Savor the Day
A day in the wine country can be about so much more than wine.
MOST PEOPLE VIEW a day in the wine country as a series of tastings — stopping in at one winery for a quick visit and then moving on to the next one down the road. However, many winemakers offer a lot besides pours — everything from picnic amenities to live music. So pack a basket and head over to one of these idyllic vineyards for an unforgettable day.
Ehlers Estate (St. Helena) — Early each Friday evening (through September), Ehlers Estate features “Twilight Tastings in the Grove,” when you can learn about its biodynamic farming practices, sample current vintages and hea live music. Tasting price: Free to members; $35 nonmembers. Hours: 10:30 a.m.–4 p.m. daily; twilight tastings 5:30–7:30 p.m. ehlersestate.com
Francis Ford Coppola Winery (Geyserville) — Movie buffs will rejoice at the expansive collection of Coppola memorabilia, and families will love the outdoor pool with fountains for the kids to play in. With bocce ball courts, board game areas, a concert pavilion and a full-service restaurant, it’s easy to spend a full day here. Tasting price: Complimentary pours of two table wines; $7 per person for flights. Hours: 11 a.m.–6 p.m. daily; restaurant open 11 a.m.–9 p.m. franciscoppolawinery.com
The Hess Collection (Napa) — This historic winery also houses the Hess Collection Contemporary Art Museum, open daily free of charge (self-guided iPod audio tours are available). An organic garden on site provides fresh produce for the kitchen to create seasonal noshes that pair perfectly with the wines. Tasting price: $10 per person. Hours: 10 a.m.–5:30 p.m. daily. hesscollection.com
Keller Estate (Petaluma) — Designed by the renowned Mexican team of Ricardo and Victor Legorreta, the winery was constructed with limestone quarried from the beds of the Yangtze River. Besides tasting award-winning wines, visitors can view works by local and internationally known artists, such as original lithographs by Marc Chagall and an installation by Philippe Pastor. Tasting price: $20 per person, waived with purchase. Hours: 11 a.m.–4 p.m., Friday–Sunday. kellerestate.com
Matanzas Creek Winery (Santa Rosa) — The aroma of lavender greets arriving guests, and with good reason — sprawling lavender fields cover a majority of the property (the winery even sells its own lavender-based body and home products right in the tasting room). Savor the afternoon with a stroll through the gardens or a game of bocce ball, then head for one of the many picnic areas. Tasting price: $5–$10 per person. Hours: 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. daily. matanzascreek.com
Ram’s Gate Winery (Sonoma) —Modern architecture and expansive views provide the perfect backdrop for alfresco dining here at the entrance to the Sonoma Valley. Order from a gourmet menu of small plates to enjoy with a glass of wine on the patio; the winery also offers special food-and-wine pairings and will provide a custom picnic basket, complete with blankets, on request. Tasting price: $20 per person for a flight; wine-food pairings and seated tastings also available (reservations recommended). Hours: 10 a.m.–6 p.m. daily. ramsgatewinery.com
Truett Hurst Winery (Healdsburg) — This biodynamic winery on Dry Creek Road provides the ultimate relaxation spot, with signature red Adirondack chairs right next to a lazy creek. Sip a glass of wine and watch the coho salmon swim by, or bring the kids to the barn and look at the sheep and goats. On weekends expect live music and grilled tri-tip served on the patio by the friendliest staff around. Tasting price: $5 per person. Hours: 11 a.m.–5 p.m. daily. truetthurst.com