Drink & Be Merry in California’s Wine Country This Holiday Season
It’s a win-win situation. Or wine-wine, as the case may be: You get a scenic search for your favorite new holiday pours, and Northern California’s wine country gets much needed support. After the devastating fires that swept through parts of Napa, Sonoma, and Solano Counties, the vast majority of the region is open for business, serving up endlessly fun — and delicious — ways to celebrate the season:
Meet Santa on the Napa Valley Wine Train
Nov. 18 – Dec. 29
The stunning Napa Valley Wine Train, which offers winery tours throughout the year, becomes a family-friendly party on wheels right about now — and Santa’s the headliner. Aboard these antique Pullman rail cars, you’ll find holiday-themed games, singalongs, cookies and — naturally — a few well-chosen varietals (red, white and bubbly) for the grownups. (Note: No trains run Christmas Eve or Day.)
Holidays in Yountville
Nov. 20 – Dec. 31
Foodie heaven on viticultural earth, this Michelin star-spangled town is about to get extra twinkly. Thousands of little lights will soon form a backdrop for the likes of holiday food and wine tours, carriage rides, cocktail-making classes — or just ridiculously good celebratory meals at The French Laundry, Bouchon, Redd and Etoile at Domaine Chandon (the Michelin gang of four).
“Holidays in Healdsburg” Tour in Sonoma County
Nov. 25 – Dec 31
Take a guided walking tour of the beautifully bedecked downtown Healdsburg, where you’ll find carolers, carriages and cocoa aplenty. To say nothing of the neighborhood’s 30+ wineries, tasting rooms and wine bars.
Holiday Open House in Sonoma Valley
Raise a glass to the holidays at this two-day celebration, which showcases more than 20 beloved local wineries. Beyond vino, you’ll find food pairings, live music and arts shows.
Head to the celebrated Mission-style winery for an afternoon of buggy rides through the vineyard, carolers, appetizers and, obviously, wine. And the $25 admission will be waived for those who — in true holiday spirit — come bearing donations for the Napa Valley Food Bank.
Winter in the Wineries Passport in Calistoga
Dec. 2 – Feb. 4
This annual winter passport is a great way to explore the wines of Calistoga in Napa Valley. The $60 passport entitles you to free tastings at 17 wineries in the region plus discounts at local hot springs and hotels. It also make a great holiday gift.
Napa Valley Wine Trolley “Holiday Light Tours”
Fridays-Sundays, Dec. 8-23
Before you take this vintage trolley through the twinkle-lit Victorian neighborhoods of downtown Napa, fuel up for the onboard singalong at the departure point: the Oxbow Public Market, home to legendary food and wine offerings.
This 13th-century-inspired Tuscan castle winery is open for tours and tastings throughout the holidays (except Dec. 25), but the piece de resistance is the “Great Gatsby”-themed New Year’s Eve bash. Don your roaring-est ‘20s attire for a night of flowing wine, lavish dinner courses, live jazz and a Spumante toast to — holy wine barrels! — 2018.
Danny Jensen is a LA-based freelance writer and photographer covering food, lifestyle and travel.