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Happy Wine Trails

Gulf Coasters are all within easy driving distance of some of the most interesting and fascinating areas in America. 
We are close to beautiful and scenic destinations that include lakes, forests, big cities and delightful small towns. We are near great rivers and wonderful streams and bayous. The recreational opportunities are boundless. 
Then there are the multiple and significant historic sites in our midst: Early Americana, remnants of a country moving west, the Civil War battlefields and grand homes of important leaders from every era. 
Dare we forget the most beautiful beaches and some of the best fishing anywhere on the planet? The bounties of the blue Gulf are within easy distance no matter where we are located all along the Gulf Coast. 
But we know there’s a big world out there and we are a curious lot. We want to experience how our American neighbors in other sections of the country live, drink and eat. We are willing to go to them to find out.  
One of the most romantic and interesting areas of the country is wine country. What could be better than traveling to a truly beautiful region with acre after acre of lush, grape-laden vines, then enjoying the fruits of previous harvests that has been converted into wines of quality and enjoyment? 
Happy Wine Trails

Anne Loupy, The Wine Road, 2013

The challenge here comes first in not yet enjoying the journey and the reward at the end, but in determining which wine country you want to experience. Heading west is only the first decision you will have to make because all up and down the length of California, into Oregon and up to Washington State, there are pockets where grapes for wine flourish. They are all special and unless you have about a year, you aren’t going to be able to go to all of them. So you have to decide and focus. 
Once you have done that, and it will take some discipline, the hard part is over. Then the fun really begins, even with the planning. I encourage you to plan. Don’t just arrive to the destination and make the whole thing up as you go along. You will miss some important experiences and you will regret it later on. Understand that you are, no doubt, going to miss some things even under the best of circumstances, but there is no reason to miss more than you have to. Planning the trip can help you avoid this soon-to-be-regretted pitfall of getting home and realizing you were so near, yet so far. 
Most of your friends who have preceded you to California wine country will tell you about Napa Valley. This famous area, about 90 minutes north of San Francisco, originates great wines of world-quality. Its 27 miles, north and south, are relatively easy to negotiate since there are really only two roads, Highway 27 and the Silverado Trail. Everything you will want is along these two roads, or it’s within 2 miles of those roads. Since that is the situation, you must also realize that every visitor to Napa Valley has to travel those same roads. Sometimes traffic can be a bit overbearing. Be patient. There is nothing to be gained from rushing or taking “shortcuts.” You will miss something and will likely get yourself lost. 
Important stops in Napa Valley: Domaine Carneros, Domaine Chandon. Mumm Napa, Artesa, Silverado, Pine Ridge, Stag’s Leap, Niebaum-Coppola, Sterling, Clos Pegase, Miner Family, Rutherford Winery, Whitehall Lane, Silver Oak, BV, and so many others. 
Some of the wineries, like Far NIente, require an appointment. They can be made by calling the winery. More information is available at Napa Valley Vintners Association, www.napavintners.com.
Happy Wine Trails

Anne Loupy, The Wine Road, 2013


Right across the Mayacamas mountain range to the west is Sonoma County. A number of diverse areas are each renowned for growing different grapes, and thus, making different styles and types of wine. Russian River is known for Pinot Noir; Dry Creek for Zinfandel; Alexander Valley for Cabernet Sauvignon; Carneros for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  
Sonoma is much more diverse than Napa. The terrain is more varied and the towns, such as Santa Rosa and Healdsburg, are centrally located to all the vineyard areas. Healdsburg in particular is one of the most wonderful towns in all of wine country anywhere in America. 
I highly encourage you as you travel Sonoma to make appointments at those wineries that offer culinary experiences. They are legion and even the person in your group that did not want to go to wine country will truly enjoy the diversity and quality of the cuisines. 
In particular, Jordan Winery in Alexander Valley has a full vineyard and winery close-up tour, complete with stops along the way to taste the chateau chef’s offerings, paired with the fine wines of this wonderful house. Also let me assure you, you will not want to leave the plush Mercedes-Benz limousine-bus that will drive you all over the property and up to one of the highest points in Alexander Valley. Stunning views, or was it just the grand wines from Jordan? Both. 
For further information about wine country travel in Sonoma, contact The Wine Road, www.wineroad.com; and Jordan Winery, www.jordanwinery.com, tours and tastings link. 
Happy Wine Trails

Anne Loupy, The Wine Road, 2013


We will continue with wine country visits next month, Part 2, with suggestions for Paso Robles, Central Coast and Santa Barbara, California; Willamette Valley, Oregon; and Walla Walla, Washington, all important American wine regions. 
In the meantime, if you have any questions or suggestions, please write us. 

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