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Meet a celebrity chef like Charlie Palmer, sip wine and eat well at the Bacchus-inspired festivals all over the country. How do you find them? Napa.4

C heck the “Events Calendar” in area websites for the latest offerings. For Northern California wine areas try these sites: Healdsburg, Sonoma County, Napa.

Survival Tips for Wine Trips

  • Eat a big breakfast and include protein. My suggestion: Eggs Benedict.

    Celebrity Chef Charlie Palmer, the Gutsy Traveler and another admirer.

    Celebrity Chef Charlie Palmer with me (left) and another admirer.

  • 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.

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. Here’s some of the information I included in my book 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.

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.


This is a wine bra. You can find them at wine stores, and at many wine festivals for $5-10.