Music, Freedom, Africa,” a conversation through music with the Senegalese writer, scholar, composer, musician, and more.
Cost: Varies

Old Skool Cafe
Old Skool Cafe
Old Skool Cafe

Enjoy menu specials honoring Black community members at Old Skool Cafe

February (and throughout the year)
Bayview
For Black History Month, Old Skool Cafe is adding the favourite meals of notable Black community members to the menu each weekend. The nonprofit, youth-run supper club helps at-risk, formerly incarcerated, and foster care youth ages 16-22 gain the skills and experience they need to succeed in various front and back-of-house restaurant roles. Bayview hero/community advocate Mrs. Dorris Vincent is first up, followed by Judge Trina Thompson, Delroy Lindo, and Mayor London Breed.

Yerba Buena Gardens
Yerba Buena Gardens
Yerba Buena Gardens

Walk beneath the Marting Luther King, Jr. Memorial waterfall

February (and ongoing)
Yerba Buena Gardens
Did you know that Yerba Buena Gardens is home to the country’s second-largest memorial to Dr. King? Visit the sculptural waterfall featuring glass panels inscribed with his inspiring words at 750 Howard Street.
Cost: Free

Attend the Commonwealth’s “Dreaming Forward: A Celebration of Black Joy, Power, and Excellence” conference

Thursday, February 9
Embarcadero
On behalf of Dr. Sheryl Evans Davis and the San Francisco Human Rights Commission, the Commonwealth Club is hosting its second annual Dream Keeper Initiative, a day-long conference/celebration/call-to-action featuring special guests, including April Ryan of TheGrio and CNN.
Cost: Free

Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays
Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays
Courtesy of Oakland First Fridays

Celebrate Black Love at Oakland First Fridays

Friday, February 10
Telegraph Avenue from West Grand to 27th Street
Telegraph Avenue transforms into a dining, shopping, and art-appreciating party on Friday, February 10, from 5 pm to 9 pm. There will be food, artist, and retail vendors and a host of Black artists, authors, and entertainment. Please note: This event was rescheduled from February 3 because of potential rain.
Cost: Free

Have a ball at an all-Black drag show at Oasis

Friday, February 10
SoMa
“Reparations with Latrice Royale” is an all-Black drag show hosted by Latrice Royale, the beloved Drag Race star who also happens to be celebrating her birthday.
Cost: $15 to $60

Dance all night and shop all day at the Afro Soca Love carnival and marketplace

Friday, February 10 ‚Äď Saturday, February 11
341 13th Street, Oakland
Afro Soca Love creates experiences that act as a “gateway to building bonds and strengthen relationships-between communities, individuals, and Africa and its diaspora.” See for yourself at the all-ages marketplace (Saturday), where you’ll find food and drink, fashion, beauty and wellness, home decor, and more. But before the shopping comes the dancing at the 21+ Friday Night Carnival, a culturally immersive music experience with music from all over the world.
Cost: The marketplace is free; tickets to the Friday Night Carnival start at $20

See a live performance of “Words That Made the Difference: Brown vs. the Board of Education”

Saturday, February 11
Unity Palo Alto
See a live theatrical performance based on the true events that occurred in the fight to end school segregation. The script draws from trial transcripts of the five cases brought together in front of the Supreme Court and Chief Justice Earl Warren’s memoirs, and the play is set in the courtrooms where it all happened. There will be a Q&A with the playwright before the performance and the cast afterward.
Cost: Free

Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company
Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company
Courtesy of San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company

Go to the I, Too, Sing America album release party

Saturday, February 11
Mission
Head to the Brava Theater Center to celebrate the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company’s album release of the music created for I, Too, Sing America, a soulful and uplifting performance that moved audiences when it debuted last year. The night includes an album-listening and sing-along party, DJs, dancing, an open bar, and more.
Cost: $40

Go on the Black Liberation Walking Tour of West Oakland

Saturday, February 18
West Oakland
Take a walk with David Peters, founder of the West Oakland Cultural Action Network, and Gene Anderson, the author of Legendary Locals of Oakland, to learn about resident voices and document sites of cultural and historical significance in the neighbourhood. Peters is a local native, and Anderson is an Oakland historian whose family has historical roots in West Oakland.
Cost: $50 ($30 for West Oakland residents)

See a screening of The Black Kung Fu Experience followed by in-person demonstrations

Sunday, February 19
Great Star Theater, Chinatown
The Chinese Historical Society of America is celebrating Black History Month and social unity with a screening of this film about how a group of African American pioneers became respected in a subculture dominated by Chinese and white men. Afterward, there will be demonstrations and talks with Sifu Donald Hamby and Sifu Troy Dunwood, who “will speak about their success as internationally recognized martial arts masters, their Chinese Kung Fu teachers, and what this practice means in relation to diversity, race and inclusion issues.”
Cost: $15

Sip wine made by Black winemakers at a free tasting event at STEM Kitchen + Garden

Thursday, February 23
Dogpatch
STEM Kitchen + Garden is hosting an afternoon wine tasting celebrating Black-owned wineries in its gorgeous indoor/outdoor space, and best of all, and it’s free to the public!
Cost: Free

Bayview Opera House
Bayview Opera House
Bayview Opera House

Attend the San Francisco African American Arts & Cultural District Gala Fundraiser

Saturday, February 25
Bayview Opera House
Enjoy an evening of talent, fashion, and community inspiration at SFAAACD’s 1st Annual Gala Fundraiser. Carla Duke, Television News Director at CBS-KPIX Chanel 5, will host the event, which includes inspiring words from keynote speaker Aniyia Williams, an artist, tech creator, and system-preneur.
Cost: $100

Attend a Black History Month & Chinese New Year Poetry Reading on Angel Island

Saturday, February 25
Angel Island
There is so much history in poetry at the Angel Island Detention Barracks Museum, which makes it a fitting location for poets Chun Yu and Michael Warr. The co-founders of Two Languages/One Community will share their poems and stories in English and Chinese, accompanied by projected images of text and photographs.
Cost: $10 to $21

Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade
Courtesy of Black Joy Parade

Feel the joy at the Black Joy Parade

Sunday, February 26
Downtown Oakland
This parade and festival celebrate the “Black experience past, present, and future.” Be prepared to experience “more Black joy than you ever imagined,” starting with the parade (beginning at 14th and Franklin) at 12:30 pm. The family-friendly festival follows (main entrance is at 19th and Franklin) will include 200-plus Black-owned small businesses selling food, drinks, clothing, art, and more. There will also be two stages with Black performers, including The Black Joy Choir.
Cost: Free

Take a sound bath at Grace Cathedral in honor of Black History Month

Monday, February 27
Nob Hill
Take an immersive sound bath featuring Fractals of Sound, a collective of top Bay Area musicians Egemen Sanli, Phoenix Song, and Sam Jackson, with special guest Destiny Muhammad. Together, they will create a “soundscape deeply rooted in world music,” allowing you to take a meditative journey in one of the most beautiful places in San Francisco.
Cost: $25 to $75

See Tsitsi Dangarembga and Angela Davis at City Arts & Lectures

Tuesday, February 28
Civic Center
Co-presented with MoAd, City Arts & Lectures is hosting novelist Tsitsi Dangarembga and scholar and activist Angela Davis for what’s sure to be a riveting conversation.
Cost: $36

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Daisy Barringer¬†is an SF-based freelance writer who spent many childhood days wandering around the Exploratorium. Follow her on¬†Instagram¬†to see what she’s up to now.

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