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T H E B E S T W I N E R Y T O U R S F O R F I R S T- T I M E R S

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a top-notch narrative—the guides are great at making sure you know what you’re looking at. Make your reservations in advance, if possible; these tours are not offered daily and get booked up, especially in high season. See p. 58. St. Supéry Winery (Rutherford): This straightforward winery is a great place for first-time tasters to learn more about oenol- ogy. The nifty self-guided tour comes complete with “SmellaV- ision,” an interactive display that teaches you how to identify different wine aromas and attributes; there’s also a demonstra- tion vineyard that you can wander through to learn about growing techniques. See p. 63. Frank Family Vineyards (Calistoga): Although this isn’t a remotely comprehensive tour, it is the least intimidating. Staff members run one of the friendliest wineries in the valley, which includes taking the time to explain anything you want to know about wine. They also serve you all the bubbly you want and have a back room featuring still wines. See p. 72. Schramsberg (Calistoga): The label that U.S. presidents serve when toasting with dignitaries from around the globe also serves up the Wine Country’s best introduction to the méthode cham- penoise process of making sparkling wine. The excellent tour at Schramsberg is comprehensive and nonthreatening, and it’s an experience you won’t soon forget; the highlight is the visit to the 2 1 2 m i l e s o f h a n d - c a r v e d c h a m p a g n e c a v e s y o u l l f e e l l i k you’ve landed in the middle of a om Sawyer adventure. And the tasting room is positively gothic. Be sure to book a spot on a tour in advance, because tours fill up quickly. See p. 72. Sterling Vineyards (Calistoga): This dazzling-white, Mediter- ranean-style winery, perched high above the rest of the valley atop a rocky knoll (you’ll arrive via aerial tram), offers one of the most comprehensive self-guided tours in the entire Wine Country. It’s great for getting to know the winemaking process at your own pace. See p. 73. e

IN SONOMA VALLEY

  • Benziger Family Winery (Glen Ellen): Wine Spectator maga- zine hailed this family-run winery as having “the most compre- hensive tour in the wine industry.” The exceptional self-guided tour, which includes a $10 40-minute tram ride through the estate vineyards, is both informative and fun. Tram tickets are a hot commodit , so be sure to plan ahead for this one. See p. 127.

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