The Whimsical Celebrations of Wine Country

Gingerbread, lights, and special tastes? Winemakers know how to mark the occasion.


'TIS THE WEEK... when relatives descend in relatively large flocks, looking not only to commune with you and family and the season but to see a bit of the region, too. Truly, does any holiday traveler stick solely to the room that holds the Christmas tree? No way. They're out there making the most of the money they spent on their plane ticket, which means a little sightseeing, even as they see you. And if you're seeking unadulterated quintessential Californianess for your out-of-staters, of course you shall drive them into wine country, where they may marvel at our marvelous vineyards and purchase wines by the box (and, fingers crossed, one for you, their kind host). So what's on around the vines as the end of the year is on fast approach? Check out...

THE SONOMA VALLEY GINGERBREAD CONTEST: This is happening. Picture sweet sugary stuff shaped to pay tribute to area wineries. It's both cute and clever, and, yep, it isn't often that sweets outside of chocolate intersect with wine. This is a nicely festive happening, and it goes down the week following Christmas.

SONOMA VALLEY WINE TROLLEY: A trolley "brimming with garlands and lights" that tours a quartet of area wineries? Please. Put the relatives on that and much high-fiving shall ensue.

NAPA VALLEY WINE TROLLEY: Not to be outdone, the NV is rollin' festive, too, through Sunday, Dec. 22. Carolers, hot cocoa, and the vintageness of the cable car add to the merrymakery. This one takes a tour of Napa, rather than the wineries, but consider it a fine way to see the city and its homes outside of the winemaking biz. Head for the Oxbow Public Market and be there by 6:30 p.m., when the trolley heads out for a 90-minute spin.

YOUR FAVORITE WINERY, DRESSED UP: It's the rare vineyard that doesn't hang a bit of holly this time of year, but, honest? Most do it up, large-style, with gargantuan trees and piped-in holiday tunes. Regardless of where you and your crew land, count on Christmassy cheer to be found within. Oh, and wine, too, but you knew that, right?

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