Tale of two Christmas towns

HILLS NEWSPAPERS: December 8, 2011

What is it about holiday lights that we can’t resist? Like moths to a flame, we’re drawn to big, splashy displays of bobbles and bulbs and all things that glitter.

Perhaps it’s a way to counter the low natural sunlight of winter, but there’s no doubt a tree or a building that’s bedecked in bright lights does a lot for lifting our spirits.

So, too, does wine, if we’re to be truthful. There’s something quite grand about the deep berry shades of a rich cabernet or the blush of a light pinot noir. Indeed, the same can be said of a golden chardonnay and a bubbly glass of champagne.

Combining the two — the wine with the eye-candy of holiday lights — is a delight to the senses. It’s in the spirit of the season that I share two of my favorite wine country Christmas towns.

To the north is Healdsburg, reminiscent of a Victorian Christmas with it’s twinkling lights lining the streets and historic town square. The townsfolk take December seriously, and have created a whole calendar of events for Holidays in Healdsburg, including the Strolling Dine Around Dec.14 and 15. What a treat to be able to walk from your inn to a four-course progressive feast. Some of the most celebrated restaurants in Healdsburg are participating, including Charlie Palmer’s Dry Creek Kitchen and Cyrus, along with two more of my favorites — Willi’s Seafood & Raw Bar and Baci. Couple this with a mix of homespun small shops, the world-class Costeaux Bakery andglorious Victorian B&B’s such as the Camellia Inn (circa 1869) and you have a town that transports you to a time when there really was peace on earth.

On the other end of the Bay Area is Livermore, where the downtown has a distinctly western flavor with shops like the long-standing Baughman’s, built back in 1881. The big stallion outside marks this as cowboy country, but with a growing reputation for wine and fine dining. December is a perfect time to visit Livermore’s vineyards because the country roads are quiet and the wineries are adorned with holiday lights and a broad range of wine-related gifts — including “The Wine Seekers’ Guide to the Livermore Valley” by Tom Wilmer. This book is a colorful guide to this rural wine region, where horses and cattle share land with grape growers and the rolling hills rise up to meet the vast, starry sky.

If you go

Healdsburg Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau ““ www.healdsburg.com/holidays
Livermore Valley Wine Growers ““ www.lvwine.org



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