Napa Golf Course at Kennedy Park ($31-$41; 707-255-4333) is half-parkland, half-links and has water threatening on sixteen holes. Robert Trent Jones Jr.'s Adobe Creek Golf Club ($20-$75; 707-765-3000) in Sonoma County features five lakes and bunkers galore. Foxtail Golf Club ($28-$48; 707-584-7766) completed a $3.5 million renovation this spring; of its two tracks, the North is the more testing. Well-regarded Sea Ranch Golf Links ($35-$70; 707-785-2468) is a long haul up the coast but has plenty of challenge and ocean views from every hole.
The Fountaingrove Golf & Athletic Club, Santa Rosa. Despite considerable length at almost 7,000 yards, this Ted Robinson design is less about grip-and-rip than ponder-and-plan as it meanders the small valleys in the Santa Rosa hills.
Mayacama Golf Club, Santa Rosa. Opened in August 2001, this ultraexclusive club devoted to the pleasures of wine and golf has twenty of the area's top vintners as members and was meticulously laid out by Jack Nicklaus through oak-studded hills and valleys. It's meant to be walked with a caddie and demands a thoughtful plan of attack and precise execution.
Napa Valley Country Club, Napa. The vivid back nine, completed in 1990 by Ronald Fream, is set atop the attractive bluffs east of the town of Napa. Vineyards, horse farms and oaks galore surround the front side, built in 1917.
Santa Rosa Golf & Country Club, Santa Rosa. A stately new clubhouse overlooks this flatlands course, which recently completed several improvements; fifteen greens were replaced and a handful of fairway bunkers added.
Fly into San Francisco or Oakland; the latter's airport (serviced by Alaska, American, Continental, Delta, Jet Blue and Southwest) is far easier to navigate. Spring and fall are the best seasons for a visit—the winters can be wet and the summers sweltering. Fall harvest season is an especially big draw: Both counties celebrate with mass tastings, community fairs, free concerts and open-air markets.
The more chic, smaller and expensive of the two counties, Napa occupies an inland valley that stretches roughly from the town of Napa north to Calistoga. It's virtually carpeted with vineyards offering tastings—some free, but many now charge. Sonoma is more relaxed and varied. The tiny burgh of Sonoma sits at the foot of the Valley of the Moon, made famous by Jack London. The county's western half is less celebrated but rich with redwood forests, the Pacific Coast, the Russian River Valley and vineyards—pinot noirs from the Russian River area are giving those from Carneros a run with the critics. Healdsburg, near the northern end, now challenges Sonoma town as the hot spot for shopping and dining.
Tours vary from vineyard to vineyard and top out at around an hour. The most thorough ones are generally the province of the biggest producers and often involve a fee. In return, a guide will walk you through a portion of the field, explaining how the vines are pruned and harvested, then show off the plant where machines press the grapes and the wines are aged in huge vats or barrels. The best guides clearly explain harvesting cycles, the aging of wines, how the winemakers test the wine to determine such things as sugar and alcohol content, and even how blends such as Meritage are formulated.
The raison d'être of visiting a vineyard, of course, is the tasting. Among our favorites are Niebaum-Coppola Estate Winery (800-782-4266), Beringer Vineyards (707-963-4812) and Robert Mondavi Winery (888-766-6328) in Napa County and Ferrari-Carano Vineyards & Winery (707-433-6700) in Sonoma County. For more information about area wines and tours, visit napavintners.com, napavalley.com and sonoma.com/wineries.
Beaulieu Vineyard, 1960 St. Helena Highway, Rutherford; 707-967-5200.
Beringer Blass Wine Estates, 2000 Main Street, St. Helena; 707-963-7115.
Cakebread Cellars, 8300 St. Helena Highway, Rutherford; 800-588-0298.
Caymus Vineyards, 8700 Conn Creek Road, Rutherford; 707-967-3010.
Domaine Chandon, 1 California Drive, Yountville; 707-944-2280.
Freemark Abbey Winery, 3022 St. Helena Highway North, St. Helena; 800-963-9698.
Grgich Hills Cellar, 1829 St. Helena Highway, Rutherford; 800-532-3057.
Niebaum-Coppola, 1991 St. Helena Highway, Rutherford; 800-782-4266.
Robert Mondavi Winery, 7801 St. Helena Highway, Oakville; 888-766-6328.
Silverado Vineyards, 6121 Silverado Trail, Napa; 707-257-1770.
StagÕs Leap Wine Cellars, 5766 Silverado Trail, Napa; 707-944-2020.
Clos du Bois, 19410 Geyserville Avenue, Geyserville; 800-222-3189.
Davis Bynum Winery, 8075 Westside Road, Healdsburg; 800-826-1073.
Ferrari-Carano Vineyards & Winery, 8761 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg; 707-433-6700.
Geyser Peak Winery, 22281 Chianti Road, Geyserville; 707-857-9463.
Gloria Ferrer Champagne Caves, 23555 Highway 121, Sonoma; 707-933-1917.
J Vineyards and Winery, 11447 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg; 707-431-3646.
Rodney Strong Vineyards, 11455 Old Redwood Highway, Healdsburg; 707-431-1533.
Schug Carneros Estate Winery, 602 Bonneau Road, Sonoma; 707-939-9363.
Sebastiani Vineyards & Winery, 389 Fourth Street East, Sonoma; 800-888-5532.
Seghesio Family Vineyards, 14730 Grove Street, Healdsburg; 707-433-3579.
The region's culture is steeped in a love of the outdoors. Hikers conquer Mount St. Helena or just stroll through the 300-foot redwoods of Armstrong Woods a few miles north of Guerneville. Bikers travel the valleys and climb the coastal range to get to the waterfront, as do equestrians, who gallop through the mist of breaking waves along several cliff-lined beaches. The Russian River, home to a vast medley of wildlife, is ideal for kayaking and canoeing. Boating, deep-sea fishing, rock climbing, hang gliding, skydiving and surfing are all in full swing from spring through fall. Dozens of organizations can get you properly equipped; ask your concierge for recommendations.
With so much focus on gourmandism and rigorous recreation, it's no surprise that spas are wildly popular. The town of Calistoga in the north end of Napa Valley is practically afloat atop thermal hot springs popular with visitors since Native Americans lived here, but yoga classes, mineral waters, hot tubs, mud baths, body wraps, facials and massages can be found just about anywhere in either county. For something different, try the Osmosis Enzyme Bath and Massage (707-823-8231, osmosis.com) in Freestone, a fifteen-minute drive from the Links at Bodega Harbour, which specializes in a traditional Japanese "soak" in a mix of cedar fibers, rice bran and plant enzymes that heats naturally through fermentation.