Wine Notes - The Green Dream Tours Blog

5 Fabulous Things to Do When You Visit San Francisco

What’s on your San Francisco bucket list? There are so many things to do in the San Francisco Bay Area that it may be hard to cram in everything on your list.

Green Dream Tours makes it easy to check off five key experiences simply by booking our Alcatraz and Wine Country Combo Tour:

1. Golden Gate Bridge
2. Sonoma Valley Wine Tasting
3. Fisherman’s Wharf
4. Boat Ride on San Francisco Bay
5. Tour of Alcatraz Prison and Village

“Our Alcatraz and Wine Country Combo Tour is one of our most popular tours for good reason,” said Green Dream Tours owner Elie Sasson. “It combines two of the Bay Area’s premier attractions into one day of fun.”

The first stop on the Alcatraz and Wine Country Combo Tour is the Golden Gate Bridge. One of the most recognizable landmarks in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge is a must-see. The tour goes across the Golden Gate Bridge, with a photo op on the northeast side of the span. What makes this photo op so special is that you can get pictures of the bridge and the San Francisco city skyline.

San Francisco weather is so fickle that sometimes it’s foggy on the San Francisco side of the bridge and totally clear once you head north. (If you want to get out of the San Francisco fog, a Wine Country Tour often does the trick!)

After the Golden Gate Bridge, we head directly to Sonoma Valley, where your wine tasting experience begins around 10 a.m. at Cline Family Cellars. We love Cline for many reasons, but for starters, it’s committed to sustainable farming, just like Green Dream Tours is committed to sustainable tourism. The next stop in Sonoma Valley is Homewood Winery. Winemaker David Homewood sources his fruit from a variety of vineyards to produce distinctive wines.

“In Sonoma Valley, we visit and taste wines at two of the region’s premier wineries,” said Sasson. “Cline Cellars boasts Rhone-style varietals, specializing in Zinfandel. Homewood is a small, family-run micro-winery, producing only 1,000 cases per year.”

From Wine Country, the tour returns to San Francisco for lunch at Fisherman’s Wharf. There are many places to dine in this area of San Francisco, and your guide will help you select the restaurant that suits your tastes and pocketbook.

Every trip to San Francisco should include a boat ride on the bay. Obviously, you boat over to Alcatraz Island, but don’t take this part of the tour for granted. The 1.25-mile boat ride to and from Alcatraz is exciting, offering spectacular views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Marin Headlands and the San Francisco city skyline.

The final stop on the Alcatraz and Wine Country Combo Tour is Alcatraz, once home to some of the most notorious outlaws in modern history, including Al Capone. “The Rock” as it’s often referred to, no longer houses prisoners, but the cells are still there for you to explore as well as the grounds, where prison guards lived. The official Alcatraz tour features an audio headset available in 11 languages.

While there are many things that should be on your San Francisco bucket list, Green Dream Tours can help you check off five experiences in one day if you join our Alcatraz and Wine Country Combo Tour.

Alcatraz tours must be booked five days in advance. For those short on time, we offer a half-day tour to Sonoma Valley.

Book online now or call us at 415-692-1644 for further information.

Green Dream Tours Earns Prestigious Spot in TripAdvisor’s Hall of Fame

Green Dream Tours has qualified for the TripAdvisor Certificate of Excellence Hall of Fame after earning the Certificate of Excellence for five consecutive years.

Celebrating its 10-year anniversary in June 2018, San Francisco-based Green Dream Tours has guided more than 30,000 guests to Wine Country. The Certificate of Excellence is based on TripAdvisor’s guest reviews.

“We are very proud to have achieved Hall of Fame status with TripAdvisor,” said Elie Sasson, owner of Green Dream Tours. “We feel that we have worked very hard to achieve this, and that we deserve this recognition.  We also feel that prospective clients will recognize this achievement and want to book with us.”

Green Dream Tours specializes in small-group tours to Napa and Sonoma. All public tours are limited to 14 guests on new luxury buses. The company also offers private tours throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, ranging from one to 25 people. (Larger groups can be accommodated upon request.)

“We got here because of all of the hard work put in by our team over our 10 years in service,” said Sasson. “We have listened to what our customers want and expect from a wine tour, and have made many improvements over the years.”

According to veteran guide Dylan Haas, the Green Dream Tours ownership allows each guide’s unique personality to flourish and enhance tours, rather than force guides to fit into a specific mold.

“We each have a unique passion for service, guiding and wine that is rooted in our unique personalities,” said Haas. “So each guide and each tour is different, but each has the common theme of passion for quality and service.

“We love and strive to give our guests the best tour of their lives,” said Haas.

Green Dream Tours relies on close relationships with Napa and Sonoma wineries to deliver amazing tours. Wineries range from family-owned estates to organic vineyards to boutique tasting rooms.

 

Here are a few examples of recent guest reviews:

The day was beautiful. The tour guide Robin was knowledgeable and friendly. My husband and I learned a lot about wine. We visited small wineries not the bigger more commercial ones, which I really enjoyed because I felt you had more of a one-on-one service. I would highly recommend this tour!
It was a superb tour where we visit 3 different wineries with diverse perspectives. Skip (our guide) was always helpful, funny, and taught us a lot about Napa, its history, people, etc. We strongly recommend.
This tour exceeded our expectations! Dylan, our tour leader and driver not only made us laugh for 5 hours but he was kind, helpful, and made sure each of us had what we needed. We have been raving about the tour since we got back! Larson Family winery was our favorite spot and the weather was absolutely perfect! Thank you!!!!

 

For a Stress-Free Bachelorette Party, Consider a Private Wine Country Tour

When Taylor Curtin began planning a bachelorette party for her sister, Chelsea, she wanted the experience to be intimate and low-key. Las Vegas and Nashville didn’t quite match Chelsea’s laid-back personality, so they opted for San Francisco and a visit to Wine Country.

At first, Taylor thought about renting cars or hiring Uber drivers to help the group of 10 women enjoy Wine Country. Instead, she contacted Green Dream Tours about a private tour to Sonoma Valley.

“I honestly can’t tell you how grateful I was that I decided to go with Green Dream Tours,” said Taylor. “Booking the tour was by far the best money spent on the entire weekend. Not only did it totally take the stress out of the day, but it also added to everything we could have expected.”

Chelsea’s high school, college and work friends came from as far away as Atlanta, New York City, Boston, Nashville, Michigan, Ohio and Rhode Island. Being together in a luxury van and not having to drive or worry about directions gave the women time to relax and chat. (San Francisco is about an hour from Sonoma.)

After picking up the women at the private residence they had rented for the weekend, Green Dream Tours veteran guide Dylan Haas helped make the bachelorette party fun and entertaining, with jokes and San Francisco-inspired tunes. The women also learned a lot about viticulture from Dylan and the hosts at each winery, which was another bonus since most had never been to Wine Country.

Not everything was perfect, though. The day of the tour, it rained, which meant the women were able to put their custom-made bridal party hats to good use.

“The weather was definitely something that became a positive of the day,” said Taylor. “The weekend was gorgeous except for our day in Sonoma, and what could have turned into a damper on our fun turned into a highlight. We had fun taking photos in the rain, wearing our bridal party hats we had made. Thank goodness because they came in handy.”

The group visited three wineries. Taylor said the tasting room at Nicholson Ranch was gorgeous and that the group really enjoyed the wine there. The bachelorette party also had fun playing with the dogs at Larson Family Winery.

Their favorite? Cline Family Cellars, which was the last stop on the tour.

“Even though it was pouring that day and we didn’t get to enjoy the grounds as much, we loved the fish pond and the spacious tent to enjoy our last stop on our journey,” said Taylor.

The bachelorette party had lunch at HopMonk Tavern Sonoma. Located a few blocks from historic Sonoma Plaza, HopMonk provided a timely break from wine tasting.

“I couldn’t have picked a better place myself,” said Taylor. “The staff was wonderful and accommodating to dietary restrictions we had with us. Dylan had to pry us away from the food and atmosphere. We really enjoyed the midday break.”

On the way back to San Francisco, Dylan opened a complimentary bottle of wine to help Chelsea and her friends celebrate. Taylor said that small gesture made the whole group feel special.

“Green Dream Tours seemed to get the vibe we were going for,” said Taylor. “From the lunch choice and winery itinerary, everything was great. Worth every penny!”

 

 

 

Cheers to Mom and Wine Country!

Dear Mom,

Happy Mother’s Day!

It was so fun to be able to take you on a tour of Sonoma Valley with Green Dream Tours.

Thanks for sharing the experience with me 🙂

We got so lucky with the weather. The views were great, and our photo together at the Golden Gate Bridge turned out amazing. Can’t believe it wasn’t fogged in!

I loved seeing how much you enjoyed the wines at Robledo Family Winery. Those were some of my favorites, too. Not sure if that was because they were the first wines we tried at 10:15am. As they say, “You can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning!” Hehe.

The wines they poured at Larson Family Winery paired very well with the picnic lunch. Bubba, the resident chocolate lab at the winery, sure did take a liking to you. Bubba’s got great taste! I think we could have lingered on the patio all day.

Spring is such a lovely time in Wine Country: rolling green hills, new leaves on the vines and seeing the cute tiny clusters of what will become grapes! Hard to believe how close the flames came to burning Nicholson Ranch to the ground back in October. With all the new growth since the fires, you can hardly tell that the area was badly burned. It also feels great to support the winery by being there to taste and buy their wines.

Another highlight for me was our free time in the quaint downtown Sonoma Plaza. Perfect temperature for strolling through the square and watching the kids chase the ducks around the fountain…and those Russian tea cakes from Basque Cafe were so delicious!

The other people on our tour were fun to hang out with. I love it that everyone was so friendly and that we had such a good time socializing with people we had never met before.

It was just wonderful to be able to share such a fun and relaxing day in Wine Country with you. Thanks for being such an amazing mother and always reminding me to appreciate life!

Cheers to you, MOM!

Love, Erin

Erin Troy is a partner and the operations manager at Green Dream Tours. She and her mom went on our Sonoma Valley Tour, and here are Erin’s memories from the day.

Green Dream Tours Owner Elie Sasson Committed to Sustainable Tourism

Green Dream Tours Owner Elie Sasson was dedicated to sustainable tourism long before he launched his company in 2008. Find out more about what drives Elie’s commitment to green tourism and Green Dream Tours’ best practices.

1. What prompted your interest in sustainable tourism practices?

I have always had a keen interest in the environment. It started when I was 7 years old in summer camp in New Hampshire. We would go hiking in the White Mountains once a week and learn about the nature there.

In college I majored in Environmental Studies. When I decided to start a tour company it seemed natural to make it as green as possible. I started the business with a diesel mini-bus, which I was running on 100 percent bio-diesel. Unfortunately, I had mechanical issues, and ultimately bought a new mini-bus that ran on regular fuel. To offset the emissions, I decided to buy carbon offsets each year to offset the carbon footprint of the fuel use. Since the beginning, we have been a carbon neutral company!

2. Name one the most valuable insights you gained while majoring in Environmental Studies at University of Vermont.

The most valuable insight I gained as an Environmental Studies major is that everything on the planet is interconnected. What we do here in the United States can have an impact halfway around the world in India, for example. The developed world uses roughly 80 percent of the world’s energy, but only accounts for 20 percent of the world’s population. And the United States uses about 25 percent of the worlds energy! This behavior has an impact on the entire planet.

3. Which best practices does Green Dream Tours implement?

We are a carbon neutral company. We also use recycled paper in our office and for our business cards. We are also striving to become paper-free all together. We recycle all paper, bottles and cans that guests discard.

4. Why have you chosen to purchase carbon offsets?

I want our company to be as green as possible. We burn a lot of fuel every year, and the money generated from buying carbon offsets goes toward projects such as reforestation, which works to eliminate carbon from the environment. It also fights climate change.

5. Which organization does Green Dream Tours use for the purchase of offsets?

ClimateCare. You can find them at climatecare.org

6. What can Green Dream Tours do to be more eco-friendly?

We could use water bottles made from corn and other natural elements, as opposed to plastic.

7. What are the company goals regarding sustainable tourism?

We are always striving to improve upon our green practices whenever possible. And we also encourage other individuals and companies to follow suit.

We often visit sustainable wineries on our tours. There’s lots of emphasis on sustainability in Wine Country, which matches our mission. In Sonoma, for example, Nicholson Ranch is committed to sustainable farming practices. Starmont Winery and Vineyard is a certified Napa Green Winery, generating electricity from solar panels.

8. Which simple practices can tourists implement to make their visits to San Francisco and Wine Country more eco-friendly?

Recycle everything you possibly can. Carpool whenever possible, or use public transit. Join tours, instead of driving your own vehicle.

9. What are a few steps tourism suppliers can put into place immediately to lessen their footprints?

For starters they can buy carbon offsets, just like we do. They can also make sure their vehicles are not idling for too long while waiting for passengers to load or unload. If loading is time consuming, vehicles should be turned off.

Sonoma winemaker: the fires are behind us. Come visit!

After two weeks without power and water due to the wildfires that swept through wine country, Nicholson Ranch is once again welcoming guests. We chatted with founder/winemaker Deepak Gulrajani about how his winery fared, and what visitors to Sonoma can expect now.

Deepak Gulrajani, founder & winemaker, Nicholson Ranch Sonoma r

Deepak Gulrajani, Nicholson Ranch founder/winemaker and some of his award-winning wines

Deepak, how was Nicholson Ranch affected by the fires?

The flames came close, but fortunately we didn’t have damage to the building except for a little bit to one corner of the structure. Our biggest issue was loss of power, and our water well system had to be replaced and recertified for safety.

What about the vineyards?

About five acres were scorched. We won’t know how many will come back until next year, but our grapes were already harvested so there’s no smoke taint.

How has the wine community come together to support each other?

The winemaking community in Sonoma has always been about sharing knowledge, in regular and unusual situations. We don’t harbor a secret sauce, we discuss with other vineyard people.

How did you get started in wine making?

I started as a home winemaker 25 years ago. I did it with a group of friends for about 10 years. Once I got into making wine commercially I learned from the pros. We planted the vineyard in 1995 and I started making wine full time in 2008. I’m still the winemaker here, and I love doing it. For me it’s about learning, tasting, observing.

What has changed for you?

vista at Nicholson ranch in Sonoma wine country

The sweeping vista at Nicholson Ranch, Sonoma

We’ve gone to organic farming in the last five years with the goal of producing better fruit with better flavor for wine. My winemaking style is minimal intervention—natural yeast, no filtration, no chemicals. We use a little sulfite for aging.

What wines are you known for?

We do a great Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Over the years they’ve won many awards. Nicholson Ranch is a small estate winery producing 5,000 to 6,000 cases a year. We make wine from the grapes we grow, from start to finish, and sell it right here. Our wines are only available at the winery.

How long have you been working with Green Dream Tours?

We’ve been welcoming their groups for about three years now. I like talking with guests in the tasting room, explaining our wines and answering questions.

What do you want people to know now?

Wine country is back—we’re up and running. The fires are behind us. Air quality is excellent. The fire may actually help the vines by adding nutrients produced by the ash.

The way to help wine country is to come back and visit!

Learn more:
Napa and Sonoma WineTour
Book your tour

 

Team Building Wine Tour Helps Keep #SonomaStrong

While all eyes were on the fires raging in wine country, Veronica Ahern and her team were looking forward to their Green Dream Wine Tour to Sonoma.

Veronica, Director of Strategic Accounts for Oracle Data Cloud, had been planning the event as a bonding experience for 12 of her staff. Local team members were joined by several from around the country, and one even came in from London to experience the special day.

Fire was not on their agenda.

Team building wine tour, photo op at Golden Gate Bridge

First stop on their Sonoma wine tour, a photo op on the Golden Gate Bridge,

“We had a Plan B and Plan C in case,” says Veronica, “but a wine tour was our first choice, and it worked out really well. We were the first tour to go after the fires. I wondered if it would be insensitive to go up there, but they were excited to have us.”

Why Green Dream?

When selecting a tour company Veronica started by asking friends for recommendations.  “Then I saw a Green Dream van on the road and I called for a quote. I really liked that I could have lunch, tasting fees, driver and bus, all included in one price. It made budgeting so much easier,” she says.

Veronica worked with Green Dream’s Erin and Heather to plan a day that would be both fun and informative. They chose to visit the Larsen Family Winery, Robledo Family Winery and Cline Cellars.

“The tour was very well organized,” Veronica says. “Because of the fires, there was a lot of proactive communication between Green Dream and the wineries to make sure it was a great day for us to go.  They weren’t going to put us or their driver in an uncomfortable situation if the air quality was bad. That eased my mind,” she says.

“Their focus was not on making money, but making sure we had a good experience.”

Highlight of the tour

Oracle team at Cline Cellars

Oracle team, wine tasting at Cline Cellars in Sonoma

The group enjoyed all three Sonoma wineries, but Larsen was a favorite where they had a box lunch, played cornhole and basked in the sunshine. About half the team had been to wine country before. Everyone loved it, several said they were going to join the wine clubs just so they had an excuse to go back.

“The best part of going on a wine tasting tour is you learn what you like and what you don’t,” Veronica explained. For example, she thought she didn’t like white wine, but she realized that “I don’t like sweet white wine, so now I know what to ask for.”

Kudos for their guide 

Veronica and her team were very pleased with Dylan, their Green Dream tour guide. “He has a lot of energy and was very entertaining. He even stopped to buy a replacement cord so we could listen to music. He could have just turned on the radio, but instead he went above and beyond.”

Highly recommended

Veronica would definitely recommend Green Dream Tours to anyone planning a corporate event. And, even for outings outside of work, “I will reach out to Green Dream first.”

Learn more:
Why Our Tours
Private Wine Tours

Custom San Francisco and Wine Country Tours – How to Celebrate a Milestone

We felt like we were rich and famous for five days and we’re not.

Valerie and Jim Matthews wanted to go all out for their upcoming big birthdays (60 for her and 65 for him). The Pittsburgh, PA couple decided on San Jim and Valerie on a Green Dream wine tasting tour in Napa.Francisco because they’d never been here, and Valerie spent seven months researching their trip. “I’m a detail person,” she admits.

They looked at several options – the wine train, tour companies and even renting a car to go on their own. They selected Green Dream because the tours seemed more personal. “When I learned they customize trips, that did it,” says Valerie.

Day one: the private San Francisco tour

Jim and Valerie chose Green Dream’s BMW convertible for their private tours. “We felt like we were outdoors the entire time. It was beautiful.”

Heather, a Green Dream tour guide, helped them plan their itinerary. “We had so much flexibility it was ridiculous,” says Valerie. “Although we had only Saturday to Thursday we accomplished everything and at our own pace.”

On the first day, Heather drove them to landmarks around San Francisco and down Highway 1 to Half Moon Bay where they enjoyed lunch at the famous Sam’s Chowder House.

Day two: the customized wine tour

On Tuesday, they headed to Napa and Sonoma for wine tasting with Carson as their guide. Green Dream arranged for them to have lunch at Mustards Grill, an iconic wine country restaurant, between winery visits. Valerie says, “We were told it was a must do and it was.”

A customized wine tour via convertible by Green Dream.

Jim and Valerie stop for a photo op on day two of their customized tour.

Driving through the countryside in the convertible was as much a pleasure for the couple as touring the wineries.

Top notch all the way

“We loved everything about the trip,” she says. They flew first class for the first time, stayed at the Ritz Carlton in San Francisco and dined in fine restaurants. “The private tours were the icing on the cake. We didn’t have to rent a car, pay to park it and have the burden of figuring out where to go and how to get there. That didn’t seem like a vacation.”

“I just have to tell you it was the trip of the lifetime. There were no glitches. We felt like we were rich and famous for five days and we’re not.”

Learn more
Customized private tours
About Green Dream

 

Napa Valley Wine Tour – Meet the Winemaker at Spelletich Family Winery

Napa Valley winemaker and her dog greet guests on a Green Dream Tour.

Barb and Molly, the Spelletich mascot

At this boutique winery guests get a rare treat—a chance to taste wines in the company of the winemaker, Barb Spelletich. We spoke with her to learn about her long career in the business and her passion for winemaking.

What led you into winemaking?

My first job was as a retailer in Seattle. Then I started working for a distributor, then for Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery. That led me to open my own distributorship – Zephyr Imports.  I traveled to Europe frequently, purchasing from small family wineries.

Why did you and your husband Tim decide to strike out on your own?

We first produced wine by renting equipment and facilities from Hanns Kornell (a sparkling wine maker in the Napa Valley). But it became expensive and wasn’t sustainable. In 1994 we said let’s buy our own equipment and do it ourselves. Now, in addition to our own label, we offer custom crush services for other winemakers to help them get started.

What’s it like working with family?

I have a partner I can always count on, and I like that. But come on, I live with Tim and work with him. It’s a pain in the butt sometimes. I’m happy that it’s loud in the winery and I can say things and he can’t hear me.

Are there a lot of women winemakers?

Women are still in the minority compared to guys. But I’m seeing more and more women and I’m happy about that.

What makes Spelletich wines different?

The constants in my wine are that the grapes are ripe but not overripe. And I never overoak. I always want my wines to smell and taste like the fruit. My thing is to have balanced wine. I don’t like my chardonnay too soft. It’s more refreshing to have acidity and it goes better with food.

Lots of Napa wineries have their own vineyards and use only their own grapes. I want diversity in my grapes and I also like to have price variation in my wines. Sometimes people in the industry are very hoity-toity about wine, but not a lot of consumers are interested in really expensive wines. They want reasonably priced wines for every day. That’s part of my thinking.

How do you advise guests to approach winetasting?

I like to be adventurous and I want the public to be as well. I tell people, judge for yourself and trust your own palate. A wine writer or blogger is just one person’s opinion.

If you taste a wine you don’t like, it only means you didn’t like that bottle that time. Pepsi and Coke are always the same. But every single bottle of wine (even the same year and same varietal) will be different.

Learn more
Napa Valley wine tour
Private winetasting tours
Book your tour

Celebrating Our 1,000th Wine Tour Review on TripAdvisor!

We raise our glass to TripAdvisor for creating a great venue where travelers can share information and take the guesswork out of planning a fun and satisfying trip.

Thanks to travelers’ reviews, Green Dream Tours has become the top-rated Bay Area wine tour on TripAdvisor. And a special thank you to Kathleen F., our 1,000th reviewer, for helping us achieve this milestone.

We’re so glad she had an “Amazing Day Touring Sonoma!” with us. Here are her comments:

Kathleen F., a happy Green Dream Tours customer

Kathleen F.

My best friend and I had our vacation staying in downtown San Fran at USA Hostels. Green Dream was everything the reviews raved about and more. We had SUCH a great time — Jake was our tour guide — he was knowledgeable, lively and hilarious. We learned a ton and our group was amazing. HIGHLY recommend!
(Visited September 2015)

Kathleen, we invite you to have an amazing day touring Napa with us next time you’re in town. A gift certificate for two is on its way.

See more of our 5-star TripAdvisor reviews