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Napa and Sonoma Travel Guide

Special-Interest Tours

Bicycling Tours

Biking tours of the Wine Country range from one-day excursions to weeklong vacations with lavish picnic lunches, leisurely dinners, and stays at some of the region's fanciest inns. You might pay less than $100 for a half- or full-day trip; multiday excursions can cost $250 to $500 per day, including accommodations.

Some companies, such as Backroads, provide guides and lay out extravagant picnics, whereas others will set you up with everything you need and transfer your luggage, but otherwise leave you alone. Napa & Sonoma Valley Bike Tours offers afternoon and all-day tours of wineries, vineyards, and other sights. One tour starts with an early-morning balloon ride. Wine Country Bikes, based in Healdsburg, specializes in Sonoma trips.

Tours

Backroads (800/462–2848. www.backroads.com.)

Napa & Sonoma Valley Bike Tours (707/251–8687 for Napa trips; 707/996–2453 for Sonoma trips. www.napavalleybiketours.com.)

Wine Country Bikes (707/473–0610 or 800/922–4537. www.winecountrybikes.com.)

Culinary Tours

Tours usually include one or more of the following: cooking classes, festive dinners at fine restaurants, excursions to local markets, and the opportunity to meet some of the area's top chefs. Tours can last from a few days to a week and start at around $500 per day, accommodations included. Epiculinary's tours have a strong emphasis on cooking workshops. Food & Wine Trails develops customized tours for its clients.

Tours

Epiculinary (707/815–1415. www.epiculinary.com.)

Food and Wine Trails (800/367–5348. www.foodandwinetrails.com.)

Winery Tours

With several million visitors to the Wine Country every year, dozens of tour companies have sprung up to provide tours. Many of these companies are well organized and will chauffeur you to places you might not otherwise find on your own. Whether you're content to tour the Wine Country in a full-size bus with dozens of other passengers or you want to spring for your own private limo to take you to your favorite wineries, there are plenty of operators who can accommodate you. If you know the wineries, regions, or even the grape varietals that interest you, these operators can help you develop a satisfying itinerary. All visit both Napa and Sonoma wineries.

Most companies offer a range of tours, usually lasting five to seven hours and stopping at four or five wineries. Rates vary widely, from $80 per person for a day of touring to $250 or more, depending on the type of vehicle and whether the tour includes other guests. You can also book a car and driver by the hour for shorter trips. Rates for limos generally run from $50 to $85 per hour, and there's usually a two- or three-hour minimum. A typical California Wine Tours outing takes in small and large wineries and includes a tour of the wine-making facilities at one of the stops. The rates include some tasting fees but not lunch. Local concierges wholeheartedly recommend the first-class Perata Luxury Tours & Car Services, whose staffers ask clients about their preferences, then create customized tours that nearly always earn raves. Rates don't include tasting fees or lunch. The owners of Platypus Wine Tours pride themselves on delivering a "fun" experience at off-the-beaten-path wineries. The fee includes lunch but not tasting fees.

You can tour the region "at your own pace" at Valley Wine Tours, which specializes in historic, family-owned wineries. Rates include tasting fees and a vineyard gourmet picnic lunch—on china with cloth napkins, no less. If you want to meet a guy who loves his work, book a tour with the personable Woody Guderian, owner of Woody's Wine Tours. You'll have a blast, mostly at small wineries, and learn a lot. Woody also conducts tours of craft-beer breweries. Tasting fees and lunch are not included in the rates.

Tours

Perata Luxury Tours & Car Services. Perata's customized private tours, led by well-trained, knowledgeable drivers, are tailored to its patrons' interests—you can create your own itinerary or have your guide craft one for you. Tours, in luxury SUVs, cover Napa and Sonoma. The options include exclusive, appointment-only boutique wineries. 707/227–8271. www.perataluxurycarservices.com. From $325 per day, plus fuel surcharge ($25–$35), tasting fees, and 18% gratuity charge.

Platypus Wine Tours. The emphasis at Platypus is on "fun" experiences at off-the-beaten-path wineries. Expect intimate winery experiences with jolly, well-informed guides. You can join an existing tour with other guests or book a private one. 707/253–2723. www.platypustours.com. From $99, excluding tasting fees.

Valley Wine Tours. Historic, family-owned wineries are the specialty of this Sonoma-based company that provides a gourmet picnic lunch—on china with cloth napkins, no less. The Valley Wine tour rate includes tasting fees. 707/975–6462. www.valleywinetours.com. From $135.

Woody's Wine Tours. The amiable, well-informed Woody Guderian favors small wineries but will customize a tour to suit your taste and budget. In addition to winery tours in both Napa and Sonoma, Woody also conducts tours of local craft breweries. 707/396–8235. www.woodyswinetours.com. From $80 per hr, excluding tasting fees.

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