If I could live anywhere in the USA this would be the place. The nature is
beautiful; the people are friendly and the climate is almost perfect. It is close to
the ocean and close to the mountains. It has the gorgeous Russian river and
beautiful redwood forests.
The hills and valleys are covered with vineyards and fields,
and the hospitable wineries don't offer just excellent wines
but also locally made olive oils, cheeses and many, many
other things. The food is outstanding everywhere you go
and the wine tastings are very educational but in a fun way.
And they even have their own Old Faithful Geyser (one of
three in the world).
The most popular thing to do in wine country is of course
wine tasting. Some of the most well known wineries like
Mondavi, Gallo, Korbel, BV, Kendall Jackson, etc., are
from this area.
These wineries are huge and nothing short of castles, mansions, and palaces with
a limo or two in the drive, some have trees growing on both sides of their entry
ways, and manicured gardens with fountains, statues, and rose-bushes in front of
They offer wine tastings, tours of the
wineries and various classes. Some are free
and some are not. Ask at your hotel for coupons, you might get a free wine tasting or
two. I would not recommend more than two or three vine tastings a day if you choose
to drink the wine you are tasting (and believe me most of them are too good to spit
There are so many other
things to do also:
I love the drive by the Russian river towards the ocean.
Pack a picnic basket, get some good food at a local
Deli (I've heard Korbel has an excellent one and it is
on the way - they also offer an excellent free tour of
their winery). Stop for a tasting at one of the many
wineries that you discover on one of those side roads, and pick up
a bottle of wine, then find a spot by the river and enjoy.
Believe me; life doesn't get much better than that. A walk through
the redwoods or by the ocean afterward will reward you with
unforgettable beauty, inner peace and fewer digestion problems
since you probably ate too much.
One of my stops: Michael Chiarello's
Napa Style in Yountville
After seeing most of the
famous wineries, I decided
to visit some of the smaller
ones, called boutique
wineries, and boy was I in
for a treat. There are many
and I have yet to find one
that is not superb but my
choice was Harvest Moon. I
took two classes there: one
explained the art of Pinot
Noir making and the other
one was about olive oil.
I learned about the many complicated procedures that result in this most excellent
wine. This was followed by a walk through the olive groves and an explanation of
the care and handling of the trees and vines.
When I returned, I sampled some more wine
and compared different vintages of the same
type of wine.
Then I was introduced to the world of olive
oil. I had several bottles of olive oil placed
in front of me from various producers, and
various regions. After trying them all I was
able to recognize some subtle differences;
some tasted lemony, some grassy and some
peppery. I mixed several flavors, picked the
mixture I liked the most and they bottled it
for me. They even wrote my name on the
bottles. Since this was happening later in
the fall I ordered a case and had a big part
of my Christmas shopping done.