Visiting wine country requires some advanced planning, particularly during the busy summer months.
Mainly, you want to make sure you have a place to stay, as the B&Bs, resorts and even the chain motels often fill up, especially if there’s a special event going on in the area. And if there’s a specific winery you’d like to visit, you may want to map out the route in advance, because the tourist maps found on hotel information racks are dependably… undependable.
Beyond that, one can have a great time in wine country simply by driving along the various “wine trails,” and stopping in at the estates that catch your eye. I call it the “serendipity method.”
But most tasting rooms close around 4 p.m., which brings up the question: What can one do in wine country during the evening hours?
In California’s Sonoma County, the possibilities are seemingly endless. Here are just a few ideas…
• “Dinner With the Winemaker” is a Sonoma Coast tradition, now in its 28th year at The Inn at the Tides in Bodega Bay, Calif.
Each multi-course dinner shines the spotlight on a specific winery or wine theme, and remaining dinners in 2014 will feature Beaulieu Vineyard on July 18, Petroni Vineyards on Aug. 15, Italy on Sept. 19, and Cambria Estate on Oct. 10.
Winemaker dinner guests receive reduced room rates at the Inn.
More information: www.InnattheTides.com
• Cricklewood (tagline: “an eating and drinking place”) is located in Santa Rosa, Calif., and specializes in slow-cooked prime rib, hand-trimmed steaks and fresh fish, as has as an extensive Sonoma County-focused wine list.
More information: www.cricklewoodrestaurant.com
• Where Highway 12 meets Farmers Lane in Santa Rosa, Montgomery Village provides an array of unique shops and services. And during the summer months, the shopping center — which bills itself as “a premier entertainment experience”—hosts two concert series.
“Rockin’ Concerts” take place on Saturdays from 12 noon to 3 p.m., while “Concerts Under the Stars” are held on Thursdays from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Cover bands feature the music of everyone from the Beach Boys to Bruce Springsteen.
More information: www.mvshops.com