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Tips on Trips - Sonoma County
Driving is an art in California's Sonoma County, with its diverse topography, fantastic vistas, gourmet restaurants and unique inns, all connected by four-season wine country roads.
Doing a fly-drive is easy. Sonoma County is just 35 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge, so renting a car at the international airport of San Francisco or Oakland is a great way to start. Another way to do it: catch an airport shuttle to Sonoma County, and rent your car there. Several firms offer "exotics" like import convertibles and deluxe all-wheel drives for vacation rental.
Now, summon your muse (or the official Sonoma County Visitor's Guide), because there are many great ways to go. Most steel-belted Sonoma County adventures include US 101, the main motor route that connects most of the county's larger towns and cities.
Sonoma County's "left bank" is Pacific Coast Highway One, a scenic and winding way studded with restaurants offering fresh-catch seafood, spectacular Sonoma Coast scenery, golf links and glistening waves.
Connecting 101 and 1 are quiet backroads that travel through Sonoma County's emerald headlands and charming towns. Even their names suggest a leisurely time: Bodega Highway, Bohemian Highway, Coleman Valley Road, Old Cazadero Road.
Sonoma County's Highway 116, known as the "Gravenstein Highway," slices through some of California's richest agriculture. Local visitor centers offer maps of the many farms that are open for "u-pick" fruit and wine tasting opportunities.
Along Sonoma County's south-eastern edge, motoring visitors discover historic towns, bistros, hotels, inns and California icon wineries. Highway 12 -- the Sonoma Highway -- winds through shutter-popping terrain, quaint wine country towns, and at least a dozen places to see the work of local artists and artisans. Several times a year, Sonoma County artists open their studios to visitors -- it's a great opportunity to discover new artists and talk to them about their work for sale.
Dry Creek Road and Alexander Valley Road offer tasty tours of Sonoma County vinelands, and even further north intrepid motorists can drive to active geothermal hot springs along aptly named Geysers Road. Sonoma County's northwest coast offers Pacific Coast Highway lodging options and opportunities for outdoor communion, from golf to kayaking to horseback riding and beachcombing along its pebbly strands.
Sonoma County -- good wine, good food, good natured. Ready to roll? For the official Sonoma County Visitor's Guide and map, call the Sonoma County Tourism Program toll-free at (800) 380-5392 to go to www.sonomacounty.com, the official travel Web site.
Article courtesy: Sonoma County Tourism Program
Searching for Sonoma County Surprises
Shopping in Sonoma County is always an exciting diversion, with new outlets for discovery at every turn. A truly unique new establishment is Many Rivers Books & Tea, a spiritual bookstore and tea shop located in the West County town of Sebastopol. As the name suggests, Many Rivers carries books on all religious and spiritual traditions. In addition to books and loose leaf tea, some quite exotic and hard to find, the shop stocks incense, candles, meditation bells, Tibetan prayer flags, personal altars, images of deities and great spiritual/religious teachers. Special events such as readings and speakers happen nearly every Thursday evening at the store. Open six days a week; closed Mondays.
And how can you not adore a store that vows to sell flip-flops all year long? Meet The Loop, a new shop on the Plaza in historic Sonoma that specializes in fashion, fun and, yes, flip-flops. Owners Kristi Pier and Joenne Kelly offer a hip mix of fashions for women, handmade leather products and more. Pier designs the store's Sioni line of handbags, home accessories and travel accessories. Finally, those looking for a little more Zen in their lives can check out Yasuko, a new Healdsburg shop specializing in original, one of a kind clothing, vintage Japanese textiles, interior design accents and accessories.
Article courtesy: The
Virginia Wine Country
Acknowledging the growth in size and importance of Virginia's Wine Industry, WineCountry.com recently added Virginia to its regions.
Although wine has been produced in Virginia for 400 years, it is only in the past decade that Virginia wines have gained national and international status. Early Virginia wines were produced from native grapes and for 200 years attempts to produce palatable wines were frustrating. By 1800 a strong Virginia wine industry had developed, but suffered setbacks during the Civil War and Prohibition. In the last decade wine production has quadrupled while the state's winemakers have refined their production techniques. Today 80 wineries produce fine wines from over 20 grape varieties, resulting in a wide variety of wines with greatly improved quality. Virginia now ranks as the 5th largest wine producing state in the nation.
Extreme weather conditions and unpredictable rains at harvest time confront Virginia winemakers and grape growers with their fair share of challenges. As Virginia's winegrowers and winemakers have learned more about the selection of grapes and vineyard sites, as well as the techniques of grape farming and winemaking, the state has produced a higher and more consistent quality wine. Virginia wines now garner national and international awards, including a "Best of Show" in a California competition.
In the last decade the number of Virginia wineries has grown from a handful to 80. Many of the wineries are small, family operations and most offer tours and wine tasting, sparking a new pastime as the focus of or an add-on to a weekend trip.The wineries are spread throughout the state, often set in the most bucolic countryside.
To find out more about Virginia wineries, wine tasting, and wine country lodging, visit: virginia.wineconcountry.com
Wine Country Recipe
Artichoke & Cheese Frittata
1 can (13 oz) Artichoke Hearts, drained &
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In skillet, melt butter. Add onion and sauté, then add artichokes. Set aside. Combine eggs and cottage cheese, beat with mixer. Add the remaining ingredients and blend together. Pour into a 7x10" baking dish or a 9" pie pan and bake for one hour, until set and golden brown. Let sit a few minutes before serving.
Serve with tortilla chips and salsa on the side.
Wine Tasting Recommendation
Clos du Bois
For nearly 30 years, Clos du Bois has crafted award-winning wines that showcase the best of the Sonoma County wine region. The winery and tasting room is nestled in the beautiful Alexander Valley and is open to the public Monday through Friday from 10 am to 4:30 pm. The picturesque picnic area is the perfect spot for a casual meal with breathtaking views of the Alexander Valley in the backdrop.
Working with the extraordinary fruit from many of the sub-appellations within Sonoma County, particularly the Alexander Valley, Clos du Bois produces elegant wines that offer layered complexity and long term aging potential. These world-class wines are created in four tiers, each offering its own unique personality and value.
Come visit our tasting room where guests receive two complimentary classic tastings or may choose to purchase a sampling, which includes 6 pourings and a souvenier glass, for $5. Join the Clos du Bois Wine Club to enjoy exclusive benefits such as discounts on wine and merchandise purchases, food and wine pairing recipes, access to limited release and winery exclusive wines, free membership and invitations to members-only events.
Wine Country Lodging Recommendation
La Belle Époque Bed and Breakfast Inn
This Elegant Victorian Bed and Breakfast is full of many treasures. Located within walking distance to many great restaurants and shops in historic downtown Napa, LaBelle Époque is a stately inn of inviting charm where beautifully manicured gardens and roses flourish. Just up the steps and through the entrance you will enter the elegant parlor, replete with lavish antiques and lovely sitting areas. Lose yourself in a good book or perhaps exchange conversation with that special someone or the other guests. Exquisite windows of stunning stained glass are everywhere.
A WineCountry.com staff member recently stayed at the Inn and had this to report to our readers:
Upon arrival we were greeted by the delightful innkeeper who is there to make sure everything is perfect. After checking into our charming room and getting all the details of the inn down pat, we were invited to a wine and cheese tasting just downstairs in the house wine cellar. The cellar is charming and cozy with plenty of comfy sofas and chairs. The wine poured on this occasion was from Cosentino Winery, located in the Napa Valley. Their tasting room expert offered great insight to the different wines and their qualities. Also served were different cheeses and hors d'oeuvres. Free passes to the Cosentino winery and tasting room were provided for a later visit.
After a relaxing dinner we came back to unwind in our elegant room and found our bed turned down with chocolates on the pillow. The beautifully decorated room is complete with a cozy pink and white bed with lovely linens, a fireplace, a sitting area and attractive antiques. The amply sized bathroom was equipped with a double shower and an exquisite stained glass window above.
Breakfast is served at 9AM in the elegant dining room decorated with attractive linens and place settings, complete with beautiful crystal glasses. The food was absolutely delicious and included a delightfully presented homemade quiche served with fresh fruit, bacon, croissants, orange juice and coffee.
The often highly recommended La Belle Époque Bed & Breakfast Inn is known for it’s hospitality, beautiful antiques, award winning breakfasts, wine receptions, romantic ambiance and a great location.
To learn more about La Belle Epoque Bed and Breakfast Inn visit their website: www.labelleepoque.com
Wine Country Featured Events
Things to Do in the Wine Country:
16 - 17, 2003, 28th Annual
Virginia Wine Festival, Great Meadow, The Plains, Virginia
Fine food from the area's top restaurants and caterers includes pasta, seafood and vegetarian cuisine to crepes and gourmet desserts. There are several activities for the kids. There is continuous live music on two stages including Acoustic Rock, Country Rock, Pop Rock, Funk, Reggae, Blues and Jazz. Learn more about wine in this bucolic and peaceful setting.
Insider's Day with Beau Limousine!
Win an exclusive VIP Napa Valley wine tour for up to 6 people and get an inside look at some of the hottest producers in the wine industry today! Your 6 hour tour begins around 9:30AM (at any Napa Valley location you choose) as you board your own private, customized Stretch Limousine. Your knowledgeable tour guide will greet you and your friends with complimentary sparkling wine and begin escorting you through the valley.
Your first winery stop takes you 2000 feet up to the top of the Mayacamas mountain range in one of Napa's most celebrated appellations. On your morning tour of the winery you will walk you through lush vineyards, experience cool-climate wine caves, and taste some very limited production wines. Afterwards you will be treated to a catered gourmet lunch overlooking the most scenic vistas in wine country!
Your next stop will be a tour and tasting in the famed Oakville District (home of big Cabernets) at a private winery just off the Silverado Trail. This elegant property has been built adjacent to a "ghost winery" (closed and abandoned after prohibition). Tastings will include highly rated Chardonnays, very rich Merlots, and delicious Cabernets.
Finally, you will be taken on an extensive barrel
tasting tour through the caves of one of Napa's hottest new
producers. Get ready for sensory overload as you sample several
different barrel types that are aging the same Cabernet! This
is a true wine connoisseur's experience, but it doesn't end
there. A final tasting of the finished product (current releases)
takes place in the "back room" along with a variety
Restrictions: Subject to availability.
***No purchase necessary.
To participate you must be 21 years of age or older. Only one
entry per person permitted. Prize is same as cash, FreeRun Technologies,
Inc/WineCountry.com is not responsible if lost or stolen. Winner
will be selected by random drawing and will be contacted via
email. Winner must claim prize within 10 days of email notification.
Winner name and state of residence will be announced in a future
issue of WineCountry.com Lifestyle Online newsletter. Employees
of FreeRun Technologies are ineligible. Void where prohibited.
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