(Photography by Clara Hogan)

A Sunrise Hot Air Balloon Ride Shows Wine Country as Beautiful as Ever


With late seasonal foliage, cozy wineries, and few crowds, winter is the perfect time to visit and show your love for Wine Country.

In the aftermath of the Northern California fires, images of the destruction have deterred visitors to the area. But locals who work in the region want the world to know that Wine Country is still open for business—and it's as gorgeous as ever.

To see for ourselves, we got a bird's eye view during a sunrise hot air balloon ride. And up high in the sky, as we soared over the valley, we could see few signs of fire damage. Instead, crimson foliage flourished on the vines, the rolling hills were lush with green thanks to a recent rainfall, and we held our breath as we took in the views all the way to San Francisco. Follow our expedition in the sky.

We climbed to a peak of 2,500 feet, going as fast as 16 miles per hour, while taking in sweeping views over Napa and Sonoma. "Everyone's pleasantly surprised when they get up here," Swanson says. "They expect everything to be black."

// A standard hot air balloon package includes pre-flight coffee, tea and pastries, one hour in the sky, and a post-flight breakfast at Domaine Chandon Winery. Tickets ($239) are available at Napa Valley Balloons.

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