Take a Wine Country Walking Tour

Ditch your car and take a walking tour of wineries in California’s Sonoma County.

© Rocco Ceselin
Vineyards at Bartholomew Park Winery in Sonoma California.

Most people who set out to tour California’s wine country do so by car. This involves navigating your way to one winery after another, paying exorbitant fees to sample a dozen pinot noirs, and weaving back to the car, all the while trying to avoid getting a DUI, says Daniel Duane in Budget Travel.

Far safer and more leisurely is a stroll through wine country. After all, “There is no more meaningful way to connect with a place than by exploring it, literally, one step at a time.”

While Napa has the greater fame among oenophiles, Sonoma also offers spectacular vintages. The sprawling, diverse geography gives rise to some of the finest chardonnays and pinot noirs in the world, as well as a vast array of other wines.

The southeast corner of Sonoma is particularly walker-friendly, with its many footpaths, bicycle paths, and quiet lanes.

A good base for exploring this area is Les Petites Maisons, a group of cozy rental cottages. If you start there, the first winery is a mere 1.2 miles away. Ravenswood Winery was founded in 1976 and is famous for its zinfandels. It also has a surprisingly refreshing gewürztraminer. Visitors can sample California cheeses while taking in the view of the valley below—but watch out for the resident rattlesnakes.

Nearby is the Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery, an old-world style place that creates well-made, mid-priced cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay, and merlot. Founded in 1904 by a Tuscan immigrant stonemason, Sebastiani is one of the oldest continually operated vineyards in the U.S. It also has the advantage for walkers of sitting right on the Sonoma Bike Path.

Also within a short hike from Les Petites Maisons is the Buena Vista Carneros Winery, the first winery built west of the Mississippi. Its modest stone buildings, tucked at the base of a steep hill, house a cool, dark tasting room with a display of books on local history. Sample the satiny pinot noirs and perhaps the best chardonnay of the region.

A small footpath leads from Buena Vista Carneros to the less famous Bartholomew Park Winery. At 37 acres, it is one of the smallest vineyards around, but it is adjacent to 400 acres of parkland ribboned with walking trails. So after trying some rich cabernet sauvignons, walkers can take a meditative stroll around the neighboring pond.

Source: Budget Travel

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Originally Published in Reader's Digest