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CHAPTER 1

.

THE BEST OF THE WINE COUNTRY

IN NORTHERN SONOMA

  • Bella Vineyards & Wine Caves (Dry Creek Valley): Even if this boutique winery weren’t producing exceptional zinfandels, it’d still be a top stop for me since the place is so enchanting. Even the drive (down a one-lane road to its end) is an adven- ture, but the real payoff is the très chic cave where tasting can be enjoyed at café tables under hip dangling lamps. It’s relaxed glamour worth experiencing for yourself. See p. 168.

  • Ferrari-Carano Vineyards & Winery (Healdsburg): With the most stunning landscaping in Northern Sonoma, this winery includes an Asian-inspired garden, a profusion of blooms (espe- cially in spring), vast vineyard views, and sips of some pretty tasty wine. See p. 168.

  • Preston of Dry Creek (Healdsburg): Absolutely charming is the best way to describe this family-owned winery. A must-stop on any Northern Sonoma itinerary, it’s got everything you could wish for in a country winery: beautiful grounds with an abundance of flora (and picnic tables!), a friendly tasting room in a cheery Victorian farmhouse setting, a large selection of wines to sip and buy, estate-grown organic produce, homemade bread, and even a bocce ball court. See p. 171.

2 The Best Winery Tours for First-Timers IN NAPA VALLEY

  • Domaine Chandon (Yountville): Not only are the grounds sublime, but the comprehensive tour walks you through the high-tech facilities and the entire bubbly-making process, from the history of the winery to the cellars, riddling room, and bot- tling line. Tours are free and reservations aren’t necessary, but if you want to taste, it’ll cost you $15 for a tasting of various wines or between $5.50 and $16 for a full glass (sorry, no free sips). Come during high season, though, and you can supple- ment your bubbly with a few appetizers and kick back on the garden-front patio. See p. 56.

  • Robert Mondavi Winery (Oakville): As one of the most promi- nent wineries in the valle , it’s only appropriate that Robert Mondavi would offer a guided tour for every sort of wine taster. The basic 1-hour comprehensive production tour covers all aspects of the winemaking process and gives you a look at the destemmer-crusher, the tank room where fermentation is done, the bottling room, and the vineyard, all accompanied by

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