Sample superb varietals paired with regional specialties at winemaker dinners. Seghesio Family Vineyards in Healdsburg plates scrumptious Italian comfort food like polenta with chicken and sausage with their award-winning Italian varietals. Nicholson Ranch in Sonoma serves local lamb and artisanal cheeses with varied chardonnays and pinot noirs.
Considered the finest restaurant in California Wine Country, the French Laundry wows visitors with nine unpredictable courses of the region’s best food. Dishes range from plain-Jane braised tongue to a lavish version of mac-and-cheese -- lobster and orzo with mascarpone. The experience is pricey but memorable, one of the top 10 culinary things to do in California Wine Country.
6640 Washington St., Yountville 94599
Ferrari-Carano Vineyard & Winery’s cathedral windows overlook the rugged Sonoma County countryside from its hilltop location. Wander past waterfalls and wisteria, then head to the marble-and-alabaster Enoteca for flights of cabernet and sangiovese.
8761 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg 95448
The silvery olive trees of Wine Country produce some of California’s finest oils. Tasting rooms throughout the valleys let visitors pick out the best from all the rest. Napa Valley Olive Oil in Napa presses its own oil, as does The Olive Press in Sonoma.
Hone your kitchen skills at Ramekins Culinary School. Hands-on instruction covers cheese-making, Basque country cooking, Thai seafood and Bavarian game dishes, among others. And there’s even a hotel at this school in California Wine Country.
450 W. Spain St., Sonoma 95476
Domaine Chandon, founded by French champagne-maker Moët et Chandon, welcomes visitors to its Napa location amid a meticulously groomed garden. Tour the winery’s extensive wine-making facility and its caves or just purchase a celebratory glass to sip on the patio.
1 California Drive, Yountville 94599
Vendors sell bushels of fresh peaches, figs and cured olives on the Plaza at the Sonoma Farmers Market. Other farm-to-market fare are homemade cheeses, California almonds and fresh-fruit compotes. Locally-grown products, ideal for picnics, are sold weekly at Napa’s Napa Valley Wine Train and at towns throughout the Sonoma and Napa valleys.
Robert Mondavi’s sprawling, mission-style winery sits among acres of orderly vineyards and hardwood trees. Tour the high-tech winery, where the wine-making process is effortlessly managed by computers, before tasting fumé blancs, chardonnays and cabernets in the tasting room.
7801 state Highway 29, Oakville 94562
Swiss art collector Donald Hess blends fine art with wine, displaying museum-quality pieces at the Hess Collection estate. Sample syrahs, cabernets and chardonnays, then tour the contemporary paintings, sculptures and multimedia displays in the art collection – or vice versa.
4411 Redwood Road, Napa
If there’s anything Wine Country locals love more than wine, it’s cheese. Look for shops throughout the region. Favorites include the Sonoma Cheese Factory on the Sonoma Plaza, with house-made cheese and imported salamis and hams. In Healdsburg, the Cheese Shop supplies regional cheeses to the area’s finest restaurants.