Home California The Perfect Time To Visit Napa and Sonoma – Is Now

The Perfect Time To Visit Napa and Sonoma – Is Now

written by Penny Sadler


Update: October 31, 2019

The recent fires in Sonoma County were mainly in the northern part of the county and are now over 50% contained. Most of the areas that were evacuated have now had those orders lifted. Understand that the extreme evacuations were precautionary measures. Most of the wine country remains as beautiful as ever. To receive up-to-date information use this link

Healdsburg was never touched by the fire nor was Geyserville. If you have plans to travel there, please DO! They need your business.  If you’re uncertain about Sonoma, then consider checking out Napa or Anderson Valley. Use the search bar on the homepage of this site to find more articles about wineries and wine regions in California.

I was working in Napa Valley in 2017 when the fires roared through. I can assure you, if they say they are open and it’s safe, it is. Consider calling ahead to confirm reservations if you have plans in say, Healdsburg, just to make sure they are open again. There was no damage there, but it can take a few days to recover from an evacuation. 

If you’ve fantasized about visiting California’s beautiful Napa and Sonoma wine country but still have not fulfilled that dream, the perfect time is now!

Please read the rest of the article and share it with your friends and anyone who is considering a visit to Northern California. 

I’ve recently relocated to the wine country, living in Sonoma and working in Napa Valley. The northern California wildfires did indeed impact the wine country, but not in the way most people think. News coverage makes it seem as if the fires have taken out every vineyard and tasting room in Napa, Sonoma, Mendocino, and counties beyond – and that’s just not the truth.

The Perfect Time To Visit Napa and Sonoma Is Now

Blue skies and green in the vineyards at Vincent Arroyo Winery in Calistoga, CA

Let me explain.

When a natural disaster strikes a side effect is that we are bombarded with images of the ravaged area. True, we need to be aware of what is happening where and the severity. The problem, I think, lies in the 24/7 information culture we live in. An article that is days old will live forever on the internet. If we are not diligent in fact-checking we become part of the problem, spreading incorrect information.

Of the over one thousand plus wineries and tasting rooms in Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties, fewer than 5% have reported fire or smoke damage.


The Perfect Time To Visit Napa and Sonoma is now ©PennySadler 2017

Cabernet Sauvignon grapes – the varietal that Napa Valley is known for.

Additionally, more than 90% of the crop had already been harvested. The remaining grapes that were still awaiting harvest were the thicker skinned varietals that are mostly impervious to the smoke. 2017 will be a good vintage.

Let me say it again – The perfect time to visit Napa and Sonoma is now.

Update: Calistoga was never evacuated in 2019 and they are still recovering from the loss of 2017. Go visit!

Calistoga, a hamlet of 5,000 in northern Napa Valley, was one of the towns evacuated. The fire came dangerously close. Though the town was spared, the economic loss was enormous.  In all, about a week of business in the peak tourist season has been lost.

The perfect time to visit Napa and sonoma is now

Balloon over Calistoga vineyards.

Calistoga’s main street is lined with small shops, restaurants, tasting rooms and galleries. With the loss of several 1000 homes and income (gardeners, pizza parlors, dry cleaners, florists, pool cleaners, donut shops, all of the independently owned businesses) will have a ripple effect across the board.


The Perfect Time to Visit Napa Valley, Is Now.

Lincoln Ave. in Calistoga. Same as it ever was.

For visitors, now is actually the perfect time to visit. Many hotels have dropped their rates significantly. Spas and other businesses are offering discounts. On Highway 29, the main road through the NapaValley, traffic is flowing. Normally in October, traffic can be annoying. The tasting rooms are not as busy, especially mid-week. That means you can get some personalized attention. Imagine having Napa all to yourself! Well, almost.


Why now is the perfect time to visit napa and sonoma counties

In front of Model Bakery in St. Helena, a popular Napa destination.

And let’s not forget our friends in Sonoma county. Dry Creek and Russian River Valley are two popular wine areas that saw no damage at all from the fires or smoke. Yet they, too, have lost tourists.


The Pefect Time To Visit Napa and Sonoma is now

Casual and fun atmosphere in the tasting room at Vincent Arroyo in Calistoga


Here’s how you can help — come visit.

  Enjoy fine dining in Michelin-starred restaurants or your favorite pizzeria. Soak in the mineral waters and mud baths of Calistoga. Kayak, hike and bike the many trails. If you can’t make it in person now, buy a gift certificate that you can use later to benefit from the savings today. Buy wine online!

Check out the magnificent redwood trees at Armstrong Park in Sonoma County. 

Try the Visit Napa Valley website for ideas and organizations that are donating to relief efforts for victims.

Sonoma County has a great newsletter with lots of information on where to go to make the most of your time there.

Here’s a partial list of wineries in Napa that I visited and have not had a chance to write reviews about. They are all open for business.

Inglenook – Touristy but great experience. Inglenook has a long history. Be sure to check out the cafe – the perfect place to stop for a coffee if you’ve had enough wine. But, is that possible?

Robert Sinskey – beautiful tasting room offering food and wine pairings and seated dining. Robert Sinskey specializes in cooler climate varietals and grows most of his fruit in Sonoma County. Beautiful Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris and handmade food items you can take home with you.

Gargiulo Vineyards – beautiful wines on acreage with great views across the vineyards. Super knowledgeable staff who deliver a five-star experience. They also have charcuterie. You must book in advance.

Charles Krug – this is the first operational winery in Napa Valley so a lot of history here. Do not confuse Krug with the champagne maker. Be sure to take a tour of the property. They’ve also recently opened a small cafe in the tasting room. 

Brasswood – super fun wine bar, tasting room and restaurant. Open for lunch and dinner Brasswood also has a good happy hour. 

Twomey – cozy and friendly tasting room. Twomey makes solid wines from fruit harvested at vineyards in Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties. 

Romeo Vineyards – the tasting room is on Lincoln Ave. in Calistoga. It’s small, pretty and very friendly. Romeo produces wine mainly from Bordeaux varietals. They also offer dessert wines and a port-style wine that are delicious!

I will be adding to this list and including more detailed information and more wineries. Please check back. Or sign up to receive an email when I do an update.

Vineyards in Sonoma County after the fires

image courtesy of Sonoma County tourism


Jenner Beach sunset River's End ©PennySadler 2017

Jenner Beach in Sonoma County

Read this article in Marin Magazine, 7 Things To Do in Wine Country Now That the Fires are Out!

Please help us spread the word! Share this with everyone. 


Vincent Arroyo Greenwood Estate Vineyards CA

Sunset just a day after the fires were contained.

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Wanderlust Jim June 8, 2018 at 9:40 am

I notice you said you lived in Sonoma and I take that to mean the city/town of Sonoma. However I see you do not include any pictures of it nor feature any of the wineries in Sonoma. What a pity! It is my favorite location in the Sonoma/Napa Valley area.

Miranda @ Migration Expert UK June 4, 2018 at 1:47 am

You did a great job showing off the Wine Country of Sonoma! I so want to go there someday!

Penny Sadler June 7, 2018 at 10:27 pm

It is easy to do! Go!

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Micah Stubbs February 15, 2018 at 4:21 pm

Hi Penny!

Is there a certain time of year that you would suggest I visit Napa? Before, after, or during harvest? I’m an aspiring sommelier and documentarian and would love to see the region.

Penny Sadler February 15, 2018 at 6:23 pm

Hello Micah, we’ve had an amazingly warm winter with little rain. You can’t go wrong coming in the spring. Summer can be very hot and crowded especially June, July and August. However, sometimes harvest starts late August so if you want to make sure you are here for harvest I’d plan to come anywhere from end of August to late September. Last year we finished the harvest end of September. Most harvest parties are around that time as well. I hope that helps you! I think the fall is the prettiest.

Rebecca January 9, 2018 at 12:06 pm

Considering a trip to Napa but we’re worried because last year we visited some wineries near Shasta that were sorely affected by the smoke of nearby fires. It literally ruined all of the barrelled wines at one of the wineries we went to. Have you heard anything about this problem?

Penny Sadler January 17, 2018 at 8:54 pm

Hello Rebecca,
Shasta is nowhere near Napa Valley. As for the smoke damage in Napa, no, many wineries have already had tests run and so far no damage has been found. The wineries did not burn and few vineyards had any smoke damage. Once the wine is in the barrels, unless the smoke was extremely heavy in the building, there’s almost 0 chance of smoke taint.

Dhara January 1, 2018 at 9:49 pm

We visited over Thanksgiving weekend and were blown away by how gorgeous the Valley looks in the fall. We have visited before in the summer and the winter, but November was stunning. Hope the Valley continues to recover!

Agness of a Tuk Tuk November 25, 2017 at 5:40 am

Wow! Napa Valley is a truly astonishing place, Penny. Your pictures made me fall in love with both, Sonoma and Napa. Plus, as a wine lover, it would be a perfect place to live in. 🙂

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Sandy N Vyjay November 7, 2017 at 10:31 pm

I have heard a lot about Napa Valley and its charming beauty. The lovely images were of course singed by the media reports of the forest fires. It is really great of you to explode the myths and give a candid account of the actual situation on the ground. The place is so beautiful and I am sure as you pointed out the 90% of the vineyards had already been harvested and hence the damages minimized. The beauty of the place is indeed a joy forever.

Val Wheatley November 7, 2017 at 1:23 pm

I’m so glad to see that you wrote an article to help all of us non-Californian winos! I’ve been wondering about the extent of the damage and how it has affected tourism in the area so this was an incredibly helpful read. So happy to hear that 2017 will be a good vintage! Hoping to plan a trip soon!

Penny Sadler November 7, 2017 at 5:07 pm

Let me know if I can help you with your plans.

Rosemary November 7, 2017 at 10:50 am

Thank so much for sharing the perspective that it is indeed a great time to visit Napa/Sonoma. Thank you so much for countering the media. Great article and can’t wait to visit soon. Enjoy your time working in the area 🙂

Penny Sadler November 7, 2017 at 5:08 pm

Thanks Rosemary. Let me know when you head out.

Peter Korchnak November 7, 2017 at 10:09 am

Good stuff. My wife is from the Sonoma County area, and she was upset about the fires, which burned some of the places she knew or went to. After natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and other catastrophes, the tendency is to abandon the place. But the best way to help is indeed with your dollars! Not to mention the benefit of fewer people.

Kirstie November 7, 2017 at 1:04 am

This is really thoughtful! I don’t think people should be discouraged from going to a wonderful place post-disaster when that place still continues to welcome tourists! It’s sad that this happened but I think that’s right. Put in fresh prospectives. DISCOUNTS + PERSONALIZED ATTENTION!

Ryan Biddulph November 6, 2017 at 2:30 pm

Penny your lead in is dead on. A strange fear effect colors so many folk’s travel choices; they see a headline and begin making blanket assumptions. 5% of this region suffered damage. Meaning 95% is up and ready for business. Pretty good ratio for me, if I am considering visiting the Napa Valley. Awesome message and great post. Definitely added to our travel list when we visit the West Coast.


Penny Sadler November 11, 2017 at 9:06 pm

Ryan, Thank you for your comments and insights. Please do come visit us and make sure you let me know so I can help you arrange some awesome tours and winery visits.

Paige W November 6, 2017 at 4:38 am

This is a great article. It’s so true that our media can make situations seem much more dire and drastic than it is. If I were in the states I would go give them some love! I thought the damage was much more widespread to wine country than 5%!

Penny Sadler November 7, 2017 at 5:12 pm

Well it is. What I said was that of the wineries only 5%. The other businesses and homes that were damaged is fairly extensive but does not affect tourism.

Jackie Sills-Dellegrazie November 5, 2017 at 10:28 am

This post is such perfect timing because I was just chatting with my husband wondering about the specific damage done to the vineyards in Napa and Sonoma. We visited years ago and stayed in Calistoga. We were so sad to hear about the fires. You are so right, though, because the coverage of the disaster leaves people feeling like they should avoid the area. I’d love to make it back out for a visit, but I also love the idea of buying wine or gift certificates online to help support the industry.

Penny Sadler November 5, 2017 at 11:27 am

Thanks for your comment Jackie. Much appreciated to know that the word is getting out there.

Brianna Simmons November 4, 2017 at 3:48 pm

I’m glad to hear that the fire damage isn’t as extensive as I had thought. I’m hoping to get to wine country next spring.

Penny Sadler November 5, 2017 at 1:01 am


Jenn November 4, 2017 at 9:50 am

This is a great post to help out local business and wish I had the time to visit! Great tip about doing tastings midweek to get more personalized attention.I’d also love to try the mineral waters and mud baths of Calistoga!

Penny Sadler November 4, 2017 at 9:55 am

The mineral water baths are awesome! Let me know if I can help you with some recommendations.

Elena (@TravelingBytes) November 4, 2017 at 9:43 am

I wish I were in the US to follow your advice. I have delightful memories of past visits to Sonoma. It’s good to know that 2017 will be a good vintage. Perhaps buying a bottle of Californian wine next year would compensate for my inability to visit it now.

Penny Sadler November 4, 2017 at 9:55 am

Or you can buy a bottle now. What kind of wine do you like?

Scott - Quirky Travel Guy November 3, 2017 at 10:57 pm

Nice post. Sometimes after disasters people need a reminder that it’s still ok to be a tourist and spend time in those areas. Same is true of Mexico City after the earthquake – now is a great time to visit.

Penny Sadler November 4, 2017 at 9:56 am

Yep. All around the world.

tim askew November 3, 2017 at 2:35 pm

I didn’t know you had moved , Penny. Hope you are happy there.


Tim Askew

tim askew November 3, 2017 at 2:33 pm

Nice column, Penny. I did not know you had moved.

Tim Askew

Penny Sadler November 4, 2017 at 9:56 am

Hi Tim. It’s been a whirlwind and is still new. I arrived about a week before the fires.


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