Activities by Region: November 2009 Archives

Top 3 Holiday Things to Do

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Napa Valley & Sonoma County

by Robert Farmer

1. Yountville Festival of Lights

The week of Thanksgiving is always a good time to find yourself in Yountville. And not simply because you could turn your family's Thanksgiving dinner into a three-star affair (the town is rightly proud of its unprecedented six Michelin stars). Rather, the week Thanksgiving is the traditional kickoff of Yountville's annual Festival of Lights. Now in its 21st year, the Festival of Lights is one of the most popular wintertime attractions in the Napa Valley. The tiny town comes to light with thousands of twinkling bulbs artfully tracing the buildings and foliage. The decorations are the backdrop for the cast of strolling carolers, elves, and townsfolk, transforming Yountville into a sort of wonderland--great for families ad couples in love (or hoping to get there). To complete the picture, hop aboard a horse-drawn carriage (weekends only) and soak up the seasonal atmosphere. Meanwhile, shops stay open later and the world-renowned restaurants amp up their own version of holiday cheer. The dozens of area wineries also participate, offering special pourings and pairings. Check out www.napavalley.com for  tips on where to stay.

2. Rutherford Passport Weekend

Winter months call for big reds and when it comes to big red wines it is tough to beat Rutherford, in Napa Valley. The Rutherford Passport Weekend, December 5-6, is an ideal opportunity to explore and enjoy the Rutherford Appellation, home to such biggies as Peju, Provenance, Rubicon, and Round Pond. The Passport Weekend event allows visitors to experience the participating wineries in an insider-y way, with special barrel and tank tastings, food pairings, and one-on-ones with winemakers. This is a festive weekend designed to inform as well as entertain, and there's no better time during the year to get to know Rutherford.
More information: www.rutherford-appellation-wineries.com/

reindeer.jpg3. Healdsburg Wine Country Christmas Party
The town of Healdsburg may be one of the most idyllic wine country locales year-round. But at the holidays it takes on an otherworldly charm. The Healdsburg Wine Country Christmas event - actually a series of events, is held ongoing through the month of December. The chic and charming small town - imminently walkable - is aglow with holiday cheer throughout the month, with sidewalks and shops adorned with lights and decorations. And during the month, most restaurants and shops get into the action with special sales and programs. Among the highlights of the Christmas Party are the Strolling Dine Around, a four-course progressive dinner and tour featuring Healdsburg's celebrated eateries, on the weekends of December 9-10 and 16-17. Other events include a Family Santa Party on December 12, and a Victorian Inns Holiday Tour on December 13. Things conclude on January 2 with the annual Fruitcake Toss. Events range in price from no-charge to $85.
Date: Saturday December 13th; Time: 2:00pm - 6:00pm; Phone: (707) 433-6935

Top 3 Holiday Places to Eat

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Napa Valley & Sonoma County

by Robert Farmer


FARM.jpg1. Farm at the Carneros Inn
During winter months the grounds of the Carneros Inn resort, situated at the southern end of the Napa Valley, is slower paced, more sparsely populated, and graciously beautiful. It's the kind of place where the family can decamp for a few days and retreat from the hustle and bustle of citified holiday madness. The property's signature restaurant, Farm, is the ideal spot for a festive holiday repast. The expansive dining room and adjacent large covered patio centered by a huge fire pit, are the sort of environments that seem to invite spirited social gathering. The mood is casual, unfussy, but nevertheless very chic. And it doesn't hurt that there are simply no misses on the seasonal farm-driven menu of American Wine Country dishes. Throw in a wine list that solidly reminds one of the location, and the makings of a great winter evening are all in place.

*Open for dinner 5:30-10pm Wed-Sun

FARM at Carneros Inn
4048 Sonoma Highway, Napa
(707) 299.4880
www.thecarnerosinn.com

2. Dry Creek Kitchen at the Hotel Healdsburg
Just because it seems like everybody knows each other at this always-jammed, always buzzing Wine Country outpost from chef Charlie Palmer, doesn't necessarily mean they do. But the neighborhood feel and congeniality of the staff have a tendency to make every guest feel like a regular. My guess is that one visit won't be enough for you anyway. Because this is the place to be in Healdsburg, and its gravitational pull only increases during the holidays. Whether you visit during one of the planned special Winter Winemaker Dinner series in December, or you make your stop a special event of your own, it's hard to beat Palmer's inventiveness and eagerness to please. The dining room offers many large-group options as well as intimate tables for two--all with views to the open kitchen and action at the bar up front. Tables outside are available, too, and the winter chill can be easily offset with the right vintage.

*Open for lunch
Fri-Sun noon-2:30pm;

Dinner
Sun-Thurs 5:30-9:30pm,
Fri-Sat 5:30- 10pm

Hotel Healdsburg

317 Healdsburg Ave., 
Healdsburg
707-431-0330
www.hotelhealdsburg.com

3. EDK at the El Dorado Hotel
Anchoring one corner of Sonoma Plaza, this lively, friendly Sonoma spot quickly became one of my Wine Country favorites after its opening a few years ago. The large sophisticated-looking room is typically buzzing with visitors and locals alike, who stream in for executive chef Justin Everett's "farm driven" menu. My wife and I, however, returned again and again simply for the amazing black truffle-dusted French fries.  There are of course several other tempting treats on the seasonally changing menu. But the food is just part of the story. The dining room--in terms of both location and atmosphere--is the perfect spot for a festive holiday celebration. With indoor and outdoor seating options and an exhibition kitchen, it's the sort of place where there always seems to be some kind of party taking place, no matter the season. And if you and 20 of your best friends can secure the 21-foot-long wood table in the center of the room, yours will no doubt soon be the party everyone wants to join.


EDK at the El Dorado Hotel
405 First Street West, Sonoma
707-996-3030
www.eldoradosonoma.com

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