Having A Day In The NorCal Wine Country?
Better have dinner there!

Almost everyone agrees that Sonoma and Napa counties have increased the quality of their wines in the last 20 years. Unfortunately, traffic has dramatically increased as well.

A Tale Of Two Valleys

Sonoma and Napa valleys run  north-south  parallel to each other, separated by a steep mountain ridge. From the central Bay Area these valleys contain the most accessible wineries for a day of tasting.  Access to Sonoma Valley from the central Bay Area is via US  101, the major state artery that runs from Mexico to Oregon. And Napa Valley is similarly accessed  beginning via US 80 then on to State Route 29.  When wine country travelers start their journey from the central Bay Area, both feeder highways begin with 8 lanes for traffic (4 in each direction). But both passages narrow by the time that travelers reach the edge of true wine country.

 

Sonoma and Napa valleys are favored destinations for both Bay Area based adventurers as well as visiting pleasure and business travelers. In the summer, those combined visitors overload the wine country’s limited roadways and upset many travel schedules.

Traffic Relief Is Not On The Way

Both Napa and Sonoma have no plans to expand their highways or rural roads despite the influx of tourism. Although many believe that Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino have become sort of a huge gastronomical  Disneyland, most local residents and county officials realize that ever increasing tourism will be a downward social and financial spiral affecting infrastructure costs, income disparity and real estate prices. Much of the wine country success is owed to field laborers that live locally, and residential and agricultural real estate prices affect the winemaker’s ability to remain competitive.. So locals and government officials agree that they want no new roads, and if you find it too inconvenient, locals say “party elsewhere”.

Timing Is Everything

So, begin your explorations by leaving early and get to your wine country destination at least before 11 am, preferably before 9:30 or 10. On weekends the Golden Gate bridge at midday takes between 30 minute to over an hour just to cross. When you get to the other side, the freeway is 8 lanes but if it is a weekend, the traffic crunch will be worse than rush hour at 7:00 am on a workday. By the time you get 20 miles north of the GG Bridge, 101 will narrow to 4 lanes and traffic will crawl for many miles.

Northbound traffic on HWY 101 20 miles beyond the Golden Gate Bridge and just south of the town of Petaluma at 12 noon on a Friday. Most wineries alongside HWY 101 are much further north of Petaluma.

Likewise if you are headed up Highway 80 to State Route 29 to visit Napa wineries, by 10 am even the beginning of the highway north of Vallejo will be stop and go. Don’t despair, if you can schedule arriving in wine country early enough, your trip there from the central Bay Area will take about 90 minutes.

Approaching downtown Napa, the beginning of Napa County wineries, a few miles after transferring from HWY 80.

 

Use Caution On Scheduling Your Return

Returning traffic at the end of the day on one of the many local roads leading from wineries.

Much of the wine country is serviced by 2 lane roads. If you finish a day of wine tasting late in the afternoon and are looking to return to the central Bay Area for a restaurant dinner, you will probably not get back before the restaurant closes.

It is best to dine in the wine country and you should make reservations days in advance as the many good restaurants will be booked up. Make sure that you pick a dinning location close to the last winery that you plan to visit as nearly all the roads in the wine country are just two lanes. By 3:30 in the afternoon the roads are bumper to bumper and everyone is just rolling along with their feet off the gas pedals.

.Dire traffic delays are avoidable. Once again timing is everything.

  • If you do decide to leave the wine country after 3:30 in the afternoon, budget 2.5 -3.5  hours to get back to the central Bay Area
  • Get up there early, have dinner there and get home after the crunch.
  • Do your wine country exploring in the middle of the week rather than weekends or holidays.
  • As a possible alternative, try off-season excursions during the winter months. Nearly all the wineries will be open and also the restaurants will welcome you with open arms.
  • Some corporate business travelers with business appointments in the central Bay Area frequently book a separate hotel/B&B in the wine country for their personal day of exploring, thereby avoiding the commute issue altogether. Local hosts are experts in connecting guests with appropriate tour providers and suggesting wineries based on tastes and budgets.
  • If you are part of a touring group, designate one person in your group as the driver.

But whatever you plan, definitely spend at least a day in Northern California’s fabulous wine country. The beautiful venue is simply unmatched in the U.S. and must be experienced.

Quicksilver TownCar Service
http://qstc.net
Want help with your Bay Area Itinerary?
Call Us Toll Free In The U.S. (800) 486-9622  Or (650) 589-4500
Point To Point & Charter Rates are all online: http://qstc.net/rates.html
Email us at customercare@qstc.net

 

#sonomatour #sonomatravel #napatour #napatravel #winecountry
#winetasting #sanfranciscotour #sanfranciscotravel

Sonoma/Napa Hospitality Businesses Coming Back On-Line, But Traffic Is Heavy.

Hilton Hotel, Santa Rosa
The remains of the Signorello Estate winery.

A number of wineries and hospitality sites received damage from the wildfires that swept through Northern California’s Napa, Sonoma and Mendocino counties in early October. Although nearly all have resumed regular business, traffic remains well above normal volumes and drive times in many areas are severely affected.

The flames have died down and many of the fire crews from far away locales have begun returning home, but many important roadways remain closed.

Additionally, service vehicles and work crews tasked with cleaning up debris and restoring services are on roadways to the affected areas. It is not uncommon to see commute-hour like congestion in the middle of the day on Highway 101 in Sonoma. Further north on Highway 29 in Napa, the closure of the Silverado Trail and Mark West Springs Road have created delays of over 90 minutes getting to parts of St. Helena and Calistoga.

Travelers should call the hospitality sites they plan to visit to ensure their continuing availability and also to ask for advice on drive time estimates.

Quicksilver TownCar Service
http://qstc.net
Want help with your Bay Area Itinerary?
Call Us Toll Free In The U.S. (800) 486-9622  Or (650) 589-4500
Point To Point & Charter Rates are all online: http://qstc.net/rates.html
Email us at customercare@qstc.net

Last Minute SFO Gotcha: Arrival Gate Delays!

Your plane that’s bound for San Francisco’s International Airport takes off on time and then lands at SFO on time. You have an hour and half before before your dinner meeting in San Francisco.

Everything looks good for you and then the pilot comes on the P.A. and says that there will be a little delay to get to the gate. Just 15 minutes. Well, that can still work. But then, after 15 minutes goes by the pilot again says that it will be another 15 minutes before the plane can pull to the gate. Now you are getting a little nervous. When the third postponement is announced, your blood pressure rises and now you will be late for your meet-up. This may be an uncommon occurrence for you, but arrival gate delays are an increasingly common occurrence at SFO.

As the San Francisco Bay Area’s business community has grown from the influence of the web and related technologies, its principal airport, San Francisco International has become congested with planes. Passengers arriving at SFO have oftentimes seen delays from 10 minutes to nearly an hour while waiting for a gate to become available.

SFO is a significant hub for United Airlines and sometimes their flights must wait for long periods for a gate to become available. Other domestic flights like Delta and the merged Alaska/Virgin America suffer from not enough parking places for passengers to disembark.

SFO’s international terminal, completed 17 years ago is frequently a source of anxiety for travelers from afar. It is not uncommon for international flights to wait 30 minutes to over an hour to be able to pull up to the terminal.

In one domestic flight case, a plane from Southern California was diverted to San Jose, 40 miles south of San Francisco because of fuel shortage. Not because the plane did not have enough fuel for the 7 extra minutes to make it to SFO, but not enough fuel to land and idle until a gate was available. After waiting at San Jose airport for nearly 20 minutes, the airline decided to let passengers off if they wanted because there was no solid prediction of when they would arrive at the gate in San Francisco. One passenger took a taxi all the way from San Jose airport to Marin County, nearly 70 miles away and a taxi bill of well over $300.00

Transportation greeters, family members and others can see that a flight has landed and wait at luggage carousels to meet their party but are mystified as the minutes go by with no passengers showing up.

In one of the most extraordinary cases, in May of this year (2017), when SFO was undergoing runway repairs in addition to a shortage of gates, a plane in Los Angeles pushed back from the departing gate and taxied to a holding spot. The plane waited there for 2 and a half hours, finally ran short of fuel and had to go back to the terminal to be re-fueled! It finally took off, arriving at SFO 4 hours later than scheduled.

Here is the new Terminal 1, part of construction to be completed by 2024.

SFO is currently underway with construction of a new Terminal 1 with expanded gate capacity.  The old terminal has been torn down and the loss of those gates only makes the matter worse until it is completed in 7 years.  More on this airport upgrade in a later post.

Many airlines, needing to add flights to the Bay Area are now routing them to Oakland International and the recently expanded San Jose International airport. Both of which currently have more available gates and time slots. More on this too on a later posting.

Pilots also seem to be the ones surprised and unable to estimate how long the delay will be. Passengers frequently get an optimistic prediction about wait times from the cockpit right after landing but then a few minutes later, the crew is on the P.A. announcing further delays. It certainly makes it hard for a business traveler to accurately relay their situation to greeters, co-workers and meeting planners.

So……
Passengers and travel managers: Be wary of scheduling meetings and events close to scheduled arrival times
.

 

Quicksilver TownCar Service
http://qstc.net
Want help with your Bay Area Itinerary?
Call Us Toll Free In The U.S. (800) 486-9622  Or (650) 589-4500
Point To Point & Charter Rates are all online: http://qstc.net/rates.html
Email us at customercare@qstc.net