The Patented Chateau Garage Tour
The Chateau Garage wine makers have been touring Napa and Sonoma counties at least once a year for the past 35 years. We usually go during the winter months to minimize the crowds. February is a particularly good month… the rainier the better. You’ll often find winemakers serving their wines in the tasting rooms… they like to take a break from operations and take time to hobnob with their fans. This isn’t true during the summer or fall months.
We have found that the tasting room personnel give you better attention when you take notes in a notebook. They immediately know you are interested in more than getting a buzz on. As a result they will often pull special bottles from under the counter for you to try and in some case will even waive the tasting fee. And you get great service!
Following is a detailed itinerary that can be used as a guideline. You will note that we visit a LOT of wineries in the course of a day. If you want to try this, spitting is obligatory or you will be wiped out before you have lunch. Also, be sure to mention that “Chateau Garage Sent Us!” at the various stops.

    • First Stop: Sonoma Cheese Factory    (

      • By 9:30 AM, pull into the Sonoma Cheese Factory, located on the square in downtown Sonoma to provision for the day: sandwiches, cheese, snacks, bottled water, etc. It is not too early to have a small cup of gelato at the gelateria near the back of the store. After provisioning, head out of town west on Highway 12 toward Santa Rosa.

    • On to: Kenwood Vineyards    (

      • Your first winery is the rustic and friendly Kenwood Vineyards, on the right just after the town of Kenwood (6 miles from Sonoma). See if Dale Diamond is there, he is a true character and a particular friend of Ch. Garage. No charge for tasting and with your notebook in hand you might get tastes of their ultra premium wines, such as the outstanding “Artist Series” Cabernet Sauvignon.

    • Chateau St. Jean    (

      • Continuing toward Santa Rosa, in a few hundred yards you hit Chateau St. Jean, also on the right. This is an “upscale” winery known for its white wines and especially for its delicious late harvest wines. These are available in a separate tasting room for an extra fee, but well worth it.

    • Over To Napa Valley

      • You could spend longer in Sonoma, but lets get over to Napa. Reverse your direction on highway 12 and head back through the town of Kenwood. Look for a small road going to the left called “Trinity Grade”. Head up this narrow, winding road and over the Mayacamas Mountains into Napa Valley. It is a beautiful drive and you hit Highway 29 (the main drag) at the southern end of the valley. Turn left toward Calistoga. The Oakville Grovery Store is immediately on your right. If you didn’t stop at the Cheese Factory, you can get deli sandwiches here, but it is more crowded than a zoo in there.

    • Raymond Vineyards    (

      • After heading north toward Calistoga for about two miles, hang a right on Zinfandel Lane. Zinfandel Lane is one of numerous “cross valley” roads that connect Highway 29 on the west side of the valley with the Silverado Trail on the east side. Raymond Winery is on the right about halfway across. The wines at Raymond are universally good and their prices have remained reasonable.

    • Grgich Hills Winery    (

      • Head back to Highway 29 and continue north. Shortly, on the left, you will see Grgich Hills. This winery was formed by a partnership of Miljenko (Mike) Grgich and Austin Hills (of Hills Brothers Coffee). Mike Grgich rose to fame at Chateau Montelena in the early ’70s when his 1973 Chardonnay won the famous Paris Tasting against the best of the french White Burgundies. Today, his wines continue to win awards and you won’t find a weak wine in his line-up. At 80+ years of age, Mike still pours wines in his tasting room.

    • Clos Pegase Winery    (

      • Continue north on Highway 29 through the town of St. Helena and out into the country. Almost to Calistoga you will see Dunaweal Lane on the right. Down Dunaweal Lane, on the left, the striking tan neo-classical winery will come into view. Owner Jan Shrem made his fortune in the publishing business in Japan, where he met his wife Mitsuko around 1968. Mitsuko got Jan interested in wine and he returned to the US to take enology courses and start a winery. The result is Clos Pegase. Stroll the grounds and the art galley, there are several million dollars in original paintings and sculptures. Vist the outstanding caves on a tour. And above all, taste the great wines. Chateau Garage has been visiting the winery since it opened in 1988 and the wines have progressed from “B” wines to
        “A” and “A+” wines.

    • Zahtila Winery    (

      • Continue over to the Silverado Trail and head north. When you hit Highway 29 (it crosses over the valley by going through downtown Calistoga), continue north on Highway 29 for a few hundred yards. On the right, up a short non-descript gravel driveway you will encounter Zahtila Vineyards. This winery is owned by an up and coming woman vintner who has managed to make some remarkable Zinfandels and Cabernets during the short time she has been making wine. The tasting room is small and cozy and the vineyard dog will surely greet you with an enthusiastic tail wagging.

  • The Town of Calistoga    (

    • Your day ends in Calistoga where you’ll bed for the night. Many hot springs and spas offer lodging. There is also a campground at the state park about 4 miles south on Highway 29. Many restaurants are available for your evening meal, but for breakfast you must plan on Cafe Sarifornia. Crowded, but great food, and all the locals eat here as well.

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1 Photo from Sonoma Cheese Factory website at
2 Photo from Kenwood Vineyards website at
3 Photo from Chateau St. Jean website at
4 Photo from Raymond Vineyards website at
5 Photo from Napa Valley College at
6 Photo from Clos Pegase website at
7 Gif from City of Calistoga website at