California Wine Country


By Helen Pappas, Travel Advisor/Smartflyer

Helen Pappas, SmartFlyer

Rolling hills and valleys, Michelin starred restaurants, luxurious spas, amazing hotels, vineyards, forests, and so much more…have you been to California wine country lately? I had the good fortune to spend a week there in early November and I can’t wait to go back!! Here are some of my favorites.

Where to stay: In St. Helena, a must is Meadowood, a luxury 5 star property nestled in the forested hillside on 250 acres, where you can hike, swim, play croquet, golf, have a lesson in wine or visit their 5 star spa, where I had the best spa experience of my 49 years! Just want to rest? A picture of tranquility and peace, your rooms will give you all that and more, with a roaring fireplace, huge soaking tub and private patio to enjoy the outdoors. A visit there is not complete until you sip a craft cocktail at the bar at The Restaurant and follow it with dinner at the kitchen counter, where you get a first hand look at Chef Christopher Kostow and his team preparing your meal. In Sonoma, Farmhouse Inn will embrace you in the warmth of their family owned and operated farmhouse. Don’t let the name fool you though! This farmhouse is luxury meets rustic, with romance and heated floors in the bathroom thrown in! The brother and sister team owners get to know their guests during wine and cheese hour and send you the most amazing cookies and milk before bed. Their Michelin star rated restaurant and expert sommelier is not to be missed either.

Vineyards landscape at sunrise in California, USA (Photo credit: iStock by Getty Images)

What to do: With hundreds of wineries in Napa and Sonoma, where do you begin? Well, you can start at Wheeler Farms, a state of the art wine making facility that is also home to orchards, olive trees, edible gardens and chickens. Make a reservation for a farm to table experience and you will not be disappointed with the chef curated treats prepared to complement their exquisite selection of wines, along with a visit to the winery and a stroll through the gardens. Next, take a trip to Quintessa, a 280 acre estate where I had some of the best Cabernet ever! Their mission is focused on preservation of the land, which they farm organically. It’s not all about the wine though-Duvine, an international cycling company, curates unforgettable cycling experiences through Napa and Sonoma. They take you on rides that will take your breath away, through the valleys that nestle the vineyards and with expert guides that can tailor the experience from a beginner cyclist to an expert. And what better way to work off those delicious meals and wine!! Paddleboarding, hiking through Armstrong Redwoods Park, visiting Bodega Bay, dining at The Charter Oak and zip-lining are high on my list of other great things to do. Lastly, don’t forget to stroll the streets of downtownHealdsburg where you are drawn into the quaint shops, many of which feature local goods and artists. In Healdsburg you will also find SHED, a true gem where you can eat from a menu made up of some of the most delicious and authentic food which comes from the owner’s farm as well as numerous local farms, and then shop for everything from produce to cookware to spices in their market. It is truly an experience not to be missed-and if you can’t carry all your purchases home they are happy to ship them for you!

With all this to see and do, a trip to California wine country is an unforgettable experience that will make you wish you had more time to stay and sip, eat and explore.

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