Additional articles BY COURTNEY COCHRAN

Spring Forward

Get the Jump on Wine Country This Season

I found a postcard in my mailbox from my wireless provider yesterday.  “DAYLIGHT SAVINGS TIME IMPORTANT NOTICE – UPDATE YOUR DEVICE BEFORE MARCH 11, 2007,” it read. 

Problem was, it didn’t arrive until the 12th. 

The day before that – the day of the time change – when I’d really needed the notice, I’d been surprised when a 1:30PM phone call came through at 12:30.  It occurred to me that the time might’ve changed, but I didn’t quite believe it since my Blackberry hadn’t updated itself to reflect the shift.

A new kind of digital divide
In an era when digital devices direct many of our moves – like emailing (PDAs), golfing (Radargolf handhelds) and even driving (GPS devices), I’ve become reliant on them as my own personal arbiters of what is really, truly going on. 

So even when my gut told me that it might be time for a time change, I believed my Blackberry instead.

The belated postcard ultimately cleared everything up.  “Please note that Daylight Savings Time is going to take place 3 weeks earlier this year,” it explained.  PDAs, including Blackberries, would need to be manually updated to reflect the change.  

An early spring means wine country savings
The fact that Daylight Saving’s Time arrived early this year means that lots of folks – and a few digital devices – weren’t prepared for it.  But it also means – perhaps much more critically to readers of this column – that these three weeks of early spring sunshine make for a great excuse to head to wine country, where you can get a jump on the summer crowds and still lock in some great “off-season” deals on lodging, dining and other perks.

Packages abound
Sonoma’s posh Hotel Healdsburg, for example, is offering several dynamite packages to early bird spring time travelers.  Available through the end of March every night of the week except Saturday, packages include the tempting Un-Wind & Dine, which gets you and a pal a night’s stay at the hotel, a six-course tasting menu dinner for two at Dry Creek Kitchen, spa treatments at the The Spa Hotel Healdsburg and a gourmet breakfast before you leave.  All for $539.70 through the end of March.

The wonderfully luxe new Carneros Inn, comprised of 86 individual cottages featuring lush linens, stylish décor, wood burning fireplaces and their own private gardens and outdoor showers, offers spring time visitors several appealing packages as well.  Through the end of March guests can take advantage of the now ironically named Winter Comfort Package, which includes a night’s lodging in a cottage or spa, two 60-minute Therapeutic Massages and a gourmet breakfast for two.  How’s that for a fabulous time change fringe benefit?  Available seven days a week through the end of the month for $635.

No Blackberry required
Looking to spend a little less on your springtime rendezvous in wine country?  Most hotels in the area offer off-season discounts or packages and are happy to share details with interested parties over the phone or via their web sites.  You may have to do a little research to track down these deals, but it’ll pay off when you find yourself happily drinking, dining and spa-ing in wine country, where just about everything except the crowds is springing to life right now. 

And there’s nothing wrong with leaving your PDA at home.