hotel el dorado sonoma

From The Archives :: Beat the Heat in Sonoma

how to wine tour in sonoma in summer[trip style = wine tasting + weekend getaway + sun] {more pics below}

{Editor's Note: This month's From The Archives, originally published July 16, 2010, explores ducking from an air conditioned tasting room to an air conditioned car to taste wine in the heat of summer. Normally, temperate travelers from temperate climates avoid the sauna-like conditions that plague many of California's hot spots during the hottest months of the year, but I learned a few cool tips and tricks that took my Sonoma wine tasting experience from Barefoot to Opus One caliber.}

Sipping on an icy lime and cucumber-infused water, I realize it’s already 6:45pm. Having just returned from a full day of wine tasting, I am lounging poolside catching the tail-end of the Sonoma sun.

Although temperatures in the Napa Valley can reach 40 degrees Celsius during the summer, it is still worth braving the heat to visit the USA’s most famous wine region. With a few minor adjustments to packing and planning, us mild-mannered Pacific Northwest dwellers can beat---even embrace---the heat in Napa.

Because Napa is inland, the temperatures are a little more extreme than Vancouver’s. While the sometimes intense midday heat makes you wish you were sipping an ice-cold mojito surrounded with spritzers by the pool’s edge, the mornings and evenings provide a cool retreat.

Embracing morning’s milder temperatures allows you to counterbalance wine tasting and start the day by walking to a local café for breakfast, hiking to perfect picture-taking vistas or biking on Sonoma’s back roads to wineries like Ravenswood, Sebastiani and Gundlach Bundschu. Save the wine tasting for the afternoon when you can sip chardonnay to your heart’s content in an air conditioned tasting room. Once you hear the next winery calling your name, dash for the car and amp the air conditioning until you find shelter from the heat at the next vineyard! Although this sounds like a bit of a process, you have to love a region where rain isn’t even part of the locals’ summer vocabulary.

If you want to see more than just a tasting room, many wineries offer tours of their production facilities and vines. Being indoors, the production portion of tours is cool, yet walking through the pinot or zinfandel vines is a little more toasty. If you can stand the oven-like conditions for an instant and want to get up close and personal with the grapes, most wineries offer umbrellas while some of the bigger players have roofed, open-air vehicles.

Depending on your affinity and tolerance for wine, after a few sequential tastings, you may want a cool, pool break. The poolside scene from 5–7pm offers less crowds and soothing, milder rays. And if you’ve been tasting cabernets all day, it’s nice to have a late siesta before another glass at dinner.

One night I abandoned my 5-7pm poolside rule and went out for dinner at 6.45pm. I made the mistake of dining outside and later realized why I got parking right in front of the restaurant in high season. Surrounded by calming water features, grapevines and the allure of open-air dining, sadly, I couldn’t enjoy my dinner on the patio because the heat was still intense. Case in point, I’d been at the pool the night before until 7pm.

The next night I strapped on my party shoes and went out at 8pm. Being a glutton for punishment, I risked sitting outside. The risk paid off. Dining alfresco at the right time was a perfect finish to an excellent day in wine country. Oddly, that night I didn’t even want wine with my gastronomic indulgences.

Sonoma Travel Tips Stay – The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa or El Dorado Hotel. Eat – The Girl and the Fig and El Dorado Kitchen. Do – Consider navigating to wineries near your hotel by bike. Most major hotels rent bikes to guests for $25 per day. As of this time last year, guests of Fairmont properties in the USA {and Canada} can now use on-site BMW bikes for free. Sonoma's back roads may be off the beaten track, but the wineries are worth a visit. Hint – Whether biking or driving to wineries, if traveling in a pair, share tastings so you can winery-hop without indulging in too much nectar.

Sonoma Pictures grape vines sonoma {Grape Vines.}

biking to wineries in napa {Biking to wineries in Sonoma.}

grapes at beringer {Grapes at Beringer Winery, the oldest continuously operating winery in Napa Valley.}

michel schlumberger winery courtyard {The courtyard at my favourite winery in Napa: Michel Schlumberger.}

wine barrels {Wine barrels being aged and stored.}

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