Wine Country, California
Every Year: 1998 to present
This is one of my favorite places to relax and unwind. Life is so simple with the best vineyards, world-class restaurants and town folk all passionate about food and wine. I f I needed a day of relaxation or needed to see the sun, would head up here with friends from SF for the day or weekend.
Top 5 Days
- Bike through the vineyards - Rent bikes from downtown Sonoma or Calistoga (they will have suggested route maps) for an easy pedal through to 5 vineyards. Really, it is flat, so you don't have to be in great shape and you'll burn off those cab calories.
- Massage and Mud Bath in Calistoga - Indian Springs is so retro and coo. The pool is warm year round.
- Vineyard to vineyard with a driver - pack a picnic lunch from Oakville Grocery Store and relax and do winetasting all day. Set up a couple of full tours at the small wineries and just pop into others. Some favorites are Clos Pegas to view art, Benziger (not Beringer) for truck tour on the growing process, Round Pond is amazing and make sure to hit one of the sparkling vineyards. Stay clear of the really big vineyards.
- Stroll through Healdsburg - this is a darling town, then head to the JimTown Store.
- Golf or lay by the pool - the spas and service everywhere here are great.
Top 5 Foodie Finds
- Bistro Jeanty - One of my world favorites! A darling French restaurant where you can sit outside and enjoy dinner followed by wine and cheese.
- Redwood - in Yountville but you almost feel like you are in NYC. Awesome, hip pizza joint. Amazing meatballs and buffalo motzerella.
- Bouchon - Oysters and crisp whites. Or mussels and fries.
- Taylor's Refresher - Best burgers and malts around town.
- Round Pond Winery - Go for the most amazing $25 tasting on a deck overlooking the vineyards and get 3 little fab appetizers.
Top 5 High Style, Low Maintenance Hotels
- Hotel Healdsburg - very hip, no country frills here.
- The Kenwood Inn - I adore the Italian-style pool and rooms. This is away from it all in Sonoma.
- Solage - Amazing food, great pool, workout classes included. And they have 2 bikes at every cottage. SO cute.
- Bardessono - Green, hip in Younteville. Pair this with French Laundry and you've got a Bucket List!
- The Farmhouse Inn - This is my friend Amy's favorite, so it can't be wrong. In Sonoma.
Top 5 Misses
- Snobby, cigar-smoking East-coast blokes.
- The heat - it is a scorcher here in the summer
- Expensive wine tastings. If you buy a bottle, most places won't make you pay.
- Frilly hotels - too much "I Heart Country" here. Just plan ahead to avoid a teddy bear on your pillow.
- If you aren't a foodie or wine fan - then pass on wine country. If you think you have the potential to be a foodie or wine lover, then I promise you will be after a few days here.
Top 5 Tips
- Book hotels and restaurants before - the great little hotels and eateries book early.
- Experiment - try new foods and wines. I spent a week here learning and asking everything I could about pairing cheese and wine. Basically, I learned it is all good. ;) Oh, and it is fattening... 12 pounds later.
- Engage waiters, bartenders, sommeliers - they live for food and wine. Tell them what you like, what you are eating, price range and ask for recommendations. This is how I've discovered my all-time favorite wine: Hourglass.
- Share tastings - most places will let you share a tasting with your friend. This will also help you avoid the mid-day hangover.
- There's more to wine country than Napa - I prefer Sonoma, Healdsburg and Calistoga. Not near as touristy.