Writers: November 2009 Archives

Winter Wonderland

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Top Reasons to Make Wine Country Your Holiday Getaway
By Robert P. Farmer

FestivalofLights.jpgNAPA VALLEY & SONOMA COUNTY - You can tell by the sheer amount of cars on the road - and the difficulty that you'll no doubt encounter when trying to book a room - that summer is the most popular of seasons in Wine Country. It has the reputation for good reason. But for my money, the holiday season is the best time to visit.

Yes it's colder and yes it can often be rainy and windy. But mostly the weather is abundantly cooperative - a brisk chill in the air, and days bracketed by morning fog and wildly colorful sunsets. The vines are asleep for the winter, having offered up the fruit of their summerlong labor. And while the landscape is less lush and green than during summer time, it has its own unique beauty, one characterized by tangled leafless branches set against a white midday sky.

Barren bucolic beauty aside, the best thing about Wine Country during the winter holiday season is that the place is just so darned festive. Few things are likely to get you more into the spirit than a winery bedecked with twinkling lights and offering Yuletide-themed pairing of their wines. Or, if that's not sufficient, there are entire towns that get into the act with festivals and events infused with enough good cheer to thaw even the most Grinch-y of winter traveler. Rooms are in greater supply, restaurants easier to get into, and crowds are pleasingly thinner and, dare I say, in better spirits. Sure, summer's great, but Wine Country from beneath a coat and warm hat is my idea of a holiday.

Here are few highlights worth exploring this season.

Top 3 Holiday Things To Do
Top 3 Holiday Places to Eat


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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