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W h e t h e r y o u r e o n a b u d g e t o r b l o w i n g y o u r a n n u a l b o n u s , t h e r e no way around it: A Wine Country experience is the height of indul- gence. All that’s expected of you is to eat, drink, relax—and then do it all over again. The rest—wine tastings, spa treatments, hot-air bal- loon rides, canoe trips, horseback tours—is icing on an already deca- dently rich cake. In fact, you don’t even have to like wine to love the Wine Country; anyone who enjoys lounging in a hammock on a warm summer’s day will succumb to it. It’s country life at its picture- perfect best, with verdant expanses of rolling hills patterned with grape-garnished trellises, hued with mustard and wildflowers, and peopled by farmers plowing the soil and vintners tending their vines. s

Of course, there’s a whole lot more: wineries both great and small producing some of the world’s finest wines, nationally renowned chefs serving exceptional cuisine, luxury resorts, boutique shopping, and soothing mineral hot springs. Yes, the world may be falling apart elsewhere, but not here. This eternal Eden is where you go when you feel the need to be pampered, when it’s time to whip out the charge card for that $200 dinner or bottle of cabernet sauvignon and say, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

1 The Best Wineries IN NAPA VALLEY

  • Artesa (Carneros): Sure, they’ve got a huge wine portfolio that includes a slew of tasty pinot noirs, but what makes Artesa one of my all-time favorite places to send visitors is the winery itself. Built into the Carneros hillside with stellar views of the San Pablo Bay and beyond, from the outside it seems like an under- ground fortress topped with super-cool fountains. From within it’s an airy, modern space with plenty of elbow room. Plainly put, it’s just too darned cool. See p. 52.

  • Clos Pegase (Calistoga): Viewing the art at this temple to wine is as much the point as tasting the wines themselves. Renowned architect Michael Graves designed this incredible oasis, which

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The Best of the Wine Country

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