POSTED ON October 30, 2018 | IN Napa Valley, Sonoma County | BY Joe Becerra
crossroads of napa valley and sonoma which is better

To the Napa Valley or Sonoma?

What is the difference between the Napa Valley and Sonoma?

Should I travel to the Napa Valley or should I go to Sonoma? What is the difference between the two wine regions and which one is better?

best picnic wineries Sonoma Valley

St. Francis Winery in Sonoma. In the background are the Mayacamus Mountains.

Main differences between the Napa Valley and Sonoma

Janelle and I have been traveling to both the Napa Valley and Sonoma for many years. We are expert travelers to both wine regions. Let’s go over the significant differences between the two.

Geographic area

The Napa Valley runs north and south for 30 miles. To the south is the city of Napa, and at the northern end is the town of Calistoga. At its widest point, the Napa Valley is five miles. Sonoma wine region is much larger. Sonoma has three separate wine areas. First, there is Sonoma Valley near the town of Sonoma. Near Healdsburg, there are the Dry Creek Valley and the Alexander Valley. The Russian River Valley runs through the towns of Graton and Sebastopol. There are even wineries on the edge of the Pacific Ocean in Sonoma.
 

Main Towns

The Napa Valley has four tourist destination towns. These are Napa, Yountville, St. Helena, and Calistoga. Sonoma’s most popular destination towns are Sonoma and Healdsburg.
Napa Valley compared to Sonoma

Looking down Lincoln Avenue in Calistoga

Vineyards, wine, and tasting rooms

Napa Valley wineries make many varieties of wine. Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon have the greatest vineyard acreage and production. Sonoma has more varieties of wine. These wines include Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Zinfandel, and others. The large geographic area of Sonoma lends itself to growing many types of grapes.
 
The Napa Valley wineries are close to one another and are easy to find and visit. Drive along Highway 29 or the Silverado Trail, and there are many wineries to visit. Most are open without an appointment. Sonoma wineries are more spread out. There are many beautiful backroads in Sonoma. 
 
There is much more traffic and congestion in the Napa Valley. Sonoma is larger, so there are more roads to travel to wineries. Napa Valley tasting rooms can be very crowded with tourists. The same can be said for the popular Sonoma wineries. 
 
Tasting room fees are higher in the Napa Valley by a wide margin. Napa Valley Tasting Room Index
Sonoma vs Napa Valley

Beautiful and quiet backroad in Sonoma County – West Dry Creek Road

Restaurants

Napa Valley wins the restaurant comparison. Napa Valley has many upscale restaurants. It has two top Michelin Star rated restaurants. They are the French Laundry and the Restaurant at Meadowood. The towns of Healdsburg and Sonoma have excellent choices of restaurants. The cost of dining is higher in the Napa Valley.

Napa Valley better than Sonoma

Chef Thomas Keller tends to his French Laundry garden

Lodging

Both the Napa Valley and Sonoma have many great choices for lodging. Budget to luxurious accommodations can be found in both regions.

Is sonoma better than Napa Valley

Madrona Manor – excellent accommodations and upscale restaurant near Healdsburg

Intangibles

Napa Valley can be uppity at times.  Sonoma is more laid back.
 
Sonoma has more small and family-owned wineries than the Napa Valley.
 
The Napa Valley is one of the great wine regions of the World.
 
A weekend stay in the Napa Valley will be more expensive than a weekend stay in Sonoma.
 
Do you like to picnic in the vineyards? Sonoma has many more winery picnic areas than does the Napa Valley. Napa County has restrictions on picnicking.

Conclusion

Both the Napa Valley and Sonoma are sensational wine countries and are both worth a visit. We highly recommend visiting both, but on separate getaways.

Comments

  1. Well written with an honest review of cost and amenities. My vote goes to Sonoma. Tourists will pay top dollar to experience the aura of Napa and return home with bottles of $100 Cabernet or some other pseudo Cult wine. Granted they are exceptional wines- but my choice is more high quality varietals at a better price. You also meet many people who actually run and own the property. Visitors would do well to spend quality time in Sonoma. Bottom line: save money and buy more wine 🍷.

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