Sonoma at harvest time — Photo courtesy of jessicafm
Many people dream of leaving behind the city grind to move to the country, tend a few acres of grape vines and produce a few bottles of their very own cabernet or pinot. While it may not be the most practical fantasy, it's easy to understand the appeal of something that may include bare feet, lots of Northern California sunshine and, of course, wine. Heading to Sonoma for crush is a great way to get a taste of the dream without giving up your day job. It's also a great excuse for a romantic getaway; take your crush to crush.
Crush can last just a few weeks or throughout September and October. It's possible to learn each minute detail of harvest - how grapes are picked, collected, crushed and how the wine is made. Others may prefer to simply take part in the celebration that goes on in the valley by eating delicious, elaborate and festive meals, tasting newly uncorked wines and basking in the crush-time buzz.
Romantic room at Hotel Healdsburg — Photo courtesy of Hotel Healdsburg
Whether you're there to learn or to romantically revel, activities are spread throughout the valley in different towns and at different wineries. The Hotel Healdsburg, in the heart of Sonoma County, is an ideal place to call home for as long as you can stay. The calm, luxurious hotel is in downtown Healdsburg - cool, casual and right in the middle of the action.
Along with its great location, it offers a top-notch spa with locally inspired treatments like wine and honey wraps, a heated pool and a courtyard that's great for gathering. A day at the spa or an evening at the pool could be the perfect way to set the mood. Its restaurant, Dry Creek Kitchen, is part of the Charlie Palmer group and a destination in itself - be sure to try the 'Sonoma Neighbor Menu.'
Hotel Healdsburg event green — Photo courtesy of Hotel Healdsburg
The festivities kick off over Labor Day (August 31 to September 2) with 2012 Sonoma Wine Country Weekend, an organized event that features a full schedule of lunches, dinner parties and barbecues that take place at different wineries throughout the region. Additionally, more than 170 wineries and 60 chefs participate in 'Taste of Sonoma," one of the weekend's showcase events at MacMurray Ranch in Healdsburg. Tickets go on sale beginning in June and the whole weekend is capped off with a wine auction.
For those who can't make it to Sonoma for Wine Country Weekend, there's plenty going on throughout all of Crush and harvest. Check out Sonoma Grape Camp in October if you really want to get your hands on the grapes, or grape stomps hosted by different vineyards, if you would rather go feet first. If the Hotel Healdsburg is all booked up, consider their sister property H2Hotel, also right downtown, with a funkier, more eco-focused vibe.