As summer ends it final month, and the dog days bark in with a lazy yowl, wine country begins to take on a particular texture. The heat, in the long afternoons of blazing sun, works on the vines, producing the big push toward complete ripeness in the fruit. It also works on visitors, pushing them toward cool bodies of water and stretches of time filled with do-nothing schedules and refreshing sips of chilled chardonnay.
Though the famous valleys are still packed with wine-appreciating visitors, still other regions are enjoying a less populated pace. For my money, one of the best escapes is above the valley floor, and into the foothills of the Sierra.