There’s no place like wine country for the holidays. Wherever you turn, the tasting rooms, inns, bed and breakfasts, resorts, and restaurants warmly greet you with great gift ideas, wonderful cuisine, and plenty of fine wine. Here are 10 great places to check into along the Pacific coast.
Willows Lodge, Woodinville, WA
Located just outside of Seattle in the heart of Woodinville wine country (boasting more than 100 wineries and tasting rooms), Willows Lodge is a charming retreat. Slip away from the holiday crowds and sit back in your soaking tub while you enjoy a full view of your stone-trimmed fireplace and large flat-screen TV. There’s also a 2,500-square-foot spa and two fabulous award-winning restaurants onsite. The Barking Frog received the 2013 Wine Spectator Award of Excellence and The Herbfarm Restaurant is a AAA 5 Diamond Award winner.
Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center, Walla Walla, WA
The Walla Walla wine country icon, the historic Marcus Whitman Hotel and Conference Center is more vibrant than ever during the holidays. Located in the heart of downtown, just steps from more than 20 tasting rooms, it offers beautifully appointed guest rooms plus plenty of delightful places to discover including on-site wine tasting rooms, an art gallery, and a nationally lauded restaurant, The Marc. James Beard-recognized Chef Antonio Campolio creates modern American menus that need to be sampled to be believed.
Cathedral Ridge Winery, Hood River and Dundee, OR
With a winery on the Columbia River Gorge and a tasting room in the heart of the Willamette Valley wine country, Cathedral Ridge Winery provides an amazing variety of fabulous ways to toast the holidays. Founder Robb Bell never settles for second best. He enlists the talents of fourth generation California winemaker Michael Sebastiani and vintner Lonnie Right and reaps many accolades and awards for his lengthy portfolio of wines. Stroll the winery grounds on a sunny winter day or drop into the tasting room in downtown Dundee.
Chateau St. Jean, Kenwood, CA
The exquisite Chateau St. Jean is always a sight to behold, but it’s a sight for sore eyes during the holidays. The Visitor Center and elegant gardens are serene and welcoming. There’’ a delectably stocked charcuterie for picnickers, a courtyard garden, and a demonstration garden for leisurely strolls. But the pièce de resistance is the exceptional wines. Winemaker Margo Van Staaveren has been at the helm for more than 30 years. She was named Wine Enthusiast’s Winemaker of the Year. Take a stroll, savor the wines. À santé.
Wente Vineyards, Livermore, CA
Not far from San Francisco, the Wente family has been growing and making wine for 130 years. Wente Vineyards enjoys an impeccable reputation in fact; it was awarded 2011 American Winery of the Year by Wine Enthusiast. Besides the beautiful tasting room, you should enjoy a meal at The Restaurant at Wente Vineyards, whose recent accolades include the 2013 Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence and high scores from Zagat. The restaurant uses locally grown organic ingredients with splendid results.
Robert Mondavi Winery, Oakville, CA
For genuine holiday hospitality, you can never go wrong with a visit to Robert Mondavi Winery in the Napa Valley. Its legendary founder believed that the region could be the center of a gracious lifestyle embracing wine, food, and art and the winery epitomizes this. Take an educational tour or seminar and visit the beautiful gift shop for wonderful wine-related gifts. The main tasting bar was recently moved to the Vineyard Room to give guests a place to relax and savor the wines and stunning To Kalon Vineyard. So cheers!
Dolphin Bay Resort & Spa, Pismo Beach, CA
Escape to a tranquil, oceanfront setting in the Classic California town of Pismo Beach. The resort features both one- and two-bedroom suites with all the comforts of home, plus a terrace or patio with a stunning view of the Pacific Ocean. Besides taking leisurely walks on the beach, long soaks in the whirlpool, and energizing workouts in the 24-hour fitness center, enjoy being pampered in the spa. Lido, Dolphin Bay’s signature restaurant and lounge offers exquisite cuisine and a list of more than 450 wines. Just wait until you see the sunset.
Blair Fox Cellars, Los Olivos and Santa Barbara, CA
Renowned winemaker Blair Fox, recipient of the 2008 André Tchelistcheff Winemaker of the Year Award, grew up in Santa Barbara wine country. For a wonderful holiday afternoon, visit the tiny Los Olivos tasting room (designed by his wife Sarah) to taste the small-lot wines sourced from some of the county’s finest vineyards, then have lunch nearby. Next, drive over the foothills to the coastal town of Santa Barbara. Recently, Blair and Sarah opened a second tasting room in the new Santa Barbara Art Foundry in this sublime city’s Funk Zone. Revisit a favorite wine while you tour the intriguing gallery.
Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards, Solvang, CA
The Danish-inspired village of Solvang holds many holiday treasures with quaint shops, bakeries, and two tasting rooms that Lucas & Lewellen wines. The Toccata tasting room focuses on Italian varietals and also features great gift solutions with gourmet foods and wine-related items. Less than a block away, the Lucas & Lewellen tasting room is a local favorite. They voted it The Best Tasting Room in Santa Ynez Valley. If you have children along, there’s an activity table where they can write a letter to Santa while you enjoy the wines.
Falkner Winery, Temecula, CA
Something always seems to be happening at Falkner Winery in the heart of Temecula Valley wine country (just about an hour from San Diego and Los Angeles). There’s a good reason the tasting room is such a lively place. Falkner wines are soft, approachable, and readily drinkable. The winery’s onsite restaurant, The Pinnacle, also has a strong following. It features outstanding healthy Mediterranean American cuisine and sweeping vineyard views. Plan to have brunch or lunch on a holiday afternoon and shop for gifts in the tasting room.
The following article was provided by our contributing partner – Touring and Tasting Magazine. Cheers – Ken
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