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Monday, April 13, 2009

Off Season Bargains in the Sonoma Wine Country

Spring is the perfect time for an off-season weekend in California's Sonoma Valley. Premium rates don't begin until just before the Memorial Day weekend.

Off-season extends from the end of harvest in November through mid-May. In December, January, and February there can be a bit of rain, which is good for the grapes. Even for visitors, the inclement weather adds to the valley's charms, especially with so many restaurants serving comfort food and great wines.

During March and April, day time temperatures hover in the mid 60's to low 70's, with the nights still in fireplace-cozy mid-40s. Only a few buds appear on the vines, but brilliantly colored wild flowers are already in full bloom.

Fields of bright yellow mustard plants spread as far as the eye can see. Tall green grasses wet from the coastal air surround mile after mile of still dormant, grape vines. The lifeless looking vines mask the vitality that will burst forth as the day time temperatures climb into the 70's.

To attract visitors, you'll find many hotels have lowered their room rates during the off-season. The Sonoma County Tourism Bureau's web site is a good guide to lodging, restaurants, and recreational opportunities. Calling around you'll discover who has discounted their rates.

Recently we enjoyed a long weekend with family and friends in Glen Ellen. We much prefer to stay in a rental home rather than a hotel. We have more privacy that way and because we can make our own meals, we save money in the long run.

With four couples we rented a house offered by Beautiful Places. The off-season rate for our weekend stay at Villa Andrea was discounted 20%. At some of their properties, stay three days and the fourth day is free.

Besides saving money, you'll also have a more relaxing time. Right now, you'll have Sonoma, Petaluma, Glen Ellen, Santa Rosa, Kenwood, Healdsburg, and Sebastopol and all their wineries pretty much to yourself.

With only light traffic on the main roads, there are no lines in the tasting rooms at popular wineries like the Benziger Family Winery, B.R. Cohn, Loxton Cellars and Tin Barn Vineyards. Fewer visitors means a wine maker like Bob Benziger has time to talk about the wines and even lead some of the tram rides through the vineyard himself.

Summer in Sonoma is glorious. But after this trip we discovered the pleasures of an off-season visit. We had better access to the wine makers. We had more leisure time because we weren't stuck in traffic jams and we were happy about spending less.

3 comments:

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

You've got that right. I was there exactly a year ago and all of my vacation shots look like what you have posted here - grey skies against rolling hills. It still manages to be magical though. I believe that heaven exists on earth. Its real estate stretches from San Francisco to Napa/Sonoma. I'm trying to be good so that I can get in someday.

Aaron said...

Great Post! Benziger is one of our favorite places, the tour where they explain how Bio-Dynamic farms are put together is great and of course the wine is out of site. I've actually been able to find it in a lot of the local stores as well.
Aaron ( delrey66.blogspot.com )

Lisa said...

You are absolutely right about bargains in Sonoma County during the off season.I have a blog about free and cheap things to do in Sonoma County, and during the winter/spring I can barely keep up. Also, if you go wine tasting then, you're more likely to be talking with the winemakers who are far to busy to be in the tasting rooms during crush. Check out: http://sonomaonthecheap.com/?s=wine+tasting+on+the+cheap