Updated on September 28, 2015
Background – San Francisco/Napa Valley/Sonoma
My friends and I had a 4 day trip to San Francisco booked for Labor Day weekend and one of the toughest things to plan was wine-tasting in the Napa/Sonoma region. Do we go with Napa Valley or Sonoma Valley? Do we stay overnight at the Andaz Napa or do we just commute back? Which vineyards should we visit?
What about transportation? How do we get from San Francisco to Napa Valley and Back? Do we rent a car, join a tour, hire a limo, or rely on Lyft and Uber? If the same questions are running through your mind, I hope this post will make your decisions easier.
- Napa or Sonoma: This wasn't too hard of a decision. Cakebread was on the top of my list based off my last Napa Valley visit ~10 years ago.
- Vineyards to Visit: Since Cakebread was not to be missed, we called for reservations and the only slot available for the reserve tasting was 11AM. Mondavi was right across the street and opened at 10AM – perfect. We wanted to hit up 4 vineyards that day so we just rolled the dice on the other 2: Acacia and Domaine Carneros.
- Overnight in Napa Valley or Commute Back to SF: I wanted to take advantage of the Citi Prestige's 4th night free benefit at the Grand Hyatt San Francisco. I combined my Hyatt Diamond Suite Upgrade certificate with the 4th night free benefit on a paid rate of $309 / night to land the Executive Suite. Staying overnight in Napa meant that I would not be able to take advantage of this perk since our entire trip was only 4 days and 4 nights. We decided to just do a day-trip to Napa and commute back to San Francisco.
- Commuting to/from Napa Valley: We wanted to go on our own schedule so joining a tour was out. Hiring a limo came in the tune of $400-$500… too rich for my blood. Renting a car was the cheapest option: all-in (rental car, insurance, taxes, fees, tolls, gas) would have cost no more than $130 for the day. We were all drinkers and didn't want to drink and drive. There was also an option to hire someone in Napa to be the designated driver of your rental car, but that costs ~$250 on top of the rental costs, no thanks. And then it hit me…
Let's Lyft and Uber It!
Here are the Lyft rates for Napa Valley (left) and San Francisco (right).
As you can see, the rates are about half as expensive as NYC ($2.15 / mi + $0.40 / min), where I reside. Google Maps shows the distance between the Grand Hyatt San Francisco and Mondavi to be ~60 miles and travel time to be ~90 minutes (with minimal traffic). Estimate heading to Napa: 60 miles x $1.35 + 90 minutes x $0.27 + $2.25 + $11 tolls = $119. Estimate heading back to San Francisco: 60 miles x $1.10 + 90 minutes x $0.18 + $1.13 + $11 tolls = $83. As for commuting within Napa, I was fairly confident each ride would be in the $10 – $20 range. Lyft was marginally cheaper than Uber and the Uber fare estimates confirmed that.
Here is a list of places visited and reservations made:
- Robert Mondavi Winery 10AM reserve tasting (no reservations made; they open 10AM)
- Cakebread Winery 11AM reserve tasting
- ZuZu Tapas Restaurant 1PM walk-in
- Acacia Winery 2:15PM premium tasting
- Domaine Carneros 3:30PM tasting with caviar and cheese apps
- Ad-Hoc Restaurant 5PM dinner reservations
- Off-The-Grid San Fran 9PM arrival (no reservations made; they close 10PM on Friday)
Actuals vs. Estimates (Lyft / Uber Ride Details)
Total Cost – Lyft and Uber Rides
The total cost for all the Lyft and Uber rides was ~$290. My friends and I had several $20 Lyft credits from referring new users and a few $30 credits from the limited time Lyft $30 referral promo, so my true cost after discounts was ~$190. Keep in mind you cannot apply more than 1 ride credit for a single ride. I used the $30 credits on the two long-hauls and $20 credits for the other rides. The Uber ride was only $9 so I didn't bother using any credit. My estimates were off by ~$10 for each of the long-hauls but that's because we made a quick pit-stop on each trip.
If I ever return to San Francisco, I plan to check out Sonoma next time. Perhaps Citi will have removed the 4th night free benefit and I will be more incentivized to stay overnight in Sonoma. In terms of transportation choice, I am sticking with Lyft and Uber. They were readily available. The only time where I broke sweat was at Acacia when the closest Lyft was 15 minutes away and Uber was surging 1.3x. Even then, the surge ended up costing only $1.91 extra.
Best Vineyard in Napa
My pick of best vineyard in Napa:
Cakebread was so good, we ended up ordering 2 cases (24 bottles) for shipment back to NYC. Mondavi was a disappointment and Acacia and Domaine Carneros were not memorable. It was cool that Acacia had outdoor Bocce ball for us to play. Other than that, nothing really stood out, both wine and decor.
Additional data points for those staying in San Francisco:
- Lyft line from SFO airport to San Fran city center was capped at $30 flate rate. Don't do this option because a regular Lyft ended up costing only $28 – less than Lyft line.
- Lyft line from San Fran city center to SFO airport was ~$20 vs. a regular Lyft ~$32. I was in a rush to check out the SFO Centurion Lounge so I splurged for a regular Lyft. I ordered Lyft lines for 2 of my friends who had earlier flights and didn't have Centurion Lounge access.
If you do not have Uber or Lyft yet, click here to sign up for Lyft and here to sign up for Uber. You and I will receive $20 ride credit each. If you are considering becoming a driver, Lyft is offering up to $750 and $1000 bonuses depending on city. Finally, if you plan to sign up for the Citi Prestige to take advantage of the 4th night free perk, learn how to reduce the annual fee to $350.