I had planned to dedicate my recent Wine Country weekend to a restoration of body and soul, which in my case means eating sensibly, reviving my dusty meditation practice, and partaking of semi-punishing fitness pursuits. I consider all three components the apex of virtue, and, for a mere mortal such as myself, the height of torture.
One of the covetable challenges of living in or near Wine Country is the abundance of first-class food and wine festivals occurring nearly every weekend—plus many weekdays—throughout the year.
Summer brings extra bounty to Wine Country farmers' markets, as juicy berries flourish, stone fruits hang like ornaments on the branches, gardens brim with colorful squash, and vines burst with tomatoes in red, purple, and gold.
What’s a sip of Syrah without Spot by your side? Tasting Cabernet Franc is more fun with Fido, and Merlot is merrier with your mutt to keep you company. More and more NorCal wineries are realizing the appeal of being dog-friendly, inviting four legged friends into the tasting rooms, onto the lawns, and for picnics beneath the shade trees. Just don’t let Buster steal the bocce balls.
Remember when filet mignon was considered the meat of kings, and charcuterie was exotic? No, you probably don’t. Today’s Bay Area diners are so schooled in artisan meats that nose-to-tail dining is de rigeur, even in home kitchens. Simply witness the boutique butcheries cropping up around Wine Country, where cold cases brim with unusual cuts like bavette, all kinds of offal, and handcrafted salumi. Heck, even the most basic ground beef is prime stuff.
One of the most exhilarating ways to explore Wine Country is by equine – and these aren’t poor old tired stable plugs (bless their hearts) led in a slow plodding pack, but energetic, well trained mounts ranging from polo ponies to rescued race horses. Parties traverse in intimate groups across gorgeous landscapes, from beaches to mountains to vineyards. Here’s where to giddy-up and go:
While wine will always be king in the North Bay, suddenly, distilleries are popping up all over, crafting artisanal spirits. No, not moonshine, but hand-blended drinkable delicacies with tasting notes to rival the best Napa Valley Cab or Sonoma Pinot Noir.
A memorable Wine101 session isn’t simply sitting in a classroom with some wines to sample and a PowerPoint show. Much better is interacting with the actual winemakers, tasting a rich array of varietals, comparing notes with fellow wine lovers, and enjoying perfect food pairings, too.