Intrigued by the mystique of the California Wine country? The rolling hills of Sonoma County, with over 300 award-winning wineries, are the perfect launching pad for your journey.

Because there’s so much to sip, it might be wise to do some research before you go. Spectacular Wineries of Sonoma County ( contains breathtaking photos of over 50 local wineries, plus insightful interviews with winemakers. Its 300 pages also include pairing ideas for food and wine that you can put to use with the bottles of wine you bring home.

Located 30 miles north of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, the best way to get to Sonoma is … via road trip. There are direct flights into the Charles M. Schulz Sonoma County Airport (, but nothing beats the idyllic scenery of cruising up the coastline on Highway 1, or taking in the pastoral setting of the faster route, I-5 to Highway 101.

One of the most well-known towns in Sonoma is Bodega, made notorious in Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller, The Birds. Many of the buildings featured in the film (i.e., the Potter School House built in 1873) remain intact as though preserved in a time capsule.

After a brief tour, head over to Sonoma Coast Villa & Spa (16702 Coast Hwy 1, Bodega; to experience their newest addition: horseback riding. Property owner Johannes Zachbauer is always looking to supply his guests with new adventures, so he’s partnered with Scott Johnson – an equestrian lover with a wealth of knowledge and stories from his years working of with horses – to offer guided rides around his 60 acres of property. On the trails, you’ll likely encounter a zony, the offspring of a zebra and pony.

Once you’ve completed your ride, it’s time to check-in to the centrally located Hilton Sonoma Wine Country (3555 Round Barn Blvd., Santa Rosa; Soothe your muscles in their outdoor Jacuzzi, excellent for stargazing, and sample the locally grown delights at their Nectar restaurant and lounge. Hint: the basket of sweet potato fries is delish.

It’s time to taste from the vine. First stop is Kendall-Jackson’s Wine Center (5007 Fulton Rd., Fulton; for its unique offering of an ambrosial wine and food pairing. Executive Chef Justin Wangler and his talented team serve two types of tastings: food and dessert. Five two-bite-sized entrées are presented; each chosen to accentuate certain flavors in the wine. For example, a chilled slice of duck wrapped in the aromatic hoja santa leaf is paired with a 2006 Seco Highlands Pinot Noir to highlight the wine’s earthy and fruity aroma. It’s all very scientific. For the sweet tasting, one option is a chocolate truffle paired with Grand Reserve Port. The menu changes seasonally and so do the wines, which grow on Kendall-Jackson’s 14,000 acres.

Another extraordinary viticultural experience is a stop at D’Argenzio Winery (1301 Cleveland Ave., Ste. A, Santa Rosa; Off the beaten path from the larger scale wineries, tucked away off a city street in Santa Rosa, you’ll find the tasting room of the friendliest vintner in the valley, Ray D’Argenzio. Ray is happy to pour from any of his barrels of award-awarding varietals, but it’s always advisable to ask the expert for recommendations. D’Argenzio also has a tasting room in Burbank (1204 W. Burbank Blvd.), and the Santa Rosa site is preparing for Festival Valantino Di Newpoli on Feb. 19, featuring Southern Italian folk music.

After sipping to your heart’s desire, you’re ripe for a hike in Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve (17000 Armstrong Woods Rd.; Walk along paths surrounded by thousand-year-old trees. The tallest tree is 310 feet (longer than a football field) and the oldest is over 1,400 years old.

For dinner, reserve a seat at the tastiest new eatery in town, chef Josh Silvers’ Jackson’s Bar and Oven (135 Fourth St., Santa Rosa; Boasting a casual chic atmosphere and bustling with locals, the menu ranges from small bites to big eats and wood fired pizza to noodles. The oysters are especially appetizing, and the fresh fried potatoes with your choice of flavorings are heavenly. Top it off with a treat that never goes out of style at any age: warm chocolate chip cookies and milk.

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