ADVERTISEMENT

Sonoma: New free, wine-themed tours

By Amy Chen
January 27, 2022
blog_100105_winery_pano_original.jpg
Larry Levine

For the first time, a group of Sonoma County wineries are offering free, self-guided walks, letting you venture far beyond their tasting rooms. Since the start of the New Year, Sonoma Vineyard Adventures tours allow visitors to walk through the vines—an area that's normally off-limits to outsiders—at Balletto Vineyards, Matanzas Creek, Paradise Ridge, and Mauritson wineries.

The participating wineries have created paper guides that point out notable details along the clearly marked paths, each less than a mile long. For example, the Mauritson trail winds past rows of various grape varieties, including cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and sauvignon blanc. Other sights include essential equipment, such as a wind machine that protects vines from frost. You'll even spot the winery's crush pad, where more than 20 grape varieties are processed during harvest season. Run yearround, each tour ends in a tasting room so you can sample the final product.

The self-guided walking tours are all free; Mauritson offers a complimentary wine tasting, but Matanzas Creek, Paradise Ridge, and Balletto each charge $5 per tasting. The pilot program, developed by the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, may expand to other vineyards. Cheers to that.

EARLIER

Napa Valley: The CIA's new cooking classes

Wine Country Contenders: Four lesser known, well regarded wine regions

Keep reading
Inspiration

New York City is America's most visited city

New York City mayor Mike Bloomberg announced on Monday that the Big Apple drew more that 45 million tourists from here and abroad in 2009, becoming the number one tourist destination in America for the first time in 20 years. The city beat out competitor Orlando, which was number one in 2008. Although tourism to New York City did drop almost four percent in 2009, it wasn't the dreaded 10 percent that officials had predicted. The statistics are from Tourism Economics, a consulting firm. Just back from New York City? Going there soon? Check out our New York City page for tips and reviews, and leave your recommendations and questions in the comment field.

Inspiration

Readers' best wildlife photos

This may be the best "Readers' Best" slide show to date. From over 1,000 submissions, we picked 20 outstanding photos—including a fabulous Florida flamingo, gorgeous butterflies in Japan, and regal-looking penguins in the Falkland Islands. Check out the images in our slide show. RECENT READER SLIDE SHOWS Rainbows | Hawaii | National Parks STILL IN SEARCH OF… We're now collecting your photos of Mexico. Upload them through myBudgetTravel, tag them, and check back in the coming weeks for slide shows of the best submissions.

Inspiration

London pub guide (part 1)

Whiling away the hours over a pint of beer in a London pub is one of the city's most enjoyable pleasures. And it has been for centuries. The great 18th century writer, critic, and Londoner-about-town Dr. Johnson once wrote that "there is nothing which has yet been contrived by man by which so much happiness is produced as by a good tavern or inn." And London has more than 5,500 to choose from. Unlike their American counterparts, London pubs come in a bewildering variety. There are quiet "locals" (frequented by quiet locals) and rowdy chain pubs with pumping music and barely a space to sit. There are restaurant pubs serving everything from a ploughman's lunch (bread, a chunk of Stilton cheese, salad, and pickles) to those with a full foodie menu which are great at lunchtimes. And there are pubs with live music, gardens, galleries, and even theatres. The London pub in short is a catch-all space, where the cool English temperament is warmed by the national drink—beer. Choosing a beer is part of the art of enjoying a London pub. Unlike in an American bar, you will rarely find a drinks menu. Instead head to the bar and look at the taps. Lever taps (photographed above) pour brewer conditioned keg beers, stouts (like Guinness), or ciders (made from fermented apple juice). The tall taps with ceramic handles and badges pour "real ale." There are also bottles in refrigerated cases behind the bar—usually containing specialist and imported beers, such as Samuel Adams. And if you don't feel like something alcoholic, there are canned (and very rarely fresh) juices, cordials, and usually instant tea or coffee. But the real choice in a pub lies in the real ales, which are akin to micro-brewery beers back home. Real ale is a natural product brewed using traditional ingredients and left to mature in the cask (container) from which it is served in the pub, through a process called secondary fermentation. The process makes real ale unique amongst beers and gives it a distinct rich taste and aroma. There are some 2,500 different real ales in Britain produced by around 500 brewers. Ales tend to be cheaper than keg beers. Every year there are competitions run by the Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) to decide on the best ales in the country. Look out for a banner under the badge on the tap. Or ask the bar man. Beers come in pints or half-pints. Prices in a pub depends on the location as much as the kind of beer. Central London pubs and those closest to tourist attractions tend to be more expensive, of course. Local pubs tend to be cheaper. I'll do a list of some of the best in various categories in a later blog post. In the meantime, you may find recommendations at camra.org.uk. MORE Drink Beer Better Experts offer their tips Trip Coach: How can you save money on London's subways and buses? See Budget Travel's new London City page

Inspiration

New York City: Book now for Restaurant Week

New York City's winter Restaurant Week starts on January 25 (going through February 7), but you can make reservations now. Restaurant Week is a great value—a three-course meal for $24.07 at lunch and $35 at dinner. There are 260 restaurants participating this time around, including Cafe Boulud, Le Cirque, Mesa Grill, and Morimoto. See the full list with menus. A few disclaimers: Prices are person, and do not include beverage, gratuities, or taxes. Restaurant Week prices are valid at participating restaurants Monday through Friday (and sometimes Sunday, depending on the restaurant). And we suggest you book early—reservations usually disappear fast. Thanks to NewYorkology for the tip. Just back from New York City? Going there soon? Share your comments, recommendations, and questions on our New York City page.

ADVERTISEMENT