Sonoma Wine Country: Splendid in Autumn

HILLS NEWSPAPERS: November 11, 2011

When you think of autumn leaves, New England’s fiery maples and brilliant birch come to mind.

But here on the West Coast, we have our own fall color. It peaks more toward winter and is every bit as beautiful as Maine or Vermont. I’m talking about the Bay Area wine regions, where the leaves on the vines blush shades of burgundy and gold as they prepare to sleep silently until spring. The holidays are a cacophony of color for grape-growing regions such as Napa, Sonoma, Fairfield and Livermore. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but if pressed for an answer, I’ll say Sonoma.

Start in Healdsburg, the charming center of the Sonoma Wine Country, where couples still stroll hand-in-hand, exchanging pleasantries with neighbors and merchants on the street. Stay at the historic Honor Mansion and you can walk to any number of celebrated restaurants, all featuring regionally grown meats and produce. You’ll find everything from Muscovy duck to goat cheese and Pacific oysters, any of which can also be packed for a picnic.

From here you can head toward Highway 128 for a delightful drive through the Alexander Valley. There are more than 40 wineries in this region and eight of them hold an annual Thanksgiving weekend open house — the perfect time to take the relatives to the wine country.

The second route takes you west from Healdsburg through the cooler climates of the Russian River area — perfect for pinot noir. There are more than 50 wineries


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