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Wine Country

To come this far and not make it to the Wine Country (only an hour north of the City) might just be a sin, especially if you consider the area’s wine roots. Back in the 19th century, settlers began planting the vineyards, which now cover the sloping sunlit hills. The source of those fruitful cuttings: Catholic priests. But even with this blissful beginning, it wasn’t until a blind taste test in Paris in the 1970s that California wines really made history. A little known red from Napa beat out a well-known French wine and ever since, tourists and tasters have been flocking to the region’s earthly grounds

To get going to wine country, leave the city after an early breakfast and take U.S. 101 over the Golden Gate Bridge towards Napa/Sonoma, following CA-37 East. Choose either Napa Valley or Sonoma for your day trip and, if you plan to indulge in a lot of tasting, designate a driver. Scheduling ahead is a good idea, as some wineries require prior appointments, the number in a group is limited and there may be a fee. Following are some suggestions to help guide you through the Bay Area’s grape land.
Photo by James Dalsa/CC

Winery
Mustard Flowers in Vineyards

Producing world-class wines since 1973, Cakebread Cellars offers gracious hospitality in a beautiful Napa Valley setting. Offering unique experiences, including in-depth tours, reserve tastings, as well as a wine and food pairing.

Photo by RC Designer/CC

Visit this authentically-styled 121,000 square foot, 13th century Tuscan castle-winery. Tours are led by a knowledable guide. All tours feature a barrel tasting, and include a complimentary tasting of current releases.

Photo by Jim G./CC

The Hess Collection was founded by Swiss entrepreneur Donald Hess, who first purchased vineyards on Mount Veeder in 1978. A leader in sustainable and organic practices, The Hess Collection adheres to founder Donald Hess’ philosophy: “Nurture the land; return what you take.” Located in the historic stone winery originally constructed in 1903 by Colonel Theodore Gier, the winery first opened to the public in 1989. It since has earned international recognition for its wine, culinary and visitor programs, and provides free public access to Donald Hess’ extensive private contemporary Art Museum.

Drive north to Yountville, a tiny town where you can sit beside a wood-burning fireplace on the terrazzo at Bottega Ristorante, which the chef Michael Chiarello opened in 2008. Bottega, "artist's workshop" serves Chiarello's own craftsman's kitchen from which he celebrates deep culinary roots. Try the Polenta Under Glass, with caramelized mushrooms and balsamic game sauce, and the Lamb & Egg.

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