In DepthYou're in a basket beneath a hot air balloon, soaring over a two-lane country road cradled in a lush valley. Acre upon acre is planted with neat rows of leafy grapevines, forming pale green pinstripes against the fertile soil. Rose bushes awash in red blooms mark the beginnings of some rows, which extend from the road and seem to disappear into rolling, forested hills. Beyond these hills are dark stands of redwoods, their feathery branches sheltering a damp, fern-carpeted ground, and beyond them rocky cliffs bordering the Pacific. The ride is quiet and seemingly still, following the whim of the wind with only the roar of the burners to break the silence.
“Heaven?” you ask. Close. You're in Wine Country. And while the views in Napa, Sonoma, Lake and Mendocino counties are enough to make you dizzy with delight, the extravagantly verdant countryside isn't for shutterbugs alone.
There's a business growing here, and a fruitful one at that. Every year some 400 wineries produce nearly 2 billion bottles of wine thanks to an ideal, varied climate—balmy days with cool mornings and evenings interspersed with floating blankets of Pacific fog. Add relatively cheap labor and mineral-rich soil, and the bottled result has caught the eyes, noses and palates of wine lovers around the globe.
With all its many fun things to do—hot air ballooning, shopping in elite boutiques, hiking, bicycling, touring historical sites, kayaking, gorging on sinfully delicious gourmet food, horseback riding, relaxing with a massage or sinking into a mud or mineral bath—it still comes as no surprise that most visitors are here for one thing: fermented grape juice. Yes, the sweet nectar of the gods.
Wine Country, CA
AAA’s in-person hotel evaluations are unscheduled to ensure the inspector has an experience similar to that of members. To pass inspection, all hotels must meet the same rigorous standards for cleanliness, comfort and hospitality. These hotels receive a AAA Diamond designation that tells members what type of experience to expect.