Things to Do in Napa & Sonoma - page 2
If you’re looking for a unique Napa Valley wine tasting experience, look no further than Raymond Vineyards. Offering guests more than the typical tasting room experience, Raymond Vineyards in fact has many rooms where visitors can enjoy wine. There’s the Rutherford Room, the Red Room, and the Library Room just to name a few.
The Blending Room is where guests become "Winemaker for a Day." After blending their own red wine, guests take home a bottle of their new creation, complete with their own custom label. Raymond's estate vineyards in Rutherford and St. Helena are both certified organic and Biodynamic. All of the winery's power comes from renewable solar energy.
It’s like rolling two vacations into one. Safari West is an African adventure in Sonoma County wine country. Set on a 400-acre preserve, the so-called Sonoma Savannah is home to more than 800 wild animals including giraffes, zebras, antelopes and cheetahs. In all, more than 80 species of animals call Safari West home.
Visitors have a number of ways to explore at Safari West. Classic Safari Tours operate seven days a week using double-decker trucks. Children must be three years or older. Custom or private safaris can also be arranged. Guests can also spend the night in luxury tents imported from Africa. The tents are glamorous, with polished wood floors, private bathrooms and handmade furniture. If you’re a light sleeper, bring earplugs. The animals have a reputation for staying up late and just generally being noisy sleepers.
Best known for its Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley is home to more than 9,000 acres of vineyards, and boasts a grape growing history that goes back 140 years. Vines were planted not long after the California Gold Rush, but Prohibition slowed grapes from taking root.
It was the 1970s when the area started to explode. Dry Creek Valley was one of the first California wine regions to be recognized as an official American Viticultural Area (AVA) in 1983. More than 70 wineries, many family-owned, call Dry Creek Valley home. Though at just 16 miles long by two miles wide it’s one of the smallest AVAs size wise, it has one of the densest concentrations of Old Vine Zinfandel in the world. Dry Creek Valley is located 70 miles north of San Francisco and 20 miles east of the Pacific Ocean. The geographic combination makes for long, warm days and cool nights thanks to coastal cold air and fog. Or in other words, great grape-growing conditions.
Not to be confused with the Old Faithful in Yellowstone Park, California's Old Faithful Geyser, in Calistoga, is an equally spectacular, nature-directed performance. As you approach the geyser, walled by thick bamboo and plumed pampas grass, it appears as an innocent pool of shallow water...until it's time for the major attraction.
Suddenly, the Old Faithful Geyser announces itself with a blast of steam, then it throws a tower of thousands of gallons (liters) of water skyward. It’s an awesome site, especially with Mount Saint Helena and the craggy Palisades mountains as backdrops. Best of all, along with the experience of seeing the geyser, you can soak in the mineral waters and rejuvenating volcanic ash that has made this destination such a popular retreat. After a day wine tasting, come watch the explosion, then unwind in a spa.
The strong, weather-beaten structures of Fort Ross State Historic Park are situated high atop a bluff, overlooking the Sonoma coastline. The former Russian fortress dates back to the 1800s and gives visitors a look inside an early California settlement, including the state’s first windmill. Check out the surviving buildings from 1836 — the chapel and the National Landmark Rochev house — or saunter around the reconstructed barracks.
Visitors can brush up on past events at the on-site museum or wander through the historic orchards, while history enthusiasts can thumb through the largest selection of Russian history north of San Francisco at the Fort Ross Library. Trek down to Sandy Cove and listen to crashing waves or explore the tide pools.
One of the advantages of a trip to Sonoma County wine country is that visitors can easily escape to the Pacific Coast. Charming and quiet Jenner is a great spot to set your sights on the water.
Jenner is where the Russian River empties into the Pacific Ocean. It’s a place that doesn’t know much about the day to day hustle and bustle that exists in busier spots not so far away. There’s a handful of inns and restaurants, but the attention in Jenner is really on what happens at the river’s mouth. Many folks enjoy doing nothing more than taking in the view. If you want to be a little more active, rent a kayak and paddle around the estuary. The mouth of the river is a home and birthing spot for seals, and during pupping season you could have seals swimming next to your kayak.
If you're a wine lover, the Silverado Trail should be on the top of your agenda on a visit to Napa & Sonoma Wine Country. Between Napa in the south and Calistoga in the north, you’ll find some 40 wineries dotting this trek, which parallels Highway 29.
Head northeast of Napa on the Silverado Trail, starting with super-Tuscan-style Sangiovese at Luna Vineyards. Stone bulls glower from atop pillars lining the driveway of Darioush, a jaw-dropping winery styled after the ancient Persian temples that offers monumental Merlots. Oenophiles need no introduction to Stag’s Leap Wine Cellars, which produces some of the best California Cabernets. Further up Silverado, you’ll spot the tasting barn and pet goats of laid-back, solar-powered Casa Nuestra, ideal for picnics with melon-accented, dry Chenin Blanc made from 50-year-old, organically farmed vines.
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