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Where to Wine: 2 Days in Sonoma County

 Gina Ciliberto

There's nothing quite like shrugging off winter and inhaling spring air for the first time each year. My first breath of spring this year came in Sonoma County, which I now believe is the optimal place to soak in a season of freshness, newness. 
 
Famous for its wineries, Sonoma is all things sunny, classy, laissez-faire; it's no wonder that French-style wines thrive here. The temperate weather is complemented by a salty sea breeze, unknown to our sticky onset heat waves here in NY. Yet, with a mass of wineries to visit, hot air balloons to float in, and Redwood forests to hike through, it can be difficult to organize a trip that has structure beyond a series of emptied wine glasses. So we've created a Sonoma itinerary.
 
Our lineup includes award-winning wines (from the Pacific Rim Wine Competition and San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition), croquet, picnics, and oysters. For me, it was the most relaxing, beautiful, scrumptious way to usher in a season of new life, outdoor activities, fresh produce.
 
Go on, breathe in spring. We challenge you to name a better setting in which to do so.

Day 1

1. Sonoma Cutrer
Start at the Vineyard
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This winery keeps it simple: you'll find renowned chardonnay that excels in restaurants, a new rosΓ© that first hit the market in 2017, and pinot noir with notes of blueberry and oak.
 
The wine is good, but Sonoma Cutrer offers more than the wine. Book a tour and see the Grand Cru Barrels that store the wine; the wood from these has come from the same forest in France via the same tonnelleries for more than 30 years. Schedule time on their croquet courts and add-on wine, artisan cheese, and charcuterie to enjoy while you play. Visit on your own time, or attend an event for live music and farm-to-table feasts.
 

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2. Santa Rosa Community Farmers Market
Gather a feast
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Not too hot, not too chilly, spring is meant for picnicking. And, there's no better place to gather ingredients for a picnic than the Santa Rosa Community Farmers Market. In addition to fresh produce, plants, and baked goods, you'll find edible bee pollen, a variety of cheeses, and sticky buns bigger than your hand. Be sure to check out the salmon stand for the results of a smoked-salmon recipe six years in the making: the molasses- soy-sauce mixture lends itself to a smoked salmon that's utterly unique.
 

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3. Bodega Bay
Picnic on the Coast
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The downside of the farmers market is that it's essentially in a parking lot; you'll want someplace more picturesque to enjoy your booty. Set up a picnic here overlooking the waves; just make sure the seagulls overhead don't get a snack.

 

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4. Hog Island Oyster Co.
Sip champagne and grill fresh oysters
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If you're not satiated from your farmer's market spread, take a picturesque drive to Hog Island Oyster Co. You'll drive through green rolling hills on the coast for about an hour before you arrive at a series of outdoor picnic tables and grills with barbacks lugging in bags of fresh oysters. They'll supply the oysters and mignonette, and they have alcohol for sale. You bring the sides, the snacks, and the good company.
 

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Day 2

1. Up & Away Ballooning
Drift away in a hot air balloon
 
There's no better way to catch the sunrise than from above. Rides tend to be more successful in the early morning in temperate weather with small groups, but don't worry: the champagne brunch that follows make the pre-dawn wake-up call well worth it.
 

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2. Armstrong Redwood State Reserve
Get lost among the trees
 
There's no better way to catch the sunrise than from above. Rides tend to be more successful in the early morning in temperate weather with small groups, but don't worry: the champagne brunch that follows make the pre-dawn wake-up call well worth it.
 

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3. Korbel Champagne Cellars
Get lost among the trees
 
A 9-minute drive from the Redwoods, the the oldest continually operating champagne house in North America is not to be missed. Relish the complimentary winery tour and tasting; tour the gardens Tuesday - Sunday.
 

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4. Marin French Cheese Company
Enjoy a picnic, again
 
Spend an hour tasting and learning about different cheeses, then head outside for an onsite picnic by the pond. Sure, there's a lot of picnicking in this guide. But, it's finally temperate outside; isn't enjoying the sun what spring is all about?
 

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Where Can You Find the Oldest Free-Standing Structures on Earth?

(Hint: It's not the pyramids)

The Megalithic Temples of Malta are several prehistoric temples, some of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, built during three distinct periods approximately between 3600 BC and 700 BC (for reference, these predate the pyramids of Egypt by over 1,000 years). Archaeologists believe that these megalithic complexes are the result of local innovations in a process of cultural evolution, which led to the building of several temples of the Δ gantija phase (3600–3000 BC), culminating in the large Tarxien temple complex, which remained in use until 2500 BC. After this date, the temple building culture disappeared.
Our March showcase corners this historic center of the Mediterranean basin and Valletta, its capital and the 2018 City of Culture. Malta is the southernmost capital in Europe and the second southernmost capital of the European Union after Nicosia. The country’s population is less than 500,000 but it has a prestigious claim to world history, geography, and the arts.
 

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Discover Japan

The "Land of the Rising Sun" is set on four major islands: Hokkaido, in the northern region where heavy snows, and snow monkeys are found along with great skiing and winter sports of every strip; Honshu, the main island where historic sites cover the landscape and where the major cities of the country lie including the nation’s capital, Tokyo; Shikoku, the smallest island, where ancient monasteries and shrines are located along with a remote setting, numerous hiking trails, inlets and centuries old wood-framed houses; Kyushu, in the southern part of region where you’ll come across remote villages and settlements, a photographer’s choice. All together, Japan is made up of 68,952 islands, between the North Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan, and is one of the longest archipelagos in the world. With deep rivers, dense forests, volcanic peaks, and mountainous terrain, and major cities in between, there's something here for every traveler. Visit before 2020, when an estimated 40 million visitors will flood a city of over 13 million residents for the Tokyo Olympics.

Speaking of Spring, late March to Early April is the best time to see Japan's famous cherry blossoms. Maybe it's time to start planning a trip for next year?

 
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Walk, hike, or boat around this gorge. This is off of the beaten path, so prepare a full day to soak in this wonder.
 
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Once an industrial site, whose waters were badly affected by the poisoning from chemicals and waste in the 1970s, Naoshima island is now best known as a unique site for modern and contemporary art.

 
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This email was sent to: ginaciliberto@gmail.com

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