After tasting the Napa wine, after enjoying the Sonoma cheese and wine, and after a spa dip in a mineral bath, make the time to see wine country and hear her stories. Below are some of our favorite spots in California wine country, really in no particular order.
1) The Napa Valley Museum, Yountville:
Don’t nod off as soon as you read the word “museum.” This museum is a celebration of all things Napa Valley. Its history, culture, the arts, the land, and the terroir are recounted in a permanent exhibit, The Land and People of Napa Valley. But the centerpiece is the permanent exhibition of California Wine: The Science of and Art. The museum uses words, music and technology to give you a bird’s eye view of every step in the process of winemaking. It’s quite spectacular.
2) The Sharpsteen Museum, Calistoga:
Put together a great little California spa town with loads of history, and add the man who produced the Disney movies Fantasia and Snow White, Ben Sharpsteen. What you get is a terrific historic museum that adds yet another dimension to wine country. Get a load of the 32-foot, scale-model diorama that is an illustration of Sam Brannan’s Calistoga spa town in 1860. The inclusion of an original spa cottage is part of Sharpsteen’s fun, as well as an Oscar he won glittering from its glass case.
3) Jack London State Park, Glen Ellen:
Heading a few miles north of Sonoma you’ll find glorious Jack London State Park. Its beauty is beyond words. (London called his original homestead Beauty Ranch, as a matter of fact.) Pick up a picnic lunch at the market. Spend the day in the park. There truly is no other place that has the same buttered light filtering through the California Oaks and soft, grassy hills. The ghostly ruins of Jack London’s dream home, Wolf House, remain in the center of the London’s 1,400 acres. Jack died shortly after Wolf House burned to the ground, but his wife remained on the land. In her home are extraordinary photos and memorabilia of their global exploits. If you love rolling CA hills and revel in the lives of dreamers, this is your place.
4) Petaluma Adobe State Park, Petaluma:
In the south part of Sonoma County, Petaluma was the center of General Mariano Vallejo’s vast holdings in California during Mexican rule. Vallejo, the man, was the center of California’s history, moving from Mexican rule, to the CA rebellion, to California’s entrance into the United States. He then became an enthusiastic politician and supporter of the union. Visit his fully self-sustainable adobe and you’ll see how the early Californio’s lived and entertained, created and lost empires. How they took care of themselves far from their foreign government, and were glad for that distance.
5) Luther Burbank Home and Gardens, Santa Rosa:
Luther Burbank lived in Santa Rosa, the urban heart of Sonoma’s wine country, for 53 years. During that time the horticulturist created or improved more than 800 plant varieties. Explore his carriage house, home, and his greenhouse. It was in this greenhouse, and in his gardens in Sebastopol, that he experimented and changed the plants we now live with every day. Of course, his gardens are lovely and filled with his botanical wonders. He hobnobbed with Einstein and Edison, among the other innovators of his time. Come and wander through this humble home and feel the energy of imagination.
Enjoy the authentic wine country!