Itinerary: December 2008 Archives

Wine Country Itinerary: Sonoma Valley

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historic_press-room.jpgBy Robert Farmer

East of the Square

Sonoma Valley is a singular appellation that has many forms. Soils and climate are similar throughout, but style and texture can vary widely from place to place--often just a couple as-the-crow-flies miles separate those places. The corner of the valley east of downtown--Sonoma Plaza--is one of my favorite places to visit. Not only is it home to what basically amounts to the birthplace of Sonoma Wine Country, it is also a close-knit collection of fantastic wineries that ideally represent the wines of Sonoma. From gorgeous well-structured pinot noir to zippy zinfandel, they are all presented with a neighborly smile

Wine Country Itinerary: Western Paso Robles

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By Robert P. Farmer
In terms of size and production, only Napa and Sonoma surpass Paso Robles among California's winemaking regions. Some 170 wineries thrive here--Paso, as locals are fond of referring to it--and they harvest and produce from more than 26,000 acres of planted vineyards. Nearly every existing varietals are accounted for, but Bordeaux-style wines have solidified the region's reputation as a serious contender. 

Situated midway between San Francisco and Los Angeles, the region is large enough to be approached in sections. In the Western edge, where rolling hills and verdant scenery paint an easy, bucolic picture, some of Paso's best and most popular wineries are welcome visitors.

Wine Country Itinerary: Temecula

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By Robert P. Farmer

Among California's winemaking regions, Temecula may be one of the last unknowns. That is, to those who have not yet discovered it. For those who are familiar with it, they know that it is a rare find, a hidden gem nestled midway between Riverside and San Diego, where more than twenty wineries are taking advantage of an excellent microclimate for grape growing to produce award-winning premium wines. The AVA is situated at an 1100-foot elevation and enjoys cooler summer nights to counter the hot afternoons. It also makes for some gorgeous scenery along the wine tasting trail.

Wine Country Itinerary: Yountville

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By Robert Farmer

It is arguably the most power packed handful of square miles in California's Wine Country. Yountville: a tiny town along Hwy. 29, can be driven through in a matter of a couple minutes. But at a more leisurely pace, it can take a week to soak it all in. What a week that would be--filled with hours of wine tasting, spa time, and long casual dinners in some of the nation's best restaurants.

Yountville is home to several charming inns and a few world-class resorts. It boasts six Michelin stars among its dozen or so globally famous restaurants. And it's all contained within a few blocks radius. Yet in spite of its highly charged wine-and-dine reputation, Yountville manages to retain its slow-paced rural charm--never feeling too far from the roots that were planted in 1855, when George Calvert Yount laid out the city's plan and put the first grapes in the ground.

So it's not surprising that while many visitors are drawn to Yountville because it is home to Thomas Keller's French Laundry and his more casual Bouchon, still as many arrive to take in the joie de vivre of Wine Country as it can only be found in a town chock full of shops, boutiques and purveyors of the good life.

The town is in the throes of a master plan improvement, which will ultimately add a series of new hotels, spas, and of course restaurants--effectively jamming even more into its already packed four square-mile radius. And through December, the city and its surroundings come aglow during its 20th annual Festival of Lights, a series of celebrations and holiday-themed events.