Cozy Wine Times: Holiday in Carneros

A pre-Thanksgiving treat emphasizes tastings, new releases, and a VIP experience.

PRE-THANKSGIVING CONVIVIALITIES: How do you typically spend the weekend ahead of Thanksgiving? Do you roam from shop to shop, searching for that one low-mesh cheesecloth that you like, the one that keeps the turkey especially moist? Do you stand in various queues for the perfect pecan pie and/or the ideal bread for the ideal stuffing and/or the spicy red wine everyone liked three years ago and still ask about each and every holiday? Or do you think to yourself "a joyful and rested host is the most important element (outside of that amazing low-mesh cheesecloth)"? There's something to be said for approaching the gratefulest of occasions with an easygoing spirit, one that's recently steeped in a few gratitude-making outings and gatherings. Those outings are not difficult to find ahead on the weekend of Thanksgiving, as more destinations and hotels and wineries and attractions roll out the "let's get celebrating" carpet early. Really and truly, do not step away from the meal-planning and table-setting if you don't feel prepared (or, better yet, have pals to help), but if you're feelin' fine, and need friend-time away from the to-do lists, look to Carneros, and its many wineries, for a two-day lead-in to Thanksgiving week, a lead-in that's called...

HOLIDAY IN CARNEROS: It's a taste and eat and socialize affair at the wineries in and around Vineburg, and the dates are as pre-Thanksgiving-ish as pre-Thanksgiving gets: Saturday, Nov. 21 and Sunday, Nov. 22. There's a new VIP experience in 2015, and it includes a bus ride and a quartet of wineries, if you really totally absolutely want to shut down the thoughts for a few hours (because buzzy thoughts tend to increase tenfold around the holidays, as everyone knows). There's also a designated driver ticket, too, so invite and pay for a companion. Barrel tastings, the getting-to-know-of winemakers, and nice bites and wine-swishes are on the docket.

NO ONE BUT NO ONE... would say to ditch the holiday-making plans if you do need all weekend to prepare, but if you are more ahead than you think you are, ask a pal to venture to wine country with you. The pluses? You'll be more relaxed come Thanksgiving Day, since you didn't spend all of Saturday and Sunday in shop queues. And you may, just may, find a wine that's even better than that one spicy vino every one of your friends won't stop talking about, the label you can't remember from three years back. Could Carneros both free your busy mind from seasonal stress and help with the beverage end of things at your holiday dinner? It's food, and libation, for thought.

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