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Get beyond the glass in Wine Country

SmarterTravel

For even the most dedicated oenophile, wine tasting can get a bit repetitive. Visiting winery after winery, sidling up to the bar in the tasting room, sampling a series of wines, maybe buying a few of your favorite bottles. And then? You can only stand around the wine tasting bar for so long before you overstay your welcome, and so you end up wandering slowly back to the car, maybe taking in a view or two, and heading on to the next winery.

But plan ahead a bit, and you can find ways to savor your surroundings and extend your winery stops. After all, you’re generally somewhere strikingly beautiful, surrounded by elegant rural expanses. There should be a way to make the most of it, right? At many wineries, you can stick around to enjoy picnic areas, classes, tours, meals, or other diversions.

No matter what your destination wine region is, you should be able to find some activities beyond the tasting glass. To inspire your search, here are a few ideas for winery-based activities in California’s Napa and Sonoma valleys:

  • Robert Mondavi Winery: Stick to the tasting room at Napa Valley icon Robert Mondavi’s winery, and you’ll miss the heart of the venture. Whether you’re a wine tasting novice looking for a few tips or an enthusiast who wants to deepen your knowledge, you can find a tour, tasting, or class to suit you at this winery that takes education almost as seriously as its wines.
  • Hess Collection: Wend your way through forested hills and up country roads and you’ll eventually find yourself at the Hess Collection, a winery known for its impressive art collection. There, you’ll find pieces by artists including Francis Bacon and Robert Motherwell.
  • Ravenswood: The well-known battle cry at Ravenswood Winery is “No wimpy wines,” and you can learn about the art of creating bold flavors during a visit. Daily tours and barrel tastings get you out into the field, then deep into the cellar, where you’ll taste the current vintage straight from the barrel. If you have a group of six or more and plan ahead, you can (with a little help of course) blend and then take home your own wine.

Have a great travel tip you’d like to share? Send your insider travel strategies to editor@smartertravel.com.

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