Today’s Woman Publisher Tawana Bain recently went on a girlfriends’ getaway to Napa and Sonoma Valleys for good food, great fun and delicious wine. Here’s a shortlist of some spectacular places to visit in California’s Wine Country.
Written & photos provided by Tawana Bain
Last November Tawana and a few friends joined the 3.85 million people who visit Napa Valley annually. Known as the home to hundreds of hillside vineyards and some truly breathtaking landscapes, these ladies enjoyed magnificent sightseeing, sampled some fine cuisine, and tried some excellent wine. “It was such a beautiful experience,” says Tawana. “I can truly say there’s no place else quite like it. It was a whirlwind trip!”
On an unseasonably temperate Kentucky afternoon in January, Tawana caught up with Michelle Mandro. Michelle is a native Louisvillian who worked for WLKY and WAVE before moving to Napa Valley to pursue her dreams. She is the founder of Wine Country Women, an organization dedicated to celebrating remarkable ladies doing extraordinary things in wine country. She is the author of the upcoming book, Wine Country Women Heritage Families.
Michelle compared notes with Tawana on the excellent wineries she and her friends frequented during their trip. Here is the list of places Today’s Woman readers may want to visit when planning a trip to California’s Wine Country.
Lambert Bridge: For over four decades, this family-owned Healdsburg winery has had a name synonymous with quality. They offer an outstanding portfolio of wines, including some only available to club members. Owners Patti and Ray Chambers apply an uncompromising commitment to excellence that allows winemaker Jennifer Higgins to do her best work. “She is one of the lucky few who had the opportunity to work alongside the legendary winemaker Zelma Long,” Michelle says.
Stony Hill Vineyard: Resting on a picturesque 168-acre plot of land nestled on the slopes of Spring Mountain, Stony Hill became the first winery established after prohibition in 1951. Thanks to this unique land’s combination of soil, sunlight, and climate that mirrors the conditions of Burgundy, Stony Hill creates an exquisite Chardonnay to the world. Some consider this our country’s greatest white wine estate. “I love Spring Mountain,” Michelle says. “There are so many wonderful wineries tucked off the road like this one, which has an all-female team.”
Shadybrook Estate: This Napa vineyard in the hills of Coombsville is the manifestation of a dream. Beginning with the 2010 harvest, Alice and David Alkosser put their passions to action and have provided the market with a delectably delicious wine coming from 12 acres of premium vineyard with state-of-the-art technology and the expertise of prestigious winemaker Rudy Zuidema. In addition to sampling some truly stellar wine, Tawana left with some cherished souvenirs. “We found wine glasses there that can contain literally a whole bottle. Sometimes, that’s what it takes!” she quips.
Chateau St. Jean: Located on the northern end of the stunning Sonoma Valley, this gorgeous estate doesn’t just produce remarkable wines, but adds a sensibility that’s pure elegance. “A fun fact is their winemaker, Niki Williams, was inspired by Napa Valley winemaker and trailblazer Cathy Corison,” Michelle says. This winery is the home of picturesque vineyard views with a spectacular mountain backdrop. Lush gardens also complement this elegant chateau built nearly 100 years ago; providing a reassuring sense of the world and your place in it while you sip your choice of wines.
Dry Creek Vineyard: The Stare Wallace family’s labor has borne the fruit that makes up a world-class wine. Patriarch and Founder David S. Stare’s life as a world traveler taught him to appreciate the finer things in life. Establishing this Healdsburg vineyard was his way to share his well-earned expertise with everyone. “I’m especially fond of Kim Stare Wallace, who is president and is carrying on her father’s work. She is charismatic and knowledgeable and has fun running the family business.” Michelle says. She adds that Kim is also one of the 50 women featured in her book due out this year.