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07.22.09

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Phaedra

Days of Wine & Picnics

By P. Joseph Potocki

There's no shortage of winery picnic grounds scattered throughout the North Bay. Here are five choice spots matched with nearby picnic supply stops.

Bennett Valley Known for its lavender as well as its wine, Matanzas Creek Winery (6097 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa. 707.528.6464) is go-to perfect for a dog-day afternoon picnic. Tucked into a hillside oak grove just above the winery, picnickers lay out their spreads on stout wooden tables. Running water, a Bennett Valley vista and lots of cool, cool shade come comped with each table. Drive around Sonoma Mountain to the Glen Ellen Village Market (13751 Arnold Drive, Glen Ellen. 707.996.6728) for a toothsome selection of both ready-made and you-make-'em gourmet items.

Dry Creek Were there a picnicking paean for Preston of Dry Creek (9282 West Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg. 707.433.3372. N 38 39.287' W 122 55.338' Boho Cache Hint: Watch your weight), it would have Mother Earth fronting the Dead in a lullaby to pie-eyed dreamers. The winery prohibits parties over eight, meaning napping cats (a baker's dozen!) oft outnumber people. And speaking of bakers, Lou Preston is one doughboy supreme. Rip off hunks of Lou's fresh crusty round loaf and turn chewy bites into earthly perfection by sopping up puddles of estate EVOO. Uncork a bottle of chilled Preston Vin Gris, Grenache Blanc or Madam Preston. Add a pint of briny winery-cured Mediterranean olives. Bring food, if you must—the Dry Creek General Store (3495 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg. 707.433.4171) would do nicely—but indulging in Preston's own picked-daily organic veggies, for sale on the tasting room porch, is practically de rigueur. Afterwards, how 'bout a game of bocce ball and a slow romantic stroll through the gardens?

Russian River The Lynmar Winery (3909 Frei Road, Sebastopol. 707.829.3374) is a lifestyle stop for those whose picnic ideal is a $65 tour followed by a chef-prepared sit-down. What's for lunch? Try mixed greens, grilled Portobello mushrooms and Laura Chenel goat cheese drizzled with a citrus and white truffle oil dressing followed by Pinot-braised local lamb, steamed Austrian potatoes and Nantes carrots. It's all served up with bountiful Russian River Chards and Pinots. Do-it-your-selfers can tote along store-bought fixin's from Andy's Produce (1691 Gravenstein Hwy., Sebastopol. 707.823.8661). Lynmar has a redwood picnic grove, showcasing mountain, vineyard and wetland views.

Pt. Reyes Station It can be a real bad sign to see six-packs of beer prominently displayed on the shelves of a winery tasting room. Twin American mini-flags and assorted bric-a-brac pound home the point that this here ain't Sonoma, and it's as close to a Napa tasting room as a garden hose is to the Roman Baths. Still, there's something endearingly real about Marin County's Point Reyes Winery (12700 Hwy. 1. Friday–Monday. 800.516.1011). The Doughty family has been serving their wines for 70 odd years, and for five bucks they'll pour five wines and give up their patio for a picnic. And, hey, there's even a koi pond! Food-wise, stop at Tomales Bay Foods' gourmet barn (80 Fourth St., Point Reyes Station. 415.663.9335) for cheese and more.

Napa Valley A hillside beauty, Rutherford Hill Winery (200 Rutherford Hill Road, Rutherford. 707.963.1871) offers shaded tables scattered throughout its olive grove picnic grounds. The Napa Valley spreads out below. A tasting room and a wine cave lie mere yards away. What more's needed? Lunch, of course! Pick up fine freshly prepared food from Sunshine Food Market (1115 Main St., St Helena. 707. 963.7070).


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