Itinerary: August 2008 Archives

Wine Country Itinerary: Santa Maria Valley

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By Robert P. Farmer

In its post-Sideways era, Santa Barbara County has cultivated Wine Country prestige even as it has survived its own reputation to emerge as one of the great, serious wine-growing destinations. Among the appellations of the region is the Santa Maria Valley, which in addition to being the county's first officially approved AVA, is also one of the few valleys in California enjoying an East-to-West orientation. It's therefore foggy a lot, and windy, as the sea air pushes in along the coastal breeze. The mild climate results in a longer growing season and ideal conditions for pinot noir and chardonnay. It's no surprise these varietals have become synonymous with Santa Maria Valley. But the intrepid wine taster will find plenty else of intrigue grown among the 19,000 acres of vineyards.

Wine Country Itinerary - Stags Leap

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By Robert P. Farmer

NAPA VALLEY, CA - In a Valley that is home to many famous regions, Stags Leap jumps out. Located near the eastern center of Napa Valley, the Stags Leap district is bisected by the Silverado Trail. Among Napa Valley's great regions for Cabernet, Stags Leap is known for wineries that produce cabs with a heralded reputation--famously described as an "iron fist in a velvet glove." The cabs are given their strength and subtlety from the volcanic soil, the moderate climate, and by the able hand of the many vintners who produce wines here. Local lore has it that the region is named for a horse that leapt across the craggy palisades to escape pursuing hunters. You will no doubt find much easier going on your hunt for fine wines.
By Robert P. Farmer

KENWOOD, CA - Though its nickname is Valley of the Moon, the Sonoma Valley is a valley of many moons. A few suns and other planets are thrown in for good measure. The many and various valleys and hills, towns and bergs--indeed appellations themselves--combine to make Sonoma Valley a land of many experiences. One such self-contained experience can be found in Kenwood. It's part of the Sonoma Valley AVA, but it's got characteristics and distinctions all its own. Like many small towns in Wine Country, it's centered on a town plaza and is surrounded by top-notch eateries, inns, and of course fantastic wineries.

Wine Country Itinerary: Mendocino Coast

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By Courtney Cochran

The drive is just three hours north of San Francisco, but it might as well be a century back in time. Sometimes called "The Lost Coast" since it was largely cut off from the modern world until the mid Nineteenth Century, Mendocino's hauntingly romantic North Coast is home today to long stretches of pristine wilderness, a host of welcoming inns and B&Bs, renowned restaurants and - yes - wineries and tasting rooms that make the most of this spectacular stretch of California coastline. 

Our suggested itinerary takes you northwards on Highway 1 from the town of Mendocino to just north of historic Fort Bragg, and includes a midday pit stop for lunch.  And while the majority of Mendocino's more than 50 wineries are to be found further inland, the coast is where you'll find California's only oceanside winery as well as a handful of tasting rooms in coastal towns fit to bursting with Victorian-era charm and architecture.  But take note: In keeping with the slow pace of the region, the dramatic cliffs and myriad turns along winding Highway 1 make travel here slow by necessity.  Happily, it's a region that welcomes lingering, something you'll find all too easy to do once you get there. 

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