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Additional articles BY COURTNEY COCHRAN



Wine Country Weather Report

Make the most of wine country in winter while keeping dry

My trip to wine country last weekend had all the makings of a miserable outing. As I pulled up to my first destination, a well known winery where I was having lunch with the operation’s owner and some friends, the ominous-looking clouds overhead made good on their threat and it started to rain.

It didn’t stop until after I left two days later.

Normally, a California gal like me (I spent eight blissfully sunny years in LA) would’ve been completely dismayed. But, perhaps because this was my first visit to wine country in months, or maybe because the trip marked a much-needed break from writing my book, I didn’t care. I was in wine country, after all, and about to spend a couple of glorious days soaking it all in.

Soaking in the ambiance, that is, not the moisture – if I could avoid it!

Seriously Wet in Wine Country
As anyone who’s visited wine country in winter knows, it’s a typically wet, cold place. The gorgeous vine-covered hills are often indistinguishable behind thick banks of fog, and getting into most tasting rooms requires the skillful handling of a trusty umbrella and the deft navigation of the mini floods that take over most winery parking lots this time of year.

But a recipe for disaster? Hardly.

Although wine country in winter presents a unique set of weather-induced challenges, they’re hardly insurmountable. In fact, it’s possible to find wine country absolutely delightful at this time of year, provided you arrive prepared and keep an open mind. Read on for some of my top suggestions for activities that needn’t be dampened by something as silly as a bit – ok, let’s be honest, a lot! – of moisture.

Cook Up Some Warmth of Your Own
There’s nothing better than being inside a warm and welcoming kitchen when it’s raining outside. At Napa Valley’s Cakebread Cellars, this is precisely where guests find themselves during the winery’s monthly cooking classes. One of the few places in Napa to offer hands-on classes – in which guests learn to cook alongside the winery’s pro chefs – Cakebread also offers customized small group classes if you’d prefer a more intimate lesson. To learn more, contact event coordinator Allyson at allyson@cakebread.com or call 1-800-588-0298 ext. 230.

Multi-Tasking in Wine Country: Learn, Shop, Dine & Drink at Copia
Copia: The American Center for Wine, Food & the Arts, is a virtual treasure trove of cool indoor activities in wine country. Located in downtown Napa, the 80,000 square foot facility offers interactive multi-media exhibits about wine and food, cooking demonstrations, wine tasting classes and an always-changing roster of exhibitions. Part cooking demo, part feast, the spot’s weekly Taste of Copia lunches are a great way to enjoy delicious food while picking up tips you can try at home. Stop by the Wine Spectator Tasting Table afterwards if you’re still hankering for some wine and food 101, or check out Forks In the Road, an interactive exhibit that looks at American culture through food and drink. Either way, you’ll stay dry.
Copia, 500 First Street, Napa, CA 94559 (707) 259-1600 copia.org

Tricks of the Trade
Arriving in wine country armed with the appropriate wet weather gear will dramatically improve your experience, whether you’re puddle jumping in parking lots or eluding the deluge under a giant umbrella. To that end, I suggest a good umbrella and sturdy shoes that’ll keep your feet dry at a minimum (it probably goes without saying, but these should be shoes you don’t mind getting mucked up – so leave the Tod’s loafers and anything with heels at home). A hat will help with the chill, as will a warm sweater and a rain coat.

You may not look like a million bucks, but that’s exactly how you’ll feel when you arrive home rested, rejuvenated and – most importantly – DRY after your delightful mid-winter wine country romp.