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What Drives: A Weekend in California Wine Country

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Venturing out of the city for the weekend is an essential part of surviving in the urban jungle. Throw in some wine tasting, fresh air, and gourmet food and you're in for a full-on rejuvenation session. Once scoffed at by Old World vintners, California's Napa and Sonoma Valleys are now home to some of the world's most respected vineyards — and they're ripe for exploring. Here's a guide to a perfect weekend trip through America's renowned wine country, all just around two hours north of San Francisco. From top tastings to gourmet food pairings to relaxing excursions, we'll take you all over the map to sample the best of the natural bounty that Napa and Sonoma County have to offer.

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Domaine Carneros

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Kick off your weekend journey with some bubbly. This stunning French chateau and vineyard is easy to spot from Highway 121. Reserve a table on the terrace and sip on a flight of sparkling wines paired with local cheeses or caviar as you take in the sweeping landscape of the Carneros region and plot your next move.

Chappellet Winery

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Maneuver up the long and winding Sage Canyon Road and this family-owned winery is revealed. The signature Cabernet Sauvignon sells out before it’s even released, so your best bet is reserving a tasting in their unique pyramid-shaped barrel room. Sitting atop Pritchard Hill, the grounds overlook rolling hills and shimmering Lake Hennessy.

Tacos Garcia

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With nearly every corner boasting a noteworthy chef’s latest culinary venture, choosing a lunch spot can be overwhelming. When in doubt, keep it simple. In the parking lot of Pancha’s dive bar, this no-fuss authentic Mexican food truck serves up legit (and cheap) eats. Pull in between vineyard tours for carnitas tacos, or try James Beard award-winning chef Thomas Keller’s personal favorite: the beef burrito.

The French Laundry

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No trip to wine country would be complete without a fine dining experience and Thomas Keller’s French Laundry is a culinary landmark. Behind the walls of this beautifully simple stone building, food becomes more than a meal – it’s a transcendent experience. The accolades speak for themselves: three Michelin stars, multiple James Beard awards, and Anthony Bourdain’s endorsement as, “the best restaurant in the world, period.” If you can make this one happen, don’t hesitate.

Corison Winery

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Heading north on Highway 29 you’ll find an intimate family-run vineyard that is all about the wine — Cabernet to be specific. Visitors and vintners alike come here for the exceptional wines concocted by winemaker Cathy Corison. For a more in-depth education on “cabs,” reserve the Library Experience – a tasting tour through a library of Cabernet Sauvignon vintages. You leave inspired, and very well read in the verses of vino.

Campo Fina

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A laid-back sister restaurant to town favorite Scopa, this is California al fresco dining at its finest (and coziest). Massive wood burning ovens turn out fresh Neapolitan style pizzas layered with local ingredients. The backyard is complete with a bocce court — the perfect distraction while waiting for a table.

Johnson's Beach

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About a 45-minute jaunt west, we head to Guerneville. Gather a few provisions from Big Bottom Market, local Mount Tam cheese and crusty bread will do. Walk to the Russian River just across the road and relax on the beach, then take a dip in the brisk, emerald-green water. It will jolt you back to life from whatever wonderfully relaxing spell the region has cast on you.

Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

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Welcome to the majesty and grandeur of Muir woods without the crowds. Hikes range in difficulty from leisurely walks to experts only. The one mile loop is enough to get a feel for the forest without taking up an entire day. Walking among this quiet grove of these thousand-year-old Sequoia trees, the golden hour light streaming through the branches, you can’t help but feel calm and reflective.

Boon Hotel + Spa

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At the foot of the Redwood forest and a quick walk from the budding Main Street of downtown Guerneville, you’ll find this sweet morsel of a hotel. Every detail is curated to create the perfect getaway retreat. Tastemaker and owner Christa Luedtke is also owner and chef at Boon’s nearby restaurant serving up fresh, delicious fare. On especially good days you can find the hotel’s namesake, a friendly black and white mutt, sunning by the pool or rolling in the grass.

Wildflour Bakery

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On your way back to the city, you’ll have to make a slight detour off the beaten path to get here, but bread like this doesn’t come easy. Head down the twisty Bohemian Highway into the small lot of this homespun bakery. Hear the cows mooing in the pasture across the road as you wander through the organic garden nibbling on a scone still warm from the oven. It’s the perfectly idyllic snack for a leisurely drive back to the city.
This advertising content was produced in collaboration between Vox Creative and our sponsor, without involvement from Vox Media editorial staff.

Domaine Carneros

Kick off your weekend journey with some bubbly. This stunning French chateau and vineyard is easy to spot from Highway 121. Reserve a table on the terrace and sip on a flight of sparkling wines paired with local cheeses or caviar as you take in the sweeping landscape of the Carneros region and plot your next move.

Chappellet Winery

Maneuver up the long and winding Sage Canyon Road and this family-owned winery is revealed. The signature Cabernet Sauvignon sells out before it’s even released, so your best bet is reserving a tasting in their unique pyramid-shaped barrel room. Sitting atop Pritchard Hill, the grounds overlook rolling hills and shimmering Lake Hennessy.

Tacos Garcia

With nearly every corner boasting a noteworthy chef’s latest culinary venture, choosing a lunch spot can be overwhelming. When in doubt, keep it simple. In the parking lot of Pancha’s dive bar, this no-fuss authentic Mexican food truck serves up legit (and cheap) eats. Pull in between vineyard tours for carnitas tacos, or try James Beard award-winning chef Thomas Keller’s personal favorite: the beef burrito.

The French Laundry

No trip to wine country would be complete without a fine dining experience and Thomas Keller’s French Laundry is a culinary landmark. Behind the walls of this beautifully simple stone building, food becomes more than a meal – it’s a transcendent experience. The accolades speak for themselves: three Michelin stars, multiple James Beard awards, and Anthony Bourdain’s endorsement as, “the best restaurant in the world, period.” If you can make this one happen, don’t hesitate.

Corison Winery

Heading north on Highway 29 you’ll find an intimate family-run vineyard that is all about the wine — Cabernet to be specific. Visitors and vintners alike come here for the exceptional wines concocted by winemaker Cathy Corison. For a more in-depth education on “cabs,” reserve the Library Experience – a tasting tour through a library of Cabernet Sauvignon vintages. You leave inspired, and very well read in the verses of vino.

Campo Fina

A laid-back sister restaurant to town favorite Scopa, this is California al fresco dining at its finest (and coziest). Massive wood burning ovens turn out fresh Neapolitan style pizzas layered with local ingredients. The backyard is complete with a bocce court — the perfect distraction while waiting for a table.

Johnson's Beach

About a 45-minute jaunt west, we head to Guerneville. Gather a few provisions from Big Bottom Market, local Mount Tam cheese and crusty bread will do. Walk to the Russian River just across the road and relax on the beach, then take a dip in the brisk, emerald-green water. It will jolt you back to life from whatever wonderfully relaxing spell the region has cast on you.

Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve

Welcome to the majesty and grandeur of Muir woods without the crowds. Hikes range in difficulty from leisurely walks to experts only. The one mile loop is enough to get a feel for the forest without taking up an entire day. Walking among this quiet grove of these thousand-year-old Sequoia trees, the golden hour light streaming through the branches, you can’t help but feel calm and reflective.

Boon Hotel + Spa

At the foot of the Redwood forest and a quick walk from the budding Main Street of downtown Guerneville, you’ll find this sweet morsel of a hotel. Every detail is curated to create the perfect getaway retreat. Tastemaker and owner Christa Luedtke is also owner and chef at Boon’s nearby restaurant serving up fresh, delicious fare. On especially good days you can find the hotel’s namesake, a friendly black and white mutt, sunning by the pool or rolling in the grass.

Wildflour Bakery

On your way back to the city, you’ll have to make a slight detour off the beaten path to get here, but bread like this doesn’t come easy. Head down the twisty Bohemian Highway into the small lot of this homespun bakery. Hear the cows mooing in the pasture across the road as you wander through the organic garden nibbling on a scone still warm from the oven. It’s the perfectly idyllic snack for a leisurely drive back to the city.

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