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Valley High: A Quick Tour of What's New in the Wine Country

St. Helena

Love him or hate him, wine critic Robert M. Parker, Jr. has made and broken many a winemaker. On Oct. 22, feel the power as he leads a tasting of the 2007 Châteuneuf-du-Pape at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone. A sparkling wine reception follows (as it should when you’re shelling out $750). 2555 Main St., St. Helena, 707-967-2305, ciachef.edu

The newly remodeled Health Spa Napa Valley offers a thrifty spa solution: Even without signing up for a treatment (but really, why forgo the pleasure of a healing stone massage?), you can gain access to the lap pool, steam room and fitness room for just $25, Monday through Thursday. 1030 Main St., St. Helena, 707-967-8800, napavalleyspa.com

More interested in cutting-edge LEED-certified architecture than pseudo-French châteaus? Visit CADE Winery, just outside of St. Helena. The latest from the PlumpJack Group is a mass of concrete, glass and steel. The views—all the way to SF—are timeless. Food and wine tours are $40. 360 Howell Mountain Road S., Angwin, 707-965-2746, cadewinery.com

Yountville

You’ll be dining among the masses at Bottega—celeb-chef Michael Chiarello’s insta-hit restaurant—but you’ll eat well and enjoy wine at fine prices. The markup here is double the wholesale price (many restaurants triple it), and 22 wines are available by the quartino. 6525 Washington St., Yountville, 707-945-1050, botteganapavalley.com

The luxe Bardessono focuses on green lodging, including Japanese-style gardens, a rooftop pool and a fine restaurant. 6526 Yount St., Yountville, 707-204-6000, bardessono.com

Sonoma

The latest from Sondra Bernstein of the Girl and the Fig, Estate—located in a Victorian mansion surrounded by landscaped grounds—is all old-world charm. Have a cocktail on the outdoor patio, warmed by a fireplace, before heading inside for a dinner of rabbit pappardelle or seared whole trout with beans. 400 W. Spain St., 707-933-3663, Sonoma, estate-sonoma.com

Napa

Shake off your wine stupor and build your local-art collection: On Oct. 17, “Art: It’s Alive!”—the eighth annual benefit art auction at the beautiful di Rosa Preserve—offers a live and silent auction of pieces by notable Bay Area artists. 5200 Sonoma Hwy., Napa, 707-226-5991, dirosaart.org

For an antidote to Wine Country’s “stuff white people like” menus, stop by Neela’s. The Indian restaurant was opened by Neela Paniz, the former owner of Bombay Cafe in Los Angeles. Thursday nights offer an array of stuffed flat breads and Indian chaat. 975 Clinton St., Napa, 707-226-9988, neelasindianrestaurant.com

Two luxurious new hotels are within walking distance of the Oxbow Market (thankfully, this means your Ritual Gibraltar is only minutes away): the Westin Verasa and the Avia, which just opened in July. 1314 McKinstry St., Napa, 800-509-8090, verasanapa.com; 1450 First St., Napa, 707-224-3900, aviahotels.com

Sebastopol

Merry Edwards isn’t called the “mistress of Pinot Noir” for nothin’. Her brand new tasting room, far from the throngs of Wine Country tourists, offers by-appointment-only private tastings that are complimentary. 2959 Gravenstein Hwy. N., Sebastopol, 707-823-7466, merryedwards.com

What to Look Forward to in 2010

It’s Yountville versus Napa: Both towns are competing for visitors’ attention with more luxury accommodations and dining draws. By now, the doors should be opening to Hotel Luca (hotellucanapa.com)—an intimate 20-room luxury hotel in Yountville, which includes a 90-seat Italian restaurant called Cantinetta Piero. Also on the horizon: Vita, a new restaurant from Laura Cunningham, known for her time as the front-of-the-house face of the French Laundry. Next year, Napa will be gaining celebrity chefs galore at the Riverfront Development, namely Tyler Florence and Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto (in his West Coast debut).