According to the California Bureau of Tourism, the Napa and Sonoma wine areas are the No. 2 and No. 3 tourist attractions in the state of California after Disneyland.
Visiting wine areas and wineries is a great way to spend a vacation. Not only will you explore beautiful countryside and sample great wines, but it’s educational as well. You’ll learn about wine, how it’s made, and most likely you’ll meet interesting people along the way.
Every wine area is unique. They’ll all have beautiful scenery, great restaurants and produce fine wines, but they’ll also have features that set them apart. Napa has a Wine Train. In Sonoma, you can kayak down the Russian River. The Sierra Foothills have their Gold Rush heritage, and Mendocino has beautiful redwood forests. In many areas, you can go hot air ballooning or ride bicycles through the vineyards.
Wine itself, to a large degree, is an expression of where it’s grown. Soil, weather, climate conditions and other factors indigenous to an area all contribute to produce wines unique to the local environment. Certain types of grapes grow better than others in different areas. While areas might produce a variety of fine wines, they often become known for certain varietals that grow exceptionally well there. Napa is known for its Cabernet Sauvignon. The Russian River area of Sonoma, for its Chardonnay. The Sierra Foothills for its Zinfandel. South Island, New Zealand, for its Sauvignon Blanc. Burgundy, France, for its Pinot Noir.
Many of the wineries offer tours of their facilities to learn about winemaking. They have tasting rooms to sample their wines. The employees in the tasting rooms are a valuable resource. They are glad to give detailed information about the wines, how the grapes are grown and what foods to pair them with.
They live in the area, so they also are great sources for local information. They’ll know which restaurants are the best and other wineries to visit.
It’s usually easy to navigate just about anywhere you go, because free area maps are available along the way and most wine areas have signposts pointing directions to the wineries. You so can download maps before you go.
• Highly recommended: Lucas & Lewellen Viognier 2009, Santa Barbara County, Calif., about $21. The winery is near the town of Solvang, which you might remember from the movie “Sideways.” This beautiful part of California benefits from cool marine breezes which allow the grapes to mature slowly giving the resulting wine depth and complexity. It has crisp apple notes on the nose with strong citrus flavors of peach and apricot with spice on the finish.
• Highly recommended: Sobon Estate Rocky Top Zinfandel 2010, Shenandoah Vineyards, Plymouth, Calif., about $23. We always enjoy the tranquility of the mountains in the Sierra Foothills. The high elevation allows for the warm temperatures of the day to cool down at night which helps Zinfandel to thrive in this location. This is a robust, jammy wine, dark in color. It has a pronounced berry nose with a core of raspberry, and flavors of dark fruit and chocolate. It finishes with notes of nutmeg.
• Highly recommended: Michael David Winery Freak Show Cabernet Sauvignon, Lodi, Calif., about $21. If you find yourself in this area, be sure to stop by the winery. It’s an interesting place. This wine is bargain at this price. It features ripe fruit with a nose of blackberry. It’s well balanced with mild tannins and flavors of black current, vanilla and cassis. It has a little Petite Sirah blended in to give it extra body.
Sip Trip in N.C.
NC Wine Country LLC announces its second annual Fall Sip Trip will be held Sept. 28-29 in Raleigh, N.C. The trip is a chartered tour to explore the North Carolina wine country with fellow wine lovers. Limited seating is available. Packages start at $145 per guest.
Registration begins at 10:30 a.m. Sept. 28 at the Hampton Inn, where guests receive an itinerary. The trip includes hotel accommodations, transportation, wine tasting and tours at Chatham Hill Winery, Adams Vineyards, Cloer Family Vineyards and the Vineyards at Southpoint. Lunch and dinner on Saturday and breakfast on Sunday also are included.
NC Wine Country promotes travel and tourism to vineyards and wineries throughout North Carolina. For more information, visit www.visitncwinecountry.com.
Jim and Marie Oskins in the Lake Wylie area. For questions about wine, wine pairings, or wine travel, email firstname.lastname@example.org.