When you've already "done" Napa and Sonoma yet still desire a relaxing day spiced with world-class wines, the AVAs along the Russian River beckon. They're lesser known than Napa and a little farther from San Francisco, but what they may lack in familiarity they more than make up in really beautiful scenery, picturesque towns, and quality wines.
A FREQUENT ITINERARY
We go opposite rush-hour traffic...across the Bay Bridge, turn north and in less than an hour are traveling up the most scenic "trail" in Napa Valley, then into the breathtakingly beautiful Alexander Valley where we stop for our first tasting--at Stryker-Sonoma, Silver Oak, or Alexander Valley. (Or we bypass that Valley, going straight from San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge to the Russian River region.) We peruse Healdsburg, stopping at one of the many tasting rooms on its quaint, redwood-filled square (or perhaps lunch). Then onwards into the stunning Dry Creek Valley, at the north end of which lies Ferrari-Carano. Its wines are delicious, and its gardens not to be missed--picture a grand Tuscan villa bordered by a Euro-Japanese garden.
Dry Creek Valley offers many wonderful tasting options: David Coffaro, Passalaqua, Pedroncelli, Raymond Burr, Michel-Schlumberger… If you haven't lunched yet, we go west to find tiny Graton's Willow Wood Market or into Occidental, certainly one of California's most picturesque towns.
What to do before sunset, in the late afternoon? A guided tour of the historic, champagne house Korbel—a rose garden and redwoods frame its fairytale Bohemian architecture? Twomey (affiliated with Silver Oak) with striking ultramodern architecture? Lytton Springs, world-famous for its zins, in its straw-bale, ultra-"green" facility? Lynmar with its comfortable tasting room, bee-keeping and unique garden? Or somewhere else you've been told you "must-see"? Time permitting, we cruise into the town of Petaluma, site of the classic film "American Graffitti", checking out its authentic small-town Main Street and beautiful Victorians. The sun sets to our west over the ocean as we re-enter Everybody's Favorite City..