Wine Tour Blog

Wine Notes - The Green Dream Tours Blog

Corporate Wine Tour to Napa
Gets Rave Reviews

The 15-person Yelp sales team, headed by Michael Black, had a great time sharing a messy experience at Hopper Creek Winery.

The San Francisco-based group arrived in Napa just in time for the crush and dove in with both hands.

Yelp sales team at winery during private wine tour of Napa

Yelp sales team enjoys a corporate wine tour of Napa

“We all loved pressing grapes and getting our hands purple. It was a great bonding experience,” Michael remembers.

He wanted to reward his team for accomplishing their quarterly goal. So what better way to celebrate than with a private wine tour.

Instead of trying to manage it himself, Michael got on the phone with his old friend Elie Sasson of Green Dream Tours.
“I knew he would take good care of us.”

Off the beaten trail

Elie planned a day-long tour to boutique wineries along the famed Silverado Trail. He guided the group to Luna Vineyards, Rutherford Hill Winery, and at Michael’s request, Hopper Creek.

“It was totally professional, nothing cliché about the tour,” says Michael. “Elie made it seamless and took care of all the details.”

At Luna, Elie explained the winemaking process while their host poured tastes on the veranda. Then the group moved on to Rutherford Hill where Elie had arranged a tour of the wine caves.

The last stop was Hopper Creek where they enjoyed their hands-on experience. The wineryHopper Creek Winery invites guests to participate in hand punchdowns, a gentle method of handling the grape that helps preserve fruitiness and maintain balanced tannins.

Thumbs up

The Napa wine tour was exactly the experience Michael had hoped for. He says, “The day was so memorable, my team felt inspired and motivated. I’d definitely recommend it to other businesses.”

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Green Dream corporate tours
See our reviews on Yelp

A custom Sonoma wine tour that went “above and beyond”

When six friends from Alberta, Canada called on Green Dream Tours to help them plan a bachelorette outing, they got more than they anticipated.

Three of them, including the bride, had toured Sonoma before and looked forward to sharing the experience with the rest of the group. They’d liked the Viansa setting and the wine on their last visit and wanted to return. And, because a few of the women had watched The Bachelor together, they requested a stop at Envolve Winery (co-founded by the reality show’s recent star, Ben Flajnik).

They left the choice of the third winery to Elie, owner of Green Dream. He recommended B.R. Cohn, which ended up being their favorite.

Planning the trip

Bachelorettes at B.R. Cohn Winery in Sonoma

Bachelorettes get a tour of B.R. Cohn with the winemaker

Erin, who had been on the 2010 wine country tour, was in charge of planning the bachelorette getaway. After searching Google and TripAdvisor, she contacted Green Dream. “I decided to go with them because they ranked at the top of the reviews,” says Erin.

Everyone agreed the stop at the B. R. Cohn winery was the highlight of the day. “We got a private tour with Tom, the winemaker, and the tasting room host was fabulous,” she adds.

“Then Tom surprised us with wine for the bride to take home and little gifts for all of us. It was above and beyond what we expected.”

The bride meets the Bachelor

Sonoma wine tasting with Ben the Bachelor

Bachelorettes stop for wine tasting with
reality TV star Ben Flajnik

After lunch in Sonoma, they had another surprise for the bride. In planning their itinerary, Elie had arranged for a private wine tasting with Ben at Envolve. “He spent an hour pouring and describing his wines,” says Erin, “and then was gracious enough to take photos with us.”

For others planning a bachelorette tour, Erin highly recommends Green Dream Tours. “It was fabulous. There’s nothing I would change about the day. The girls loved it and still talk about it.”


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Green Dream custom wine tours

Fall in the wine country — a special time to visit

Erin Troy, Green Dream tour guide, toasts fall in the vineyard.

Green Dream tour guide Erin Troy toasts fall in the vineyard.

Erin Troy has been leading wine country tours for Green Dream since May of 2012. We spoke to her about what’s going on in the vineyards now.

Can you give us a preview of fall in the wine country?

Harvest is my favorite time of year to be up there. They call it the crush and it’s when Napa and Sonoma are buzzing.

You get to see production going on – from workers hand-picking grapes to truckloads of fruit being delivered to the wineries. It’s one of the most beautiful times in California wine country. The leaves on the vines are turning gold, orange and rust. The angle of the sun produces that golden glow and the air smells like wine.

What questions do your groups ask about the crush?

People want to know when grapes are harvested. It’s an ongoing process starting in late summer and continuing into early fall. The wineries measure the sugar levels of the grapes to decide when they’re ready to pick. In warmer seasons they harvest earlier and when it’s been cooler, they harvest later.

Are there advantages to visiting at this time of year?

The vines turn beautiful oranges and rusts in the fall in California's wine country.

Wine country vineyard wears brilliant fall colors.

It’s a little past the peak summer tourist season, so tasting room visitors get more personal attention. And because it’s harvest time, you’ll see more of the winemaking process. There’s a sense of change in the air as the grapes come to the end of life on the vine and begin the transformation into wine.

What do you like most about leading wine country tours?

I love taking daily tours up to wine country because it’s beautiful and consistently better weather than San Francisco. And, it’s fun meeting visitors from all over the world who are on vacation and in a good mood.

When people have a special request, Green Dream arranges a private tour, so I often get to visit wineries that are not on our usual itinerary.

I’ve always been interested in wine, but being a tour guide has given me more appreciation of what goes into each bottle. I enjoy sharing what I’ve learned with my tour groups.

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Private winery tours
About Green Dream Tours

Tour Sonoma’s Robledo Family Winery — a hidden gem

When you join our Sonoma Valley winery tour, you’ll get to taste the wines and hear the amazing story of Reynaldo Robledo and his family winery.

Lazaro Robledo, Sonoma winery tasting room manager

Lazaro Robledo,
tasting room manager

Reynaldo came to California’s wine country as a migrant worker from Mexico at the tender age of 16. We spoke to his son Lazaro, the winery’s tasting room manager, who filled us in on the fascinating details.

How many of your family members work in the business?

All of them! I’m the eighth of nine children and every one has stayed in the family business. For example, Everardo is the winemaker, Jenaro is the vineyard manager and my mom, who recently retired, was executive chef for all of our events.

What makes Robledo different than other wineries?

We’re proud that the winery is completely family run. From the soil to the bottle, we touch everything.

What recognition have your wines received?Award-winning Robledo Sonoma wines

In blind tastings, we’ve been awarded 22 gold medals and nine double golds. Some award winners are available on our website. My favorite now is the 2012 Seven Brothers Sauvignon Blanc, perfect in this hot weather.

How did you hook up with Green Dream Tours?

I met Elie four years ago when he was starting out and looking for boutique wineries to include in his tour. It’s been great seeing the growth and development of his company.

What do you like about his tour groups?

I like to meet people from all over and he’s getting tourists from Australia, Europe and China as well as from the US.

Last word . . .

My advice is to try a lot of different wines. You’ll learn what you like and become a more discerning taster.

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Green Dream’s Sonoma Valley winery tour
Robledo Family Winery

Discover Judd’s Hill on our
Napa Valley wine tour

We chatted with Todd Rickhoff, wine educator and tasting guru at Judd’s Hill winery in Napa. Here, he shares his insights from more Wine educator at Napa Valley's Judd's Hill Winerythan 30 years in the industry.

Tell us a little about your background in the wine biz . . .

I started in the late 1970s when my brother-in-law bought the Franciscan Winery. Later I went to Durango and Denver, Colorado, and operated retail wine stores there. In 2004, I moved back to the Napa Valley and worked at several prominent wineries.

And then you decided to join Judd’s Hill – why?

After spending time at corporate wineries, it’s fun to be part of a family-run boutique winery. We produce just 3,000 cases a year for our own label and custom-bottle for individuals and grape growers.

Give us a quick family history . . .

In the 1960s, architect Art Finkelstein started making wine at home in LA. He began winning awards and soon his hobby outgrew his garage. That’s when he came to Napa, bought some land and designed and built Whitehall Lane Winery.

But Art really wanted to be a small, custom winemaker, so he sold Whitehall in the mid-80s. A few years later, he started Judd’s Hill which he operates with his son Judd and the rest of his family.

Do you have special events at the winery?

For people who want to go deeper into winemaking, we host Bottle Blending Day Camps. We teach how to make French Bordeaux blends from four different varietals. At the end of the day, they get to cork and label their bottles and take them home.

What is Judd’s Hill known for?

We’re proud of all 18 wines but the mainstays are our Sauvignon Blanc, Petite Sirah, Napa Cabernet, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel.

Learn about


Bachelorettes party on a private wine tour in Sonoma

A bachelorette party takes a private wine tour of Sonoma, and poses in the vineyard.

Sorority sisters reunite for a memorable tour
of Sonoma wine country.

Ten sorority sisters take a private wine country tour and at the end of the
day . . . leave their lingerie on the bus. Nope, it’s not a joke.

They gathered in San Francisco in June for a reunion and bachelorette party. Stephanie McCay of Denver, who organized the trip, told us they wanted:

  • time to hang out and catch up
  • a memorable day in the wine country
  • and a private tour tailored just for their group

After calling several tour companies, she talked to Elie at Green Dream. “I was excited because he said we’d have our own bus and be visiting boutique wineries where we’d probably be the only the guests,” says Stephanie.

The women loved the more personalized and intimate Green Dream tour. At the smaller wineries they actually met the winemakers and heard their stories. In fact, at Peter Cellars in Sonoma, when the winemaker found out several in the group were pregnant or new moms, he introduced them to his three-week-old baby.

“The best possible tour guide”

“Our tour guide, Adam, knew when to let us do our own thing and when to chime in,” Stephanie says. And the friends were really glad not to be on a large bus with other groups, especially at the end of the day when their party got livelier and louder.

Everyone had a great time. The bride loved it, even though she doesn’t exactly remember all the details . . . like leaving her lingerie on the bus.

Now don’t jump to conclusions. The fancy undies were gifts from her friends and she had tucked the package under her seat while they were touring.

Adam to the rescue

That night Adam met the group at a restaurant to return the gifts. Not wanting to carry the pink Victoria’s Secret bag, he disguised it in a brown paper bag. Stephanie says, “He really went above and beyond, and he ended up joining us for the rest of the evening.”

Let us help you create memories in the wine country. Learn more about our private wine tours here.

Green Dream’s wine tours honored by TripAdvisor

A toast to you — our enthusiastic customers — for your glowing reviews on TripAdvisor. 2013-cert-of-excellence

We’re honored to receive their 2013 Certificate of Excellence, an award reserved for the top 10% of businesses listed on their website.

This prestigious recognition is due to our overall rating of 5 out of 5, as well as a high volume of reviews.

And, last time we looked (yesterday), our wine tours ranked 11th out of 244 activities for travelers in San Francisco.

Thanks for choosing Green Dream Tours to Sonoma and Napa, and for spreading the word.

Are you on our photo gallery page? If not, email your favorite shots from your Green Dream tour to Elie.


On wine country tours, smaller is better


People who tour the wine country with us are looking for a more intimate experience. That’s why we visit family-owned wineries instead of impersonal corporate producers. And it’s the reason we have a 14-passenger bus, so you can have it to yourself or get to know a few interesting folks from around the world.

Here’s a sampling of what our fans are saying on TripAdvisor…

Carefully selected wineries

TB from San Francisco says, “Green Dream Tours provides a detail oriented and thoughtful trip through wineries in Sonoma County. His wineries appear to be as carefully selected as the various details they share with the group while on tour. It’s a fantastic way to experience wine country for the first, second or twentieth time.”

Small group, big fun

Natalia A of Hobart, Australia writes, “We all thoroughly enjoyed the tour, especially the small group size and the free time spent in Sonoma. We appreciated visiting some smaller wineries as opposed to the bigger commercial ones.”

Thumbs down on larger tour

Laura M of Louisville, Kentucky, “This was our first wine tour and by far the best! Elie is a wonderful guide and offers a lot of educational and historical information. Later in the week we did a larger tour to Napa Valley that lacked the quality of Green Dream. We loved visiting the smaller family-owned wineries. This was our favorite day of our trip to San Fran!”

See more of our wine tour reviews on TripAdvisor.

Check out 10 reasons to choose Green Dream Tours.

Meet Sonoma wine tasting expert Lee Sweeney

leesweeneyOne of the stops on our Sonoma Valley wine tour is the Larson Family Winery, where Lee Sweeney is the wine club and tasting room manager. She took a few minutes to chat with us about what makes a visit to Larson memorable.

So Lee, how long have you been hosting Green Dream tour groups?

Four years now, on weekdays and weekends starting every May. Elie brings lunch and the group picnics outside the tasting room. We have a bocce court, horseshoes and, of course, wine. His groups are lively and fun, with a mix of people, often from Europe and Australia.

What’s your advice for wine tasting newbies?

At Larson, we’re relaxed and laid back, so don’t be intimidated by the wine. We’re not snobbish. If you don’t like a certain wine, you don’t have to drink it. We encourage visitors to look at the tasting notes and see if they taste what we’re describing. It may not taste like that to them, but that’s OK.

threelabcabWhat wines do the groups taste?

We have a set list of five wines – a couple chilled and three reds. The Pinot Grigio is very popular in the summer and the guests have been liking our Pinot Noir and Three Lab Cab.

What makes a tour of your winery different?

There’s a lot of history here. The property has been in the family since 1899, and from 1929 to the early 1950s it was the site of the Sonoma Rodeo. You can see some of the memorabilia around the winery. Now we have a 70-acre vineyard and produce 4,000 cases under the Larson label. Because of our small production, you won’t find these wines in the grocery store.

What’s your favorite wine?

My taste changes with the weather. Right now I’m enjoying our 2010 Sparkling Rosé, which won a Silver Medal at the 2013 SF Chronicle Wine Competition.

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