Top Travel Destinations for 2015: Close to Home

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A quiet walk in Napa.

Napa Valley

Raise a Glass – and Your Health.

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Enjoy private tours and tastings with a master sommelier.
Perfect pairings.

By Aaron Gulley
 
“Northern California is perfect for travelers who want to go to Tuscany or Provence but don’t have the time or budget,” explains Virtuoso’s Janet McLaughlin, who grew up in the Bay Area and now lives in Cincinnati. Ready for discovery this year: Recently opened tasting rooms from Tank Garage Winery and The Grade and Romeo Cellars in Calistoga, and in Napa, Atlas Social, which opens on First Street this month with a raw bar, specialties that include a soy-ginger-glazed quail, and, of course, great wines by the glass.
 
Go: Sample Napa with Cox & Kings’ five-day trip through Northern California. Sit down with a master sommelier just hours after departing San Francisco, take a walking tour of an artisan cheese farm, and head to Tomales Bay for a private tasting and tour of Hog Island Oyster Co. The private trip includes exclusive cellar and barrel tastings and optional reservations at two of the area’s most acclaimed venues, The Restaurant at Meadowood and The French Laundry.
 
Beyond the Corkscrew
“The region isn’t just for wine enthusiasts,” McLaughlin says. “There’s excellent shopping – for instance, the quirky home goods at Napa’s Liken Gallery – and beautiful hiking and biking trails for stretching your legs.” Two recommendations: Robert Louis Stevenson State Park’s 11-mile Palisades Trail hike, which trends mostly downhill through coniferous forest, grasslands, and chaparral to Calistoga; for cyclists, the course for Santa Rosa’s GranFondo charity ride offers 100 miles – and plenty of options to cut it short – on quiet country roads. The full route, which rolls through wheat fields down to the Pacific coast, is as good all year as it is on the day of the event (October 3).

Top 10 Travel Destinations for 2015:
  1. Europe for Less: The Balkans
  2. Honeymoons: French Polynesia or Maldives
  3. Culture: Milan
  4. Safari: South Africa
  5. The Emerging Destination: Myanmar
  6. City Escape: Paris
  7. Supernatural Nature: The Galapgos
  8. Family Travel: Costa Rica
  9. Close to Home: Napa Valley (You are here!)
  10. Adventure Travel: New Zealand
 
Originally appeared in Virtuoso Life magazine, January 2015.

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Vineyard bounty.