When the bright lights of San Francisco begin to fade, pack your bags and head straight for the hills. Located just a short drive from the city limits, Napa and Sonoma counties feel worlds apart. If the clear air doesn’t lift your spirits, the wine sure will. From romantic picnics and scenic bike rides to interactive cooking classes and harvest parties, these eight wine experiences are definitely bucket list-worthy.
1. Bike through vineyards
Biking is arguably the best way to tour wine country. Art lovers will gravitate toward St. Helena, with its slew of art galleries plus nearby parks and trails. From the town center, you can bike north to Calistoga or south to Yountville. Alternatively, go for something more secluded like Westwood Hills Park in Napa. The park is heavily wooded, with oak trees and lush meadows, and spans three miles of trails.
2. Learn to cook
Peju offers several unique wine experiences including a hands-on cooking class. Learn which food pairs best with what wine and other fun facts like why salt affects the taste of wine and whether it’s OK to serve white wine with steak. You'll cook alongside a skilled chef who will teach you the ins and outs of cooking and wine pairing. Dishes feature local seasonal ingredients and wine varieties harvested and made onsite.
3. Picnic with a view
This is an easy item to check off your bucket list. Swing by Oakville Grocery for fresh sandwiches and then head to Peju’s picturesque outdoor gardens. Just buy a bottle of vino in Peju’s beautiful tasting room and find a quiet spot outside. Another good picnic spot is at Stryker Sonoma because its floor-to-ceiling glass window directly overlooks the vineyards. Otherwise, take advantage of abundant hotel terraces and rooftops in wine country.
4. Throw a harvest party
There’s no better weekend getaway than a harvest party with your closest pals. Pre-planning is a must, as you'll have to visit during harvest season, which usually coincides with great weather. The Northern Hemisphere harvests between September and November compared to the Southern Hemisphere’s February through April timeline. Landmark Vineyards and Modus Operandi Cellars are smart options.
5. Blend your own wine
Want to take wine matters into your own hands (literally)? Opt for a blending session. Some are open to the public, while others require advance booking. Join Judd's Hill during its Bottle Blending Day Camp focused on Bordeaux-style wines. You'll get to bottle your own wine, throw a fancy label on and, best of all, take it home. For a party atmosphere, try one of Fontanella Family Winery's parties and leave with your very own blending kit.
6. Take a hike
Rather than hitting the vineyards first thing in the morning, work up an appetite with a hike. California has plenty of trails to choose from, whether you are a beginner or a pro. If you can't decide on a trail, pick a type of wine. For example, sparkling wine lovers should hike Armstrong Woods and celebrate with a glass at Korbel. Happen to bring your pooch along for the ride? Stick to dog-friendly Alston Park and enjoy a post play tasting at Hendry Winery.
7. Soar in a balloon
When it comes to 360-degree views of wine country, nothing quite competes with that of a hot air balloon. There are several companies that operate balloon rides and most include a sparkling wine toast. Napa Valley Balloons, Inc. charges a daily rate that covers a post-flight breakfast and mimosas at Domaine Chandon Winery. Napa Valley Aloft lets customers choose between semi-private and private rides.
8. Sit (and sip) pretty
With all this outdoor adventure, you’ll want a few hours of complete indulgence, right? Swap your tank top and shorts for a robe and slippers at Wine and Roses. The romantic decor especially appeals to couples, but anyone is welcome. Calistoga Spas offers a selection of service as well, including access to its mineral pools and mud baths. Relax, rejuvenate and get ready to re-enter the real world.
Enjoy all the varieties that Peju, a family-owned winery in Napa Valley, California, has to offer. We invite you to explore our website for more information about experiencing our wines and events.
1. Bicycle: Kaboompics.com
2. Armstrong Woods: Boutique Winery Tours