Three Wine Country Road Trips
By Sarah Sung
The slightly more adventurous first cousin to the staycation, the road trip lets you unwind while enjoying the best of travel: exploring unknown territory. What better destination than Wine Country, where you can go from wineries to restaurants to hotelswith the freedom to pull off for a hike, bike ride, picnic, or to sit still and simply take in the scenery?
Drive One: Napa
Taking the high road through Napa.
Just an hour from San Francisco is the di Rosa, where art and nature come together. Make a reservation to tour the collection. It consists of 2,000 works of artshowcasing about half that number at any given momentand is among the largest collections of Bay Area artists in the world. The first hint that youre coming up on the 217-acre preserve will be the sheep metal sculptures on the hillside. Once a private residence, this preserve is now a nonprofit public trust, with a collection so prominent that youll see pieces from it at the Whitney and Getty museums.
Not far from the di Rosa lies the Carneros Inn, a casually hip yet elegant resort. Check in, then try your hand at bocce before napping poolside by the spa overlooking the vineyards, or reclining on the restaurants veranda with a bottle of biodynamic Pinot Noir from Adastra. In the morning, walk or jog the circuit behind the resort, and be sure to look skyward to see fleets of hot-air balloons taking their first flight.
Next, head to Oxbow Market for a cup of Ritual Coffee Roasters and picnic items, such as Mediterranean salads from Folio and house-made charcuterie from Fatted Calf.
Drive up the Silverado Trail toward St. Helena and then up Howell Mountain Road to Cade Winery. Then, cruise through St. Helena and up Spring Mountain Road to Behrens Family Winery to taste at the vintage 1947 Westcraft trailer that was once used by movie stars in the 1940s. This quirky, decidedly nonconformist winery has a cult following. It has also won enough accolades to prove that even though its built by non-Napa Napans from Humbolt County, according to Director of Hospitality Robin Cooper, it means business. On your way back toward Napa, stop in St. Helena at Cook for a quick, casual bite of pasta or a burger, while sitting at the counter bar.
Come morning, set out for a kayak trip down the Napa River, with Napa Valley Adventure Tours. This outfitter offers custom hiking, rock climbing, bicycling, and kayaking trips throughout the valley. Kayaking on the Napa River is their most popular tour, and you can have them lead you downriver for lunch and wine tasting in the Carneros region.
Behrens Family Winery, (707) 963-1774, ernaschein.com
Cade Winery, (707) 965-2746, cadewinery.com
Carneros Inn, (707) 299-4900, thecarnerosinn.com
Cook, (707) 963-7088, cooksthelena.com
di Rosa, (707) 226-5991 dirosaart.org
Napa Valley Adventure Tours, (707) 259-1833, napavalleyadventuretours.com
Oxbow Market, (707) 226-6529, oxbowpublicmarket.com.
Drive Two: Dry Creek
Biking, picnics, and pétanque in Dry Creek.
Healdsburg, northern Sonomas unofficial capital, is where three of the countys main wine-producing regionsthe Dry Creek, Russian River, and Alexander valleysconverge. And, as if you couldnt get more centralized, Hotel Healdsburg puts you right on the plaza, which marketing director Circe Sher points out boasts urban walkability, with unique shops and restaurants, as well as the rich agricultural region, with wonderful wine and food producers encircling it.
After arriving in Healdsburg, trade in your four wheels for two, and spend a day pedaling to wineries on roads where Lance Armstrong and Team Astana trained preTour de France.
According to Spoke Folk Cyclery owner Richard Peacock, Sonoma County is cycling Mecca.
From the cycle shop on Center Street, its an easy 10-mile ride on winding Dry Creek Road to Preston Vineyards, with a quick pit stop at Dry Creek General Store for picnic essentials, including made-to-order sandwiches. Once stocked, take Lambert Bridge Road over to the slightly more rustic West Dry Creek Road to Preston Vineyards. Known for its organic practices, olive groves, and picnic tables set amidst a garden, this is the spot to break out your picnic spreadaugmented by its estate olive oil and a bottle of the Madame Preston (a Rhône-style white blend of Roussanne, Viognier, and Marsanne).
Next, ride up to Michel-Schlumberger Wines. This organic site is decked with a pétanque court (the French equivalent of bocce), plenty of bird feeders for bird- watchers, and Babydoll sheep grazing on the hillside vineyards.
Last stop before returning to Healdsburg is solar-powered Quivira Vineyards, well known for its creek-restoration project aimed at returning steelhead to the area. After touring the creek, quench your thirst with the Fig Tree Sauvignon Blanc.
Back in town, enjoy a taste of Italy at Scopa, a stamp-size eatery on the plaza named after an ancient Italian card game, which is similar to poker. Since the seating is tight, reservations are recommended. And no trip to Scopa is complete without ordering one of chef Ari Rosens crisp pizzas.
Dry Creek General Store, (707) 433-4171
Hotel Healdsburg, (800) 889-7188, hotelhealdsburg.com
Michel-Schlumberger Wines, (707) 433-7427, michelschlumberger.com
Preston Vineyards, (707) 433-3372, prestonvineyards.com
Quivira Vineyards, (707) 431-8333, quivirawine.com
Scopa, (707) 433-5282, scopahealdsburg.com
Spoke Folk Cyclery, (707) 433-7171, spokefolk.com
Drive Three: Anderson Valley
Pinot Noir and farmers markets.
About a hundred miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge, you can find skyscraper-tall redwoods, rugged hiking trails, the crushing waves of the Pacific, and some of the best Pinots in the state.
Make your way to the historic Boonville Hotel built in 1862. This quaint spot is ideal for an easy stay with a B&B feelespecially if you plan for coffee and brunch at the Boonville General Store in the morning, followed by browsing the Saturday farmers market at the hotel for pastries, bread, and cheese, and then meandering up Highway 128 for wine.
In Philo, the next town over, make your first stop at Goldeneye, the sister outpost to Napas Duckhorn and Paraduxx (and probably the ritziest winery in the valley). Take your seat at the big communal table or out on the terrace, as servers shuttle tastes of the prized Pinots, including some limited production ones, and select cheese pairings to you.
Then, move to Roederer Estate for bubbly (and a few rare still wines) made in the French style, using the 200-year-old traditional wine-making techniques so important to the house style of Champagne Louis Roederer. Finish up with an appointment at Esterlina (Spanish for sterling) Vineyards, a family-run winery bonded in 1998 by generations of growers and cattle ranchers, in the hills over Philo. Off the beaten path, a dirt-road drive takes you to what looks like the Sterling familys home but is actually the tasting room, where if youre lucky, Old Mr. Sterling himself will conduct your tasting.
If you want to enjoy a more typical Anderson Valley weekend, with the chance to dine on some fresh-from-the-land meals, sign up for a farm weekend at the Philo Apple Farm Cottages, owned by Don and Sally Schmittthe couple who sold the French Laundry to Thomas Keller in 1994. Take advantage of their cooking classes, where you will learn to create some pretty high-caliber dishes. Novices and home chefs alike can whip up four meals over the course of a two-night stay.
Belly full and a mind at rest, you can return to the city, with newly acquired culinary skills and a trunkful of wine.
Boonville General Store, (707) 895-9477
Boonville Hotel, (707) 895-2210, boonvillehotel.com
Esterlina Vineyards, (707) 895-2920, esterlinavineyards.com
farmers market, mcfarm.org/boonville
Goldeneye, (800) 208-0438, duckhorn.com
Philo Apple Farm Cottages, (707) 895-2333, philoapplefarm.com
Roederer Estate, (707) 895-2288, roedererestate.com