Top Wine Stories of 2007

Wine Country Travel Guide
Transportation: Airports

by Courtney Cochran

We want you to focus on enjoying the best Napa Valley and Sonoma County have to offer - not on extensive travel planning. Read on for highlights and insider information of regional air travel and ground transportation. Without further ado!

AIRPORT OVERVIEW

Napa and Sonoma are easily reached from numerous Northern California airports, each with its own advantages.

San Francisco International Airport (SFO): The largest airport serving the area, SFO offers travelers extensive options in non-stop flights into the Bay Area. Visitors flying into this airport located south of its namesake city should expect to spend an hour and a half of additional ground travel time to reach wine country, longer during peak traffic hours. Avoid congestion by flying into SFO outside of morning and evening commute times and taking the Interstate 280/Highway 1 route north through the city and across the Golden Gate bridge rather than the busier Interstate 80/Bay Bridge route to wine country.

Oakland International Airport (OAK): Situated in the East Bay, Oakland’s airport affords nearer access to Napa than SFO but is located in an area highly prone to traffic congestion. Accordingly, make the most of Oakland’s low fares by flying in outside of peak traffic times, then travel north to wine country via Interstate 80 – an often unattractive but fairly direct line to southern Napa. Continue west to reach Sonoma.

Sacramento International Airport (SMF): Don’t overlook flights into state capital Sacramento when trip planning. Though less often considered when it comes to wine country travel, this major metropolitan airport just an hour and fifteen minutes east of Napa offers a good selection of flights (think non-stop and budget options) and the added bonus of less traffic congestion than its San Francisco and Oakland counterparts. Access wine country by heading west on Interstate 80 to Highway 29, a route that takes you across the agrarian Central Valley to California’s coastal region. Note that Sonoma, which is west of Napa, will take longer to reach.

Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport (STS): This small regional airport offers a limited number of carriers (Alaska and affiliate Horizon are the main acts here), which means less price competition and higher fares. Still, its convenience is hard to overlook, situated as it is in the heart of Sonoma County wine country. Currently, direct flights are available from Seattle, Portland, Los Angeles and Las Vegas, making this a viable option for select travelers willing to spend a bit more for convenience. (The spot's name, incidentally, references longtime Sonoma resident and Snoopy creator Charles Schulz.)

Visitors can look forward to touching down in Santa Rosa, a city that's 20 minutes south of Healdsburg by car, 50 minutes northwest of Sonoma and - depending on your destination – anywhere from 50 minutes to an hour and fifteen minutes from Napa. Visitors should avoid travel south and east from the airport during peak traffic times.

Napa County Airport (APC): With no commercial flights available, Napa County Airport exclusively services charter and private plane travel in and out of wine country. Though there is a waiting list for hangar space at this airfield in the southern part of the valley, transient aircraft of all sizes are welcome subject to nominal landing and overnight fees. By far the most flexible of all wine country flying options, private plane travel into Napa is possible throughout the day 365 days a year, subject to traffic and weather restrictions. Select charter and fractional jet ownership programs like Flexjet offer passengers assistance with ground transportation (and much more) upon arrival in Napa. Hey, we can dream, right?

>> PART 2: Shuttles, Rentals, Tours, Limos