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5 Ways to Uncork Fun in Napa Valley

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Wine tasting, incredible food and breathtaking scenery . . . what more can you ask for when you head to Napa Valley? From girlfriend getaways and guy-only vacays to weekend escapes and family retreats, Napa has something for everyone. Read five ways to live it up and enjoy Napa Valley: 

Meghan-Lamb-Napa-Valley-Oakville-DSC_0044.jpgPhotographer Credit: Meghan Lamb
(1) Walk this Way
Whether Napa is a weekend excursion or a vacation you planned six months ago, wine tasting is at the top of everyone's list. To avoid needing a "DD" or renting a party bus for the day, grab a $25 Taste Napa Downtown card to explore 12 different tasting rooms and wine bars within walking distance of each other. Park your car, take your time, and enjoy the vino without worrying about the next stop on your tour.

ladies_iStock_000004513478XSmall.jpg(2) Ladies Night! (and Daytime too)
Napa Valley is one destination that beckons girlfriends who love to gather, celebrate their sisterhood and sample the grape without the shame and guilt of a Vegas girls getaway. By day, indulge in a soothing spa treatment at many of the spas and wellness centers nearby. Spa Terra located at the Meritage Resort is a perfect choice with their 22,000 square foot Estate Cave spa sanctuary. By night, head to Bistro Sabor for Salsa Saturdays co-hosted by Ceja Vineyards where you can shake what your mama gave you--no cover charge and no partner needed. Just show up!

(3) Just for the Bro's
Trust us, it's not always about MMA Fighting or Nascar when the fellas get together for a guys-only vacay. With more men channeling their inner Anthony Bourdain, food has become the focus for "man-scapes" near and far. Napa Valley is home to more Michelin stars per capita than anywhere in the world and the culinary talents of superstars such as Thomas Keller (French Laundry ring a bell, anyone?). To work off the decadent meals and wine-induced calories, head to Napa Golf Course at Kennedy Park for a few rounds of golf. Or paddle your way through the valley by kayaking on the Napa River.

Wine Country Personality: Bret LeRolland

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The Wine Carriage - Wine Tasting via Horse & Carriage with Gourmet Lunch
Healdsburg, CA


wcPersonality_WineCarriage_Bret.jpgBret LeRolland is no ordinary tour operator. He's a different kind of guy with a different kind of business. The Wine Carriage is the quintessential off-the-beaten-track winery and tasting tour -- from the conveyance itself, a shade-top carriage drawn by two giant draft horses, to the personalized service, local knowledge and preferred treatment that a tour with Bret guarantees.

Riding with Bret and his matched Percherons, Duke and Pepper, is not only a thrill, it's a real backstage look into the world of California wine. He knows the history of the region and its characters, the lifecycle of the vines, climate, geology, and wine. In addition to a certificate in Biological Horticulture from UC Santa Cruz, Bret has experience in farming and logging salvaged redwoods with draft horses, as well as crossing several states on horseback.  As he puts it, "I always knew I wanted to work with horses".  But he had to go pretty far out of his way to do it.

The son of a New York City cop, Bret grew up in the Big Apple, often visiting his grandmother in Harlem.  Growing up with such an urban bias, he decided to try something different.  Relocating to the left coast, Bret worked on ships in Alaska before moving to California to study at UCSC, and later attended the California School of Circus Arts to learn Chinese acrobatics and fire spinning.

Napa Valley Film Festival Launching at Last

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By Deirdre Bourdet

nvFilmFestival.jpgThis November heralds the launch of a new signature event for Napa Valley: The Napa Valley Film Festival.  After more than five years of dreaming, festival co-chairs Brenda and Marc Lhormer announced that the Napa Valley Film Festival will debut in November 2011 with a five-day, four town extended weekend of cinematic celebration.  But since 2011 is still a long way off, a three-day Launch Celebration this November gives attendees a taste of the great things in store.

Co-directors Marc and Brenda Lhormer are no strangers to the film industry, or the grueling work of planning film festivals. The couple produced and distributed the 2008 movie Bottle Shock, inspired by the 1976 Paris Tasting, and ran the Sonoma Valley Film Festival for seven years.  Marc Lhormer was kind enough to chat with me about the couple's latest venture and the imminent launch party, which he refers to as the "amuse-bouche" for the main event next year.

The Napa Valley Film Festival has three core principles: (1) celebrating the human-scale of human existence by presenting relatable real people with real issues, and the hope that inspires us; (2) exploring multicultural differences of perspective, as well as the commonalities across cultural divides both within the U.S. and internationally; and (3) bringing the artists and the audience together for conversations about the films.  Every film being screened will be represented by the directors, the cast, or both, and Q&A sessions will be the norm, not the exception. Local food and wine will feature prominently in the parties surrounding the films, of course, but this is by no means a festival of food and wine-themed movies.  

Harvest Happenings 2010

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By Courtney Cochran

Those of us who pop a cork on occasion know these vinous spoils don't arrive from the vineyard ready to drink: There's real work that goes into coaxing wine from vine to bottle.  And each year, come harvest time, proof of this precious labor can be seen throughout Wine Country, as vintners and their trusted teams race against time and mother nature to deliver ripened fruit to the winery - where crush begins and ends within just a few frenetic weeks.  

We'd like to raise a glass to these teams, whose standout efforts allow us to enjoy each vintage's best at a more leisurely pace (cheers to that).  For word on where to go in Wine Country for the best 2010 harvest happenings, read on.

Off The Beaten Track in Glen Ellen

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chocolateshop.jpgBy Deirdre Bourdet

Glen Ellen is just far enough off the main highway to ensure that its visitors and residents really want to be there. Although only a twenty minute drive from downtown Sonoma, it feels like another world entirely, with rustic country lanes, minimal development, and fantastic owner-operated businesses making the most of the area's appeal. Here are just a few suggestions for things to do (besides visit wineries, of course!) that hit on three of Glen Ellen's main draws:

Halloween & Fall Events in Wine Country

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girl2.jpgWhat's your Halloween tradition? Looking for things that go bump in the night, getting lost in a maze of maize, or celebrating the night in scary style? It's the season of fun and whether you're looking for kid friendly or grown up approved, we can certainly point you in the right direction for events near you!

Soothe Your Cares Away: Hot Water Spots

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calistogaHotSprings.jpgIt's 90 to 100 degrees outside and one of the best ways to relax is in a pool, tub, or creek of hot water? I guess if you're inside with air-conditioning or doing a night-time soak when the air has cooled, then by all means INDULGE.

San Francisco Chronicle recently named 5 California places to attain such nirvana.


  1. Calistoga Spa Hot Springs - Calistoga
  2. Esalen Institute - Big Sur
  3. Vichy Springs - Ukiah
  4. Watercourse Way - Palo Alto
  5. Hot Creek - Eastern Sierra
Read the entire article here

Or start planning your trip at WineCountry.com that has a list of spas in wine regions across California. Napa Valley, in particular the town of Calistoga, is known for their hot mineral waters! 

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