Napa, Sonoma and Surviving Wine Festivals. P.S. Buy a wine bra.
Everyone has heard of Napa, but there are other, not-so-well-known, scenic areas worth a visit. I recommend the Dry Creek Valley in Sonoma County, near Healdsburg, an area I featured in 50 Best Girlfriend’s Getaways.
Recently my husband and I drove 90 minutes north of San Francisco to Healdsburg to participate in the “Passport to Dry Creek Weekend.” The Kick-Off Gala Dinner was an elegant affair at the uber-deluxe Healdsburg Hotel, presided over by Celebrity chef Charlie Palmer, who personally carved the duck and choreographed the pairing of aged prosciutto, local cheeses, himaki tuna, lamb, beef, and oysters with exquisite, expensive, local wines. You’ll know Charlie if you’ve been lucky enough to dine at one of his fabulous restaurants in New York, Las Vegas, DC or his hometown, Healdsburg.
How many fresh oysters, beef tri-tip and demitasses of dark chocolate mousse can you eat? In the middle of the night, the answer came to me: too much. But it didn’t keep me down for long.
For the next two days we joined oenophiles from California, Texas and the East Coast touring sun-drenched vineyards to taste and nibble our way through the bucolic valley. Forty-five small vineyards opened their wine cellars and gardens to us. The owners and wine masters poured their wines, while discussing the soil conditions and best years for certain varietals.
Sipping wine is only one part of these Bacchus-inspired festivals. Every vineyard serves local delicacies to complement their wine; coconut-encrusted shrimp, bar-b-que tri-tip, gooey, local, Cowgirl Creamery Cheeses, raw oysters and thin-crusted pizzas fresh out of the brick ovens. There is more to do at these festivals than eat and drink; you’ll dance to live music, wander through a vineyard garden and settle into Adirondack chairs by a creek filled with spawning salmon and talk to other wine aficionados (i.e.: people like you, who appreciate travel, fine wine and food).
Would we go again? You bet! This was our second year attending the “Passport to Dry Creek” event and we’ll invite more friends to join us next year. After all, this is what memories are made of.
Survival Tips for Wine Trips
- Eat a big breakfast and include protein. My suggestion: Eggs Florentine with Dungeness crab. Hey you’re on vacation, right?
- Buy a wine bra to support your tasting glass so your hands are free to nibble, sip or dance.
- Carry a bottle of water and refill it at each vineyard you visit.
- Drink the white wines first, then the roses, and then the reds (pinot noir first if offered the choice).
- Stay as close to an evening venue, or vineyards as possible, to avoid driving on unfamiliar rural roads in the dark. To avoid selecting a “designated driver,” search for accommodations within walking distance of the event.
- Take an Alka Seltzer before you go to bed and keep a bottle of Pepto Bismol on the bedside table as a back-up.
- Stop at half a dozen oysters.
About the Author: Marybeth Bond, the Gutsy Traveler, National Geographic author of 11 travel books, featured guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show and founder of the Online Travel Magazine www.GutsyTraveler.com She has been featured over 1,000 times on TV, radio and print. She is a Contributor to CNN, CNN Airport Network and CNN.com Speaker, spokesperson, author, travel expert, Marybeth, the Gutsy Traveler walks the talk. She's an adventurer; biked two months across the USA, traveler to over 90 countries, media travel expert for CBS News, CNN, ABC, NBC, NPR and National Geographic.