SONOMA COAST STATE BEACH
This beautiful, 17-mile stretch of shoreline, perhaps one of Northern California's most picturesque, is noteworthy for its rugged crags and secluded coves. From the Russian River to Bodega Head, visitors find that the rugged cliffs afford unparalleled photo opportunities of tidal pools, reefs, headlands, and natural arches that rest hundreds of feet below. Bodega Head, a rock outcropping that extends into the Pacific, is regarded as one of the area's best whale-watching perches.
DOMAINE CHANDON WINERY
One of the first French-owned wineries in California, Domaine Chandon opened with a splash in 1975 and is best known for its wide range of sparkling wines, including brut, blanc de noirs, extra-dry, and rosé varieties. Regularly scheduled tours guide visitors (up to 30 at a time) through the process of crafting and bottling bubbly. Purchase a flight of tastings and take your glass (included in the tasting fee) out to a café table on the terrace for majestic views of the surrounding Napa Valley countryside. There's also Étoile, a formal restaurant that's great for lunch (reservations essential). Although you'll find better sparkling wines at Schramsberg, Domaine Chandon provides more amenities, and it has one of the area's only late-night drinking permits. When the rest of the valley shuts down, drop by the Étoile wine lounge for drinks and entertainment (summer only). Tasting fee, no appointment necessary.
Open daily 10 am to 6 pm; wine lounge open Thursdays through Saturdays 6 to 11 pm, summer only.
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JACK LONDON STATE PARK
Carve out a couple of hours of non-wine time for a visit to Jack London State Park, named for the author who once owned the land. London constructed an enormous dream home here in 1913, known as the Wolf House, and on the day before he was to move in, the house burned to the ground. The foundation still stands today, as does the house London's widow built after his death-the House of Happy Walls, which now doubles as a museum about the author. Look for the peephole above the living room; during parties, the reclusive Mrs. London used to spy on her guests from the second floor. Hiking around the park ranges from easy to moderately difficult, through ancient redwood forests; some trails ascend as high as 2200 feet above the valley floor, providing stunning views of the bucolic landscape. If you'd rather see the park by horseback, contact Triple Creek Horse Outfit (707) 887-8700 or click here.
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The mood is upbeat and fun at Bella, a family-run Sonoma winery where tastings are conducted inside the barrel cellars, within giant caves dug out of the hillsides. With vines on the estate dating back more than a century, here one can experience the luxuriously concentrated flavor for which old-vine grapes are prized. All of Bella's reserve-vineyard, small-lot syrahs and zinfandels have a depth of flavor unattainable with young fruit, with lush raspberry and smoky chocolate overtones. If you're lucky enough to visit in the spring, be sure to pick up a bottle of dry rosé (50% zin, 50% syrah) before it sells out-it's the perfect back-porch wine on a hot day. Despite the seriousness of the wine, there's no pretense at Bella. The youthful staff is not only gregarious and charming, they also know their stuff. Tasting fee $5, no appointment necessary.
Open daily 11 am to 4:30 pm.
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