Whenever I start thinking about vacation time, my thoughts always fly me around to a hundred different places. Hawaii? New York? The old home town? Family in the midwest? Somewhere entirely new that I've never been in my life? But during all those possibilities, one thought keeps coming up, like the resonance of a bell that, once rung, will keep a chime in my ear forever: northern California wine country.
Of course, it doesn't have to be THAT specific area to be wine country. There are so many great wineries cropping up in different areas around the United States. But Napa Valley, Rutherford, St. Helena, Healdsburg, Sonoma - those are the places in wine country where I first fell in love with wine. And it is one of the first places I think of when I want to go somewhere to unwind.
First off, wine country vacations provide an excellent opportunity to see some beautiful places. The rolling hills, quaint settings, and easy drive from the Bay Area makes wine country one of the country's great escapes.
Secondly, seeing wine country gives you an opportunity to learn about wine appreciation rather than just consumption. Can't tell your cabernet sauvignon from your pinot noirs or zinfandels? Need some advanced education in choosing a chenin blanc or a sauvignon blanc? There's no better way to learn than by doing. Tasting rooms at wineries across the valley are always staffed with great people who love nothing more than to educate travelers about their wine. You can also document your wine travels by buying a small journal or, my personal favorite, Wine Notes. With Wine Notes, you're guided through the glass from the color to the bouquet to the complexities of the taste, right down to the finish.
When tasting wine, especially when it is a solo journey, it's perfectly acceptable to "expectorate." That is, spit. After all, your wine experience needs to be a positive one, as well as safe. The goal in wine tasting is to experience the wine. Reserve actually consuming it to reasonable, legal levels while you're in wine country, and you will have a wonderful solo wine country vacation!