Friday, July 17, 2015

The Gardens by the Vineyards

"Short days ago/ We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow/ Loved and were loved..." from In Flanders Fields

Like a bee drawn to a flower, I can't resist a gorgeous garden. While I admire the grand expansiveness of Versailles' chateau grounds on the outskirts of Paris or the futuristic wonder that is Gardens by the Bay in Singapore, it's the simple vegetable garden that most captures my imagination. I can close my eyes and pretend that it's mine. That it's attainable.

Driving through the countryside of Dry Creek Valley in Northern California, what I mostly see when I look around is this...

Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma
Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery

Vineyards stretching hither and yon, as far as the eye can see. I am in the birthplace of California wine making.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Non-Alcoholic Tour of Dry Creek Valley Vineyards

Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma
Dry Creek Valley's most famous crop

A day touring vineyards and wineries in Sonoma's Dry Creek Valley may seem like a strange outing for someone who has no intention of actually sipping any wine. After all, the main reason why most people visit is to drink wine, duh. Just outside of the town of Healdsburg, California, this official American Viticultural Area is only 16 miles long and 2 miles wide. Families first began growing wine grapes here in the late 1880's, and it now has more than 70 wineries.

The wonderful thing about these vineyards is that many are more than just a tasting room and wine shop. They are surrounded by acres of lush gardens as if you had stumbled upon some modern day Eden. Walking through the gardens is typically free of charge and can end up being a relaxing and cheap way to spend the day. It's a great outing for kids and adults who don't drink but still love nature and the outdoors. If you want to add extra adventure to your day, Wine Country Bikes has cycling tours of the area as well as bike rentals including tandem bikes and child trailers.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Castello di Amorosa: Medieval Castle in Napa Valley

Castello di Amorosa
Am I in Italy, or am I in California?

I wasn't planning on seeing a medieval castle when I awoke that summer morning. On a rare vacation without the rest of my family, I spent a few days in the heart of California wine country visiting my friend, Julia. She and I are similar in that we both love food, are especially fascinated by chocolate, and can't hold our liquor due to a bad case of Asian glow. The day's itinerary included a trip to the Farmers Market and then heading to the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone for a casual lunch and a little browsing. As we sped down the St. Helena Highway, Julia's daughter exclaimed, "The castle gates are open!" All we could see from the road was the sign for Castello di Amorosa and a long driveway leading through the gates and up to who knows where. In a snap, we changed our plans and turned in. As we made our way up the driveway, it suddenly came into view. A 12th-13th century Tuscan castle surrounded by vineyards rose up spectacularly before us. This was definitely worth delaying our lunch.
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