Q: Do you have any tips for packing light? —Carol Sanders, Macon, Ga.
A: “Before you go, lay out your pieces and play mix-and-match to determine which ones work in the most possible combinations. A cashmere cardigan, for example, goes just as well with jeans as it does over a sleeveless dinner dress. I suggest sticking to a neutral palette with a splash of color. If you’re headed to a casual beach destination, roll your clothes to maximize space; if your trip calls for formal wear, fold and layer each item with tissue paper to reduce wrinkles. And while you may be tempted to bring a different pair of shoes for every look, limit yourself to just one pair of flats and one pair of heels—and pack them heel-to-toe to conserve space.” —T+L associate fashion editor Catherine Crate
Q: We’re spending a weekend in St. Petersburg for the first time, and are planning a visit to the Hermitage. What other cultural stops should we include on our itinerary? —Tom Hill, Layton, Utah
A: According to A-List agent Greg Tepper, the palatial Russian Museum, in the central district, has a 400,000-piece collection showcasing everything from folk art to contemporary masterpieces (one highlight: painter Ilya Repin’s Barge Haulers on the Volga). A 40-minute stroll south along the Moika River is the 1860 Mariinsky Theater, where the Kirov ballet troupe performs in the golden Main Hall. And off the beaten path, on the banks of the Fontanka River, the Stieglitz Museum explores the evolution of Russian and Western applied arts from the 16th through the early 20th centuries.
Q: I’ve heard that some airlines delete your frequent-flier miles without notice. How do I protect mine? —Lynn Jones, Bangor, Maine
A: Many carriers, including American Airlines and US Airways, wipe all miles from accounts that have been inactive for 18 months. Here are three easy ways you can keep them current. First, update the mailing and e-mail addresses on your airline accounts to ensure that statements—which may or may not contain an expiration date—arrive safely in your in-box. Sign up for free Web services, such as awardwallet.com, which keep track of sneaky expiration dates and notify you when it’s time to update. Finally, register your credit card with your airline; programs such as AAdvantage eShopping earn you miles every time you shop and reset the clock on your expiration dates the same way booking a flight does.
Q: Can you recommend any wineries in California where guests can participate in the wine-making process? —Dan Carter, Sedona, Ariz.
A: There are several estates that offer experiential classes year-round. Groups blend Bourdeaux-style varietals (Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon) as part of two-hour seminars at Napa’s Bourassa Vineyards. Tablas Creek Vineyard (lessons from $20) runs a development series that culminates in an outdoor excursion to plant and prune vines. And if you’re looking to splurge, head to Judd’s Hill (lessons from $195, plus $6,500 per barrel), where you can blend three varietals into a barrel—that’s the equivalent of 288 bottles, which can be shipped home after a year of aging.
Housed in the Mikhailovsky Palace, the Russian works here—which include 6,000 religious icons—makes an interesting complement to the Hermitage's foreign treasures. Liszt and Berlioz gave private concerts in the impressive White Column Hall, a music parlor dating from the 1820's. It's the only room that hasn't been altered to make way for the art and still has the original details: gilt furniture, friezes alive with dancing cherubs, and a parquet floor of ebony, mahogany, and birch.
Built in 1733 and capped with a distinctive golden needle, the 400-plus-foot spire is a landmark of the Petersburg skyline. It's also a mausoleum for Russia's royal family, containing the remains of every czar from Peter the Great on. Make sure to catch a perfromance of the Kirov ballet troupe, who performs in the golden Main Hall.
Explore the evolution of Russian and Western applied arts from the 16th through the early 20th centuries.
Despite an exterior that resembles a nondescript storage facility, this winery’s tasting room has a surprisingly romantic interior with dim lighting, candelabras, and white draperies. With encouragement from wine mogul Robert Mondavi, owner Vic Bourassa decided to grow only the grapes from his favorite region, Bordeaux, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. The winery is also one of few in Napa to adopt the Spanish port-making system known as solera, which blends new and old vintages for a more complex product. Tastings are available by appointment and include a trip to the nearby barrel cooperage Seguin Moreau.
Tablas Creek Vineyard
The winery runs a development series that culminates in an outdoor excursion to plant and prune vines.
You can blend three varietals into a barrel—that’s the equivalent of 288 bottles, which can be shipped home after a year of aging. (lessons from $195, plus $6,500 per barrel)