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.

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Much-anticipated restaurant Bellota opens in SoMa

Much-anticipated restaurant from Coqueta alum opens in SoMaMay 24, 2016,

In 2013, chef Ryan McIlwraith signed the lease at 888 Brannan St. with plans to open a Spanish-style restaurant within the year. Tomorrow night, three years of work will come to fruition: Bellota’s doors will finally open.

Former chef de cuisine at Coqueta, McIlwraith partnered with the Absinthe Group to open the 5,300-square-foot space on the ground floor of the four-story building, which houses Airbnb and Pinterest, in the design- and tech-centric SoMa neighborhood. VIEW SLIDESHOW4 photos Former chef de cuisine at Coqueta, McIlwraith partnered with the Absinthe Group to open… more

“This area has great options for food, but not as many high-end places,” McIlwraith said. “We wanted to provide that. And this is a social space, too, where you can lean over and talk to your neighborhood, which is important to the tech crowd.”

Join the conversation: Follow @SFBusinessTimes on Twitter, “Like” us on Facebook and sign up for our free email newsletters.The design community will appreciate the space, too.

Designed by Sagan Piechota Architecture in Hayes Valley, the restaurant features a fully open, copper-colored “stadium kitchen” with wrap-around seating as the restaurant’s anchor, and hand-painted tile walls, bay laurel tabletops and counters and custom-made leather upholstered seating.

The space can seat 170 in the main dining room and bar with the capacity to hold an additional 40 in the private dining room.With a full bar and dining room, Bellota will offer different experiences in the same space, whether it’s after work drinks and small plates or a long sit-down meal. The restaurant will offer tapas, but because it is so much larger than most Spanish restaurants in the city, the main focus will be larger plates.Half the kitchen is devoted to the four paellas on the menu, and meats will be grilled in the eight-foot-long wood-burning hearth and oven, or, as McIlwraith puts it, the “whole wall of fire.”

A former factory site, the space was essentially empty when McIlwraith signed the lease, which is one reason why the buildout took so long. But apart from adding the infrastructure, McIlwraith also had to renegotiate the lease last year when the building sold to TIAA-CREF for $312 million.The restaurant will serve dinner Monday through Saturday with plans to open for lunch in the coming months and brunch soon after that.


Sonoma Wine Country’s Gay Wine Weekend – Passport Magazine – Gay Travel, Culture, Style, Adventure


If you have a passion for food and wine, we have found the event that will have you drinking straight from the source. Enjoy three days of exploration in the majestic Sonoma Wine Country, located just 45 minutes north of San Francisco.Out In The Vineyard, a Sonoma-based LGBT Tour & Event Company, produces the annual Gay Wine Weekend.

Immerse yourself in the culture and lifestyle of Wine Country living and make friends for a lifetime. Think Gay Ski Week, but for wine!This year marks the fifth year that Gay Wine Weekend will take place; attracting people from all around the country to partake in VIP Wine Receptions, Winemaker Dinners, Winery Tours, a brunch and Wine Auction, along with a pool soiree and some very fun after parties! The signature event of the weekend is the hugely successfully Twilight T-Dance, where guests dance through the magic hour of the summer sunset and into the evening, literally Out In The Vineyards of Sonoma Valley Wine Country! This year at Sonoma’s iconic Chateau St. Jean Winery, located in the heart of the bucolic and historic Valley of The Moon.Gay Wine Weekend also is host to annual AIDS fundraiser benefitting Face to Face, Sonoma County HIV/AIDS Network, whose mission it is to end HIV in Sonoma County. Over the course of the past 5 years Gay Wine Weekend has helped raise over $130,000 for the organization.GWW is founded by Gary Saperstein and Mark Vogler, true winery insiders who reside in the Sonoma Wine Country and strive to bring the best of Sonoma to Out In the Vineyard guests that attend this very special weekend of wine and celebration.This year Gay Wine Weekend takes place June 17th through 19th. For the full experience, stay at the host hotel, MacArthur Place.Advance Purchase VIP Party Passes on sale now. À la carte event tickets go on sale in March. For further information and to get your tickets visit www.GayWineWeekend.com.

Source: Sonoma Wine Country’s Gay Wine Weekend – Passport Magazine – Gay Travel, Culture, Style, Adventure

Detroit’s Big 3, Silicon Valley team up to develop self-driving cars : Business : Yibada

Detroit’s Big 3, Silicon Valley team up to develop self-driving carsSteve Pak | May 13, 2016 08:00 AM EDTGoogle Self-Driving Car (Photo : Twitter)Detroit automakers are teaming up with Silicon Valley to design and build self-driving cars. Ford, General Motors, and Fiat Chrysler known as the Big 3 are forming partnerships with companies such as Lyft and Google to bring autonomous vehicles (AVs) to the consumer market. The move combines the technology know-how of tech companies with the automakers’ experience in the mass production of vehicles.ADVERTISINGLike Us on Facebook Ford Motors announced on May 5 it was making a major investment in the California software company Pivotal. The two companies will develop cloud-based software used for alternative mobility services.   GM and Lyft are also teaming up to design robot taxis, according to The Detroit News. They could be tested in California within the next few years.Meanwhile, Fiat Chrysler and Google announced on May 10, Tuesday that the American automaker and search giant will build autonomous Pacifica minivans and start testing them this year.        The lightning-fast developments of self-driving technology are pushing tech and auto companies to partner and prepare for a future of driverless cars. The Motor City has physical factories and experience for mass-producing cars and trucks. Meanwhile, Silicon Valley is able to quickly develop solid technology.Taggart Matthiesen is Lyft’s director of product. He said that without a carmaker partner the ride-sharing company probably would not be focusing on AVs. He explained that Lyft and GM are working on two different parts of self-driving technology that help to develop driverless cars.The news of Ford and Lyft teaming up was two days after Google’s self-driving car division and Fiat Chrysler also announced they were joining forces. They will build 100 Pacific minivans. The smart cars will contain the Alphabet company’s self-driving technology including sensors and software.This is the first time Google has partnered with an automaker to add its self-driving system to a passenger vehicle. It will also boost Chrysler’s of auto tech.In related news, Google has announced it will pay Arizona drivers $20 per hour to test self-driving cars, according to The Verge.  The test drivers will get 12 to 24 month contracts. They will work up to eight hours per day and be required to provide oral and written feedback to Google’s engineering team.Here’s a hacker who built a self-driving car:

Source: Detroit’s Big 3, Silicon Valley team up to develop self-driving cars : Business : Yibada

The Rise of Private Jets in Corporate Managed Travel: Business Travel News

T R A V E L   P R O C U R E M E N TPROCUREMENTThe Rise of Private Jets in Corporate Managed TravelBy Michael B. Baker / May 06, 2016 / Contact ReporterBoosted by mobile tech and demand in secondary markets, private jet suppliers now offer a variety of service levels, booking styles and corporate agreements. Here are four U.S. booking engines, three operators & the inroads they’re making into corporate managed travel.JetInsightThis booking engine provides operators a network and technology platform. It does not add every possible aircraft but rather handpicks “the highest-quality operators focused on safety and customer service,” according to founder and CEO Dave Benjamin. Primarily for the United States, its aircraft reach worldwide.How it works: Customers search, view options, book and pay online in moments.Fleet: Aircraft range from turboprops to heavy jets like the Gulfstream V.Traffic: “We hope to continue growing as fast as we can handle in 2016,” according to Benjamin.Pricing: No membership fees, annual fees or commitments. Operators determine rates, and JetInsight technology calculates cost as requests are received. “As we grow the network, we are able to route aircraft more efficiently, and we expect prices to decrease significantly.”Corporate travel penetration: A slight majority of business is corporate. JetInsight has had “initial conversations” with corporate travel buyers but is working to “deliver the right experience for them from the start.”Distribution: It is looking into travel management company collaborations.JetSmarterThe mobile-based jet supplier aims to “make flying private something accessible to the masses, not just a privileged 1 percent,” said CEO Sergey Petrossov.How it works: Via the app, passengers charter entire aircraft, space on scheduled flights or space on flights assembled from pooled demand. They often fly within six hours of booking.Fleet: More than 800 carrier partners around the world.Traffic: More than 300,000 have downloaded the app, a monthly growth rate of 15 to 20 percent since its March 2013 launch.Pricing: A $3,500 initiation fee, plus $9,675 annually. Memberships include free flights on one-way JetDeals flights, as well as free seats on regularly scheduled shuttles including Dallas-Houston, New York City-Chicago, New York City-Los Angeles and Los Angeles-San Francisco. Nonmembers can book these at discounted rates. Additional membership amenities include wholesale charter pricing and a luxury concierge service.Corporate travel penetration: A typical user, Petrossov said, is a corporate traveler needing to book a last-minute trip. Corporate travel buyers also have booked charters and seats.OpenJetOpenJet’s cloud-based management software for private jet operators calculates and modifies the availability of fleet and crews in real time.How it works: Travel arrangers submit origin and destination, date and number of travelers and OpenJet checks crew availability, runway configuration, fuel prices and aircraft performance, among other data points. Arrangers receive a choice of jet types and prices within 45 seconds and pay online.Fleet: Turboprop to midsize. It partners with five operators in Europe and will expand to the United States this year.Traffic: €1.5 million in revenue projected for 2016.Pricing: OpenJet takes fees from operators for each flight sold and costs bookers no more than direct booking with the operators.Corporate travel penetration: 65 percent corporate and 35 percent leisure. Corporate travel buyers are OpenJet’s “first target,” and it is launching a commercial campaign aimed at corporate travel managers, COO Raphael Vullierme said.Distribution: A partnership with Amadeus launched in January, and others are forthcoming, Vullierme said.VictorVictor allows travelers to search, com-pare and book private jets to “cut out the inconsistency of brokers,” according to senior vice president for North America David Young.How it works: Travelers search routes via mobile or desktop, and Victor responds within an hour with multiple price estimates.Fleet: More than 7,000 jets worldwide.Traffic: Membership grew 260 percent from May 2014 to May 2015, and the three-year average for sales has grown 142 percent per year, Young said. Victor introduced an app in April 2015 that accounted for half the year’s bookings.Pricing: Flights booked through the app have ranged from $7,500 to $250,000, according to Young. Victor caps booking fees and provides “complete trans-parency of pricing and flight details.”Corporate travel penetration: Its membership roster includes corp-orations and C-suite executives. Travel buyers use the tool to “quickly create bespoke plans with preferred operators,” Young said.Distribution: It has established relationships with TMCs like the United Kingdom-based CTI.Three Private Jet OperatorsJet EdgeThe on-demand operator flies super medium, ultra-long-range, large-cabin planes, according to CEO Bill Papariella.How it works: A significant volum

Source: The Rise of Private Jets in Corporate Managed Travel: Business Travel News

Oakland Airport launches first direct flights to the U.K. – San Jose Mercury News

Oakland Airport launches first direct flights to the U.K.By Annie Sciacca asciacca@bayareanewsgroup.comPOSTED:   05/12/2016 12:43:41 PM PDT | UPDATED:   40 MIN. AGOOAKLAND — As Oakland ramps up its tourism industry, its latest international flight will be the first nonstop connection to the United Kingdom.Starting Thursday, Oakland International Airport offers nonstop flights to Gatwick on Norwegian.The flights will operate with Norwegian’s new Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft three days per week, making it the airline’s third European route out of Oakland. In 2014, Norwegian launched direct service to Stockholm, Sweden, and to Oslo, Norway. With the new route to London, Norwegian now offers more routes from California to Europe than any other airline, according to a statement from the airport.”In as little as three years, we’ve launched three transatlantic routes from Oakland International Airport, and we see great potential for future growth from the Bay Area,” said Norwegian CEO Bjørn Kjos in a statement. “The Oakland routes are some of Norwegian’s best performing transatlantic routes.”The new flights come as Oakland International Airport has been gearing up as an international gateway.The connection to Gatwick marks the ninth international flight service at the airport, which, in addition to the Norwegian flights, offers service to Portugal’s Azores islands, and to five cities in Mexico.Advertisement”This is a significant development for travelers on both sides of the Atlantic,” said Bryant Francis, the Port of Oakland’s director of aviation, in a statement. “Norwegian has made a very smart move connecting two globally leading metropolitan areas in a way that is convenient and affordable. Now, nearly 4 million East Bay residents are able to travel to this top European destination using the airport closest to their homes and businesses while enjoying award-winning service at very attractive prices.”Fares for the flights between Oakland and London start at $299 one way.The international flight expansion is likely to continue. The airport is working on a $35 million expansion to its international terminal that will double its international flight capacity, said John Albrecht, aviation marketing manager for the Port of Oakland. That expansion is likely to be complete by next summer.There is also the ongoing $150 million renovation of Terminal 1, which is expected to be complete by the end of 2017.The East Bay has emerged as a destination for leisure travel, thanks to the efforts of its various visitors bureaus, but the Bay Area’s successful business climate has also prompted strong business travel numbers all over the region. That trend is particularly strong in Oakland.Thanks to companies moving over from San Francisco’s expensive office market, and local Oakland businesses expanding, the business community in Oakland is attracting more attention — and business travelers — than ever. That is expected to increase when tech giant Uber next year brings more than 2,000 employees to Uptown Station, the seven-story building at 1955 Broadway that the company purchased last year.Oakland’s hot restaurant scene is also a big cultural draw, and something that its marketing bureau, Visit Oakland, has worked hard to promote.The work seems to be paying off. Alameda County saw $3.89 billion in traveler spending in 2015, a 4.9 percent increase over the previous year.Contact Annie Sciacca at 925-943-8073. Follow her at Twitter.com/AnnieSciacca.

Source: Oakland Airport launches first direct flights to the U.K. – San Jose Mercury News