A Toast to California Wine Country

Even teetotalers have to admit, there is something luxurious and intriguing about the idea of visiting California Wine Country. This is a place where generations of growers have toiled away to perfect the art of bringing fine wine to the world's tables. Pleasing the palate is the number one priority, and the air is rich with tradition, complexity, and romance. Come for the wine or for the atmosphere, but visit Wine Country some time soon.The area just north of San Francisco provides the traditional scenes sought after by wine connoisseurs; ancient vineyards, winery tours, and plenty of tastings, all surrounded by beautiful countryside. Napa Valley is perhaps the most famous of California's regions, and contains about 45,000 acres of grapes and several hundred different wineries.

This isn't large by world standards, but that doesn't stop it from being a well-visited and internationally respected wine-producing region. Within the valley you'll find Calistoga, St. Helena, Oakville, Rutherford, and Yountville. Each of these has tours to offer as well as restaurants, prime picnic spots, and plenty of chances to taste the fragrant fruits of the earth.Sonoma County, birthplace of California wine making, will certainly impress you as well. From family-run operations to large businesses, each stop on your tour will be different than the last.

Just as no two wines are alike, you'll never find two wineries that use the same methods, grapes, or label art. Treasure this notion as you wander the picturesque vistas and keep your senses alert, as you'll likely discover a wine with a blend of elements perfectly suited to your taste buds. Hopefully you have some room to bring a few bottles home with you.

Follow the Russian River to the north for a visit to historic Healdsburg and experience stunning natural beauty along with even more wineries. Spanish-style architecture, small-town friendliness, and lots of vacation rentals will make this seem like the ideal place to hide away for a while. The redwoods that surround the town and the welcoming atmosphere that pervades it will make you feel instantly at home. If the mood strikes you, settle in for a while and let the culture, music, and sweet aroma of wine take you far away from the hubbub that you're used to.

If you'd like to see what else California Wine Country has to offer, make space in your day for some antique shopping, golfing, or a hot air balloon ride. You or your traveling companions may need a break from the Merlots and Chardonnays, so be sure to open your eyes to the big picture and all the opportunities that surround you. The wine is sublime on its own, but when mixed with a full day of varied activities, all the flavors will mingle with extra passion.From Petaluma to Cazadero, you're sure to find bike trails, spas, fine dining options, and all varieties of entertainment everywhere you look. So whether you and your traveling companions stick together or take an afternoon apart, no one has an excuse to be bored or dissatisfied with the activities at hand in Wine Country.

Even the decision to explore a back country road or wander along the coast could lead to great memories, so let your instincts take over as you delve into the mysterious and sensuous terrain of this most charming of areas.Just as the wine must be well-paired to your meal, your place of lodging must complement your vacation. You've traveled all this way in order to revel in life's small pleasures and you've sharpened your senses in order to distinguish between "full" and "medium" bodied, so don't settle for anything less than amazing when it comes to where you stay.Look into a vacation rental for the true Wine Country experience. Properties all throughout the valleys will appeal to your delicate senses and will invite love and friendship to flow along with the wine. No matter what area you're partial to, you're sure to find a place nearby.

A Monte Rio loft with down comforters and a hot tub would be a fine choice, as would a Guerneville forest lodge. Many are a stone's throw away from one or more wineries, and most provide other options for keeping busy or letting go of stress.Look online to find the Wine Country Vacation Rental that will satisfy your discerning taste, and prepare to toast to a very fine trip.

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By: Caitlin Moore

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