Category: Travel


Germany

There are so many places to visit in Germany. While Berlin is a must stop of course, places like Dresden, Aachen, Cologne, and Dusseldorf have their own unique personalities as well.

This is the really time to visit this European destination from the Windy City. There are now nonstop flights offered from Chicago on Germany’s second largest airline airberlin.

Without a first class, business class was a treat to experience with perks like massage seats that flatten out for complete relaxation. It was much like having your own private room with many of the comforts of home. The time literally flew by. I found myself trying to stay awake not to miss anything from champagne toasts (just say Prost) to a gourmet menu.

Upon landing it was a short trip to downtown Berlin. This is the largest city in Germany and the capital. It is full of museums and contains over 1,000 events to choose from every day. Art collections, food festivals and theaters are just the beginning.

While there are many in the world, The Intercontinental contains one of the best pools and spas in Berlin. The rooms use darker decor making them look very modern with bright views of the city.

Head out on the town starting at The Brandenburg Gate, actually a former city gate rebuilt in the late 18th century. What a photo op spot it makes today.

Just down the street is the Berlin Zoological Garden the most visited zoo in Europe with about three million people stopping by every year. Close to 20,000 species of animals makes the high price worth it for a chance to gawk at them.

Take in bits of the Berlin wall with a nearby museum depicting the holocaust. In the park there is a memorial to the murdered Jews with a special separate monument for gay visitors across the street.

Nightlife is a major part of visiting Berlin. Begin the night singing with the sports crowd at Tucholsky or visit the newly opened Hamburger Mary’s attached to the LGBT AXEL Hotel for specialty drinks and kitsch.

Look for a furry covered lounge to mix and mingle at Heile Welt or only a block away two for one drinks are offered at Tom’s Bar. Tourists will be transported back in time with a strict door policy and darkroom in the back. Watch your wallet and use common sense while having a good time in the neighborhood.

Public transportation was a snap in the city with the Berlin WelcomeCard and can be used for discounts with 200 partners. This made traveling easy and affordable to the diverse neighborhoods in the area.

While traveling to different areas in Germany each region had its own character and charm, such as Dresden near the Czech border.

For starters the boutique Innside Dresden has 180 modern sleek rooms making it a must stop. Upstairs Twist bar mixes up custom made cocktails complete with a nice view. Ven, the in house restaurant had some of the best food of the entire trip. The breakfast buffet brilliantly served churros alongside chocolate covered pancakes making dessert a part of starting off the day. Many hotels offered wellness rooms where travelers may just lay down on a lounge chair in their robe and listen to soothing tunes. Saunas and exercise rooms came standard with many hotels but were never taken for granted after walking all day.

Dresden, known for music and opera, will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the birthplace of Richard Strauss in 2014. This is a strong area for dance performance and plans are afoot for special art collections for next year including one covering Egypt.

Take a peek into the Historic Green Vault that has an interesting mechanism to keep jewelry thieves from running out the door or if you are hungry head to Sophienkeller, there’s even a carousel inside the restaurant to accompany traditional heavy German food.

There is a night walk tour where spectators can take a behind the scenes look at the artist community then sample drinks that are popular with the locals in the nearby 140 bars and pubs.

Close by is Cologne offering an incredible gay nightlife that surrounding towns cannot rival. It has a 2,000-year history making it the oldest major city in Germany. There are 12 cathedrals right in the center of the city.

Take boat ride on the Rhine and stop at The Chocolate Museum or the Farina Fragrance Museum for the samples alone. You will learn how cocoa grows or leave smelling like a rose.

The Cologne Pride festival kicks up its heels in July with countless events and street parties.

The Hilton Dusseldorf is a fine place to stay even if it is a little off the beaten path or just hop over to the Breidenbacher Hof in the Konigsallee district. This five star hotel is where many celebrities stay when they are in town including Beyonce and Pink, who cooked a thanksgiving turkey in their kitchen while on tour.

Walk outside the door to shopping in every direction. From upscale retail stores to resale shops there is something for everyone. This shopping district almost had an H&M on every corner. Look for Gucci, Burberry, and Chanel.

If the is out of your price range then get a piece of the past by visiting The Alstadt or Old Town section of the city. There are microbrews for the sipping and art collections for the viewing while in the part of town.

A trip to Aachen showed us the inside of the cathedral where Charlemagne resided. The narrow streets led to the best gingerbread in Germany along with creatively sculpted fountains in this quaint neck of the woods. Even in the smaller towns locals seemed to have no trouble with English as long as you speak slowly and have patience.

It was difficult to say auf Wiedersehen but it was finally time to leave. American Airlines flew us home on only the third direct flight ever from Dusseldorf to Chicago. The staff and service were both top notch making the jet lag manageable after a quick nap in the reclining seats.

A week later my system got used to the five-hour time change back to Central time but the memories will never be left behind.

With direct flights, historic sights, and hearty bites, a return trip sounds right!

For more information on planning your next adventure to Germany check out www.visitBerlin.com.

Sunny San Diego

As the seasons change in Chicago sometimes it is just nice to get away to a place where temperatures are more consistent. San Diego offers sun, and tons of fun to the West Coast visitor.

California runs the gamut from kooky people to the snobbish rich Hollywood elite but this region seemed to have none of that. There was a down to earth feeling from locals that rivaled the Midwest in terms of realness and friendliness.

It’s really not a bad flight from Illinois and under four hours thanks to American Airlines riding the clouds on a good day. Car rentals weren’t mandatory but probably a good idea even though many of the attractions were within walking distance of accommodations at Inn at the Park. This centrally located boutique hotel is currently being renovated and updated. The beautiful suite where I stayed was a cozy purple color with retro yet modern furnishings including electronic window coverings and full kitchen. On the top seventh floor is a weekly LGBT happy hour where new friends view the entire city and mingle to music.

Gay nightlife is incredibly vibrant in San Diego. Urban Mo’s Bar & Grill got a sex change when new owner took over the Hamburger Mary’s chain and is now a “hetero friendly restaurant.” This turns into a big dance party that is packed until closing. Guests then head over to Rich’s dance club where go-go boys shake their moneymakers to the beat of DJs manning the turntables. Other more tranquil spots in the gayborhood include Martini’s Above Fourth for an older crowd or Flicks for sports and videos.

Balboa Park is dubbed the “Smithsonian of the West” with 15 major museums included on the grounds. It was almost overwhelming there are so many tourist attractions. Start first with the Museum of Man or Museum of Art before heading over to the San Diego Zoo. Taking a bus tour around the animal playground then head back to your favorite spots by foot. The panda exhibit was adorable as crowds lined up to see the little bear eat some bamboo.

It may be difficult to compete with the rich theater world in New York or Chicago but San Diego makes a strong statement with offerings at the Old Globe. Audiences in the past have been treated to the likes of Chita Rivera and Kathy Najimy in this historic venue. This time out it was Star Trek’s George Takei, Miss Saigon’s Lea Salonga, and Glee’s Telly Leung forming a trio in the Broadway bound production of Allegiance. The Globe is in the heart of the park putting on top-notch shows that are not to be missed.

The Hillcrest Brewing Company was a lively place to dine that evening being the first gay brewery in the world. The craft beers complimented the pizza and salad contributing to the overall friendly staff and spot on service.

A short two-mile drive the next morning landed me on Coronado Island. The legendary Hotel del Coronado is the property to stay at there. It is a huge complex with restaurants located inside such as 1500 Ocean. Amazing food and sangria add to an elegant experience in this signature restaurant that uses fresh ingredients from its herb garden. The award winning brunch on Sundays is a must with action stations ranging from breakfast to seafood and desserts. After letting all that food settle try surf lessons or rent a bike to explore more of the island. Nearby is the Lamb’s Players Theatre to take in a show on Orange Avenue. Across the street is homemade ice cream and one of the best restaurants around called Leroy’s Kitchen. Stone smoked porter short ribs are just one of the delicacies that make up a menu of locally sourced eclectic food. Staff members were not only knowledgeable but made diners feel at home with a laid back attitude that was in keeping many San Diego folks.

With temperate weather, a soothing attitude, and overall warm feeling to the area, this is the perfect time to head out West for a break from the cold.

Book a hot getaway today with more information at www.sandiego.org.

Cruisin’

Now that summer has finally arrived let’s go jump in the lake! Odyssey Cruises is once again offering brunch, lunch, or dinner opportunities on their ship, this time with upgrades.

A two million dollar renovation kicks off this year with new furniture, plasma TVs, and DJs to keep the crowds dancing. A celebrity chef inspired menu is now available with chicken and beef short ribs for nighttime dining. Surf and Turf is also an option for an additional charge. For dessert fondue is offered with a variety of treats to dip.

For libations there is now an expanded microbrew selection, a new wine list, and a complimentary citrus champagne cocktail as guests board on dinner cruises.

It is the perfect time to book your 4th of July cruise and see the fireworks or celebrate Father’s Day in a whole new way. There are special themed cruises for events such as the Air & Water Show weekend or pasta lunches for specific styled cuisine.

Join the celebration club for anniversaries, weddings, or birthdays with a quick online form and impress your family and friends.

Navy Pier visitors have such an opportunity with cruises like this one to make a little getaway and take a break from life on the mainland. Guests of the Odyssey will be seeing the Chicago skyline on a whole new angle in no time!

Visit www.odysseycruises.com or call 888-957-2326 for booking information today.

Located in the Northeastern part of the United States, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania makes a nice getaway from Chicago without the high price of New York or the long flight to Los Angeles. American Airlines jetted over to Philly in a little over an hour making the trek through the security almost a bigger ordeal than the travel time.

Upon landing there were several options to reach downtown. There is the Airport Express train, a van shuttle called Lady Liberty, or a taxi of course. With parking being difficult and most attractions being in walking distance there is no need to rent a car.

There are many great options for places to stay from the small boutique Alexander Inn to the immense 585-room Loews Philadelphia Hotel. The view from the immense hotel looked out over the whole city with a gorgeous view from the 26th floor.  Start off the day downstairs at the SoleFood Restaurant with a breakfast of Philly cheesesteak and eggs.

Visitors will need a full stomach to walk up the Benjamin Franklin Parkway where museums and galleries are within blocks of each other. Late art collector Albert Barnes has a gallery as it was originally laid out in the new Barnes Foundation building holding the world’s largest collection of Impressionist and Modern paintings in the world. Next door is the Rodin Museum with huge sculptures such as The Thinker and others displayed inside and out in the courtyard.

Run up the steps from the Rocky movie to the Philadelphia Museum of Art where an Asian exhibit runs currently filling room after room.

If you don’t mind kids The Franklin Institute is hands-on for everyone or the Please Touch Museum continues that example with the Walking Piano from the movie Big.

The liberty bell might surprise some with its small size but big historical value at the Liberty Bell Center and the nearby park holds special event sometimes such as an opera presentation while I was there.

For lunch check out the Reading Terminal Market with Amish delicacies and Philly cheesesteaks made with Cheese Wiz.

Afterwards dive into history with the U.S. Constitution museum at the National Convention Center or the Free Library celebrating the 200th birthday of English writer Charles Dickens.

For dinner don’t even think about missing El Vez the Mexican-American restaurant that combines kitsch with excellent food from a variety of guacamoles to carne asada over a creamed corn  tomatillo escabeche. You will say “¡Olé!” after a pitcher of flaquita margaritas. Agave nectar is the way to go!

This establishment puts a traveler in the perfect location to check out the gay bars afterwards. Entitled the “Gayborhood” by locals this area gets hopping after 10 p.m. Woody’s has country line dancing upstairs with mix and mingling downstairs with music videos in the background. Tavern on Camac brings back cabaret entertainment and a dance floor upstairs for later in the evening.  Sisters is not only a restaurant but a dance club for lesbian ladies on the go. Bike Stop has a four level leather scene to tease you with. Many like the old school Shampoo or for the younger crowd head to Icandy to get your groove on.

Associated with National Coming Out Day but debuting a few days before is OutFest Philadelphia. This massive street fair takes place between noon and 6 p.m. in the heart of the Gayborhood stretching from Walnut to Spruce Streets for three blocks.

Drawing more than 40,000 people each year this festival brings new attention to local businesses thanks to over 140 sponsors.

Highlights from 2012 include appearances by Gilbert Baker, who created the rainbow flag an

d Mimi Imfurst from RuPaul’s All Star Drag Race on the main stage at 13th and Locust.

The Midtown Village Festival packed the streets also the same weekend with a booths selling clothing such as Project Runway winner Jay McCarroll and food grilled out by local restaurants.

If you are around in October do not miss the Pennhurst Asylum full of surprises and scares. Originally a state school and hospital it has been turned into a haunted house with crowds lining up down the block. Some say the spirits of the people who died at the institution are still around today.

Another restaurant to check out nearby the scary place is London. It was packed with a massive drink list and full of comfort food for those that like to partake.

For brunch don’t hesitate to stop at Valanni with a bloody mary spiced rub garnished with shrimp and a Kobe beef brunch burger that made the whole room jealous.

Philadelphia is truly a city with art, food, and entertainment for everyone. It is a place where history and bustling tourism thrives, while remaining safe for LGBT folk in a big city and that is how the City of Brotherly Love treats their family. Start planning a trip today at wwww.visitphilly.com.

Known as a resort city, Puerto Vallarta is located near the Pacific Ocean in Mexico and is the sixth largest city in the state of Jalisco. It makes a worthy tourist destination with direct flights from Chicago on airlines like AeroMexico. Keep in mind carry-on luggage has to be checked because the cabin space is limited and small. The valet service allows the baggage to be picked up when exiting the plane not at the carousel. They don’t currently charge for the first checked bag or two depending on the destination like many other airlines.

When booking through a service like Apple Vacations much of the work is done for you. Upon arriving in foreign countries it is much less stressful to have a driver planned to transport you to your lodgings. Be wary of pirate taxi drivers or being overcharged for the amount of travel.

Located 15 minutes away from the airport is Secrets Vallarta Bay. This property has over 270 suites with marble floors and amenities such as a private Jacuzzi right on the balcony or a forest rain shower. The service was top notch with buffets at every turn and bartenders making pina coladas to keep guests cool from the high temperatures.

There are several restaurants in the resort to suit any craving from the French cuisine of Bordeaux to seafood at Oceana. In the afternoon the Barefoot Grill provides snacks poolside or just swim up to the bar for a frozen drink. Most employees speak some English and classes are even offered to help them improve on the resort property itself.

Pamper yourself in the spa with a massage then take an acupressure shower afterwards.

Secrets is maintained adult only so no little ones screaming or disturbing the peace are allowed. They are kept secluded to a separate resort next door, now that’s a secret I can keep!

Head over to Dreams Puerto Vallarta Resort for a Mexican fiesta dinner that is jaw dropping. This traditional cuisine has made to order ceviche, tacos, and traditional tres leches cake while a mariachi band entertain in the background. Outside on the beach guests have the opportunity to release baby turtles out in the wild. No flash photography please or the little turtle may be blinded before they make a break for a new life in the ocean!

There are so many nearby neighborhoods to explore such Sayulita where gift shops and restaurants abound. One European artist set up shop in a store called Revolucion del Sueno mixing Mexican history with different mediums such as t-shirts and paintings. Artists handcraft jewelry on the streets with a range of prices to serve any budget.

There is an Art Walk every Wednesday from October to May with creations in glass and ceramic. Beware when buying silver because sometimes it’s only silver-plated. No one likes spending your hard earned green on green skin! Speaking of dinero, while pesos are everywhere most places accept American cash or credit cards.

There are eight golf courses in the region if that’s your sport. With 80-degree weather almost year round the only thing to look out for is an occasional afternoon rain at times.

For the more adventurous person swing over and try a canopy tour. One of several to try is River Expedition over the Rio Cuale. Arrive at Canopy River then explore swinging down on lines across the trees for breathtaking views. Be prepared for shimmying across wires and diving into water on a zip line, even free falling off a cliff if you dare. Inner tubing and burros transport you back to the beginning to sample tequila, learn its history, then partake in lunch at the restaurant on property.

There are almost too many beaches to explore in the afternoons. Some are only reached by boat like Majahuitas.

Find the heart of rock and roll at the Hard Rock Hotel with spacious quarters complete with private balconies and a Brazilian grill at the restaurant downstairs. For entertainment visit a comedic show in the bar. While you are there bring on some Sammy Hagar’s tequila and margaritas!

Downtown Puerto Vallarta is the place to be at night with bars, restaurants, and cafes. The Parish Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe sits in the middle of the square forming a rich history to the area. Street performers are at every turn. After walking up and down beachside, stop off at Roo Night Club on the strip for retro music and strong drinks.

The gay area at the end of the touristy area is called Zona Romantica. Start off the night with La Noche and a martini to chill and meet locals. For dancing C.C. Slaughters is the place to be with Paco’s Ranch a close second with their drag shows and country western vibe. If you are looking for a shower show visit Wet Dreams but remember no girls allowed so leave your girlfriends behind.

The next morning Frontier Airlines flew us home turning into a party plane packed full of Apple Vacationers. Thanks to a lively crew, movies, and drinks, the trip back home was a breeze.

There is really something for every taste and walk of life in this part of Mexico. Some regions of this foreign land can be dangerous but there is plenty of security and police patrolling to keep visitors safe. Puerto Vallarta is on Central Time so no jet lag when traveling from Chicago providing the perfect escape from the winter blues. With Apple Vacations keeping things easy and simple so there is no excuse to book a getaway today. Don’t forget to pack your passport!

Book at www.applevacations.com/Chicago or visitpuertovallarta.com for more details today.

Vermont

Vermont may be known for being the leading producer of maple syrup but there is a lot more going on around there than watching tree sap drip.

Lying in the New England region in the northeast of the United States, “The Green Mountain State” is centrally located for tourism and travel.

The state is so well acclimated into the LGBT community that every bar has the possibility to be a gay bar. While some of the population is conservative most here were found to be very open-minded and liberal. Civil unions were passed back in 2000 way ahead of the United States curve as the first state to recognize it and Vermont was fourth in line to legalize gay marriage.

Flying jetblue was breeze with snacks and drinks for the short hop from Chicago to JFK to Vermont where I lost an hour with Eastern Time. Car renting right out of the airport was convenient and necessary in this part of the world where things are spread out on a scenic highway with foliage at every turn.

We drove to our lodging at the Moose Meadow Lodge tucked onto the side of a mountain. This homey bed and breakfast was full of taxidermied wildlife and paintings. We stayed in the cozy creel room dedicated to fly fishing complete with a private steam room and balcony overlooking the forest. The only thing that was missing was a fish smell and that was okay by me.

The gay owners continue to expand with a tree house chalet in the works overlooking a pond. Don’t miss a glorious uphill hike to see the mountains from an overhang pavilion that is not for the faint of heart.

Before dinner we visited the Grunberg Haus with its strong Austrian style that is owned by past straight member of the LGBT Tourism Board, Jeff Connor and his wife Linda. Over ten rooms along with separate outside cabins provide suites for guests. A bird feeder watch from their living room never got boring.

The Cider House BBQ & Pub had some of the best pulled pork I have ever tried but bring a bib for those messy tasty ribs. Don’t forget to spread some bourbon sauce on any morsel in sight and ask for Bubbles the server who will show you one of a kind service.

For lunch there is probably not a better hot spot than Simon Pearce’s The Loft named after the famous Irish glass blower. Located over a historic woolen mill diners can watch the hydroelectric turbine and waterfalls while consuming calamari salads or a delicious shepherd’s pie. The lamb burger was a treat after fans demanded its return to the menu but watch out for the juice!

Downstairs tourists can not only shop from the massive gift shop, but also watch a glass blowing demonstration. After a devastating flooding from Hurricane Irene, this place bounced back after only three weeks to maintain it’s historic look.

There are so many welcoming places for LGBT visitors to stay in Vermont including all green gay owned Deer Brook Inn in Woodstock. A moose even felt right at home there recently when he charged across the property to surprise guests. Where was that moose crossing sign when they needed it?

Just a two-minute drive from there was the Farmhouse Inn where 31 hens ran out to greet us upon arrival. A huge barn was turned into a party room projecting movies on the wall and hosting local bands to entertain folks that stay there. With bees and trees, honey and syrup are served fresh for breakfast for visitors staying in their seven rooms. Remove your shoes upon entering and no pets please, there are enough on the farm!

Speaking of parties, Killington was the place to be for drinking and carousing. The Killington Resort has the complete getaway package for any taste. Stretching across six mountains, these snowmakers extend the amount of ski time on their 3,000 acres thanks to secluded sun escaped areas. Jam packed with activities, the Winter Pride Slide has revelers in a downhill parade and competing in a costume contest after hitting the slopes from February 1 through the weekend. Stay in The Grand Resort Hotel to enjoy spa treatments and a spacious golf course while you are there.

One of my favorite locations to visit was the Red Clover Inn. The farm-to-table dinner menu looked delicious with butternut squash soup for starters and garlic Portuguese steak to satisfy. The rooms were named after past owners and were just the right taste of modern mixed with historic architecture.

Later in the day we drove to the most populated part of the state, Burlington, for Gay Pride Weekend or Northern Decadence as some called it. Within walking distance of our centrally located Marriot Hotel accommodations we found the VGSA Pride Cruise on Lake Champlain.

The Ferry left the harbor with attendees covered in Hawaiian leis setting sail on the Love Boat or more appropriately titled Gilligan’s Island since it was a three-hour tour. The drag queens joked that there was a Ginger, and Mrs. Howell, but no one wanted to be Mary Ann. Maybe she was too innocent for the partygoers?

Patrons ate a light buffet after boarding complete with an anniversary cake. A DJ played tunes that got people dancing and a live singing drag show provided more entertainment for the evening. One unlucky fellow tossed his cookies overboard either from being seasick or having too many cocktails at the bar.

Saturday after the Vermont Pride Parade kicked off on Church Street. There were no barricades or stumbling drunkards on the street for this short but sweet celebration. Afterwards many walked to Battery Park to show their true colors with tents full of rainbow merchandise, clubs to join and square dancing. Performers sang from a local production of Rent after drag queens lip-synched with gusto in the pavilion. Former Governor Madeleine Kunin spoke of equality and changes in the government while Adam Bouska took NOH8 photos close by. Some rain sprinkled down to cloud up the festivities but that didn’t stop the after party called Farm Fresh with a southern theme that lasted until the break of dawn.

On the way up Route 100 visit Ben & Jerry’s factory where the company not only has incredible ice cream but they are active politically and in the gay community having a presence at the aforementioned festivities. Lake Champlain Chocolates and the Cabot Cheese Annex have enough samples on the highway to fill anyone up including a busload of tourists when I was there. Also, make a pit stop at the Hollow Cider Mill for a drink of cider along with apple doughnuts and soaked hot dogs.

There are so many places to stay such as the Commodores or Timberholm Inn but tourists simply must trust the only gay owned B&B in Stowe at the Arbor Inn. Renovated and adorable, this place was prepared for the upcoming Foliage Week with a new porch.

Stoweflake Mountain Resort & Spa supplied a relaxing reprieve with a total immersion into a world of massage and luxury that worked out the aches and pains of driving.

For the musical lover head uphill in Stowe where the family Von Trapp still remains to this day running the Trapp Family Lodge. The hills were alive with the Sound of Music as the great grandchildren keep their Austrian past alive with 96 rooms styled in classic yet modern looks. From the exercise room, pool, outdoor sports, to the restaurant, everything is within reach and was top notch for families with no need to leave a fireplace and balcony in their rooms.

It is fairly inexpensive to live in this region but gas prices were on par to Chicago. The population appears to be growing in leaps and bounds. After talking to some locals, many have moved here for a better way of life and the legalization of gay marriage. With ceremonies and honeymoon opportunities at every turn in Vermont, when are the other states hopping on this economic stimulating train and getting with the program?

Visit www.vermontgaytourism.com for details on planning a trip today!

Many travelers are familiar with the wineries in Napa Valley but if they head north they will discover a Wine Road that has much to offer without all of the busloads of tourists.

From Chicago flying into San Francisco was a breeze then it’s a quick jaunt up Highway 101 over the Golden Gate Bridge to arrive at the Bella Villa Messina to spend the night. Not your typical Bed and Breakfast place, it’s like staying in a huge mansion with gay partners Jerry and Harold. They treat everyone like family and the cooking is top notch. I can still taste bacon and French toast. The fireplace in the room kept me warm and toasty along with a Jacuzzi tub to relax after a long trip.

I began the week with checking out some local winemakers at their factories.

Manzanita Creek Winery is owned by two brothers Jack and William Salerno. Having very different personalities adds to the mix with a very young production having started only a few years ago. Try the Stealth zinfandel it was inspired by planes of course and comes in for a strong landing.

The well-known film director Francis Ford Coppola has a side project that has grown into a huge business. Located in the Alexander Valley his winery is massive, complete with a pool, restaurant, and factory that produces huge vats of wine. The style of food at the inclusive restaurant Rustic brings the diner to Italy and Francis’s Favorites with such dishes as Mrs, Scorsese’s Lemon Chicken and the Marrakesh Lamb. His Oscars are displayed for public enjoyment and artwork is everywhere even down to the label on the reserve wine.

Running out to greet us were two terriers at the Nalle Winery. With a building underneath the ground in a shallow cave makes this family owned winery a cool place to be.  Don’t worry you won’t feel claustrophobic there is only three feet of dirt covered with rosemary above the construct.

Don’t miss the breathtaking view from the Russian Hill Estate. Edward Gomez, a retired doctor, made his dreams come to fruition by creating a place to drink and reflect.

Chef Mateo Granados prepared a delicious meal including his specialty the monkeyface eel that is custom made for different size groups. Inspired by his Yucatan background Mateo uses local Sonoma ingredients to prepare sustainable dishes such as the cochinita pibil and the pollo adobado.

The Wine Road includes dozens of Sonoma’s County’s appellations. Tasters follow a map and rules to enjoy a one of kind experience that leaves other samplings in the dust.

Barrel tastings offer buyers a chance to purchase futures, which means wine that is in the finishing process usually completed by August of the same year. This is for bargain shoppers offering an opportunity to order in bulk and save big bucks.

“Crazy Coffaro Futures Program” has come up with a system to purchase that premium wine and is currently on their second sparkling wine. David Coffaro invites guests for tastings everyday except holidays.

The Pedroncelli family have an upscale winery with a fourth generation now growing on the vine.

In downtown Geyserville there are many stops to stroll to such as Route 128 where you can even buy moisturizer made from grapes. While the outside might not impress, just look inside for a hands down winner as Charles and Molly have garnered awards like Wine Spectators’ 100 Best Wines of the World. . Transformed from an old bank property this is a vault full of bottles that I would like to be locked inside of for an afternoon. Mercury Wines brings something creative to the table with one known as The Bastard and the fruity Orange.

Lunch at the Jimtown Store takes customers back in time with antiques in every corner of the general store and juicy sandwiches to consume or take a box lunch to go.

Speaking of restaurants, Starlite Vineyards supplies many of their wines all over the world including Chicago at venues such as Blackbird and Pops for Champagne. Their incredible art collection relaxed spectators who sipped on cabernet sauvignon sitting in the sun.

Think about joining a wine club to really rake in the deals and expand your knowledge. Sunce has a record number of members and has won medal after medal. Hopping from barrel to barrel, this winery has garnered well-deserved accolades and has a nice sense of style.

For dinner don’t forget to stop by the new and hip Scopa in the downtown square of Healdsburg for Nonna’s Tomato-braised Chicken served in a warm pot. The place keeps a cute crowd that packs the house and the cooks aren’t too shabby either with an open kitchen to watch pizza dough be kneaded by strong hands.

The road continued on through even more wineries with more than 100 to sample from over the weekend.

If you missed this barrel tastings for the two weekends in March then make sure you are there next year as the tour celebrates a big 35th anniversary. Visit www.wineroad.com for tickets and details such as a map to not get lost, there’s an app for that too. Look for the 14th Annual Wine & Food Affair Nov. 3 and 4 this winter.

Also try Out in the Vineyard from June 15-17 with a Twilight T-Dance for tickets try www.gaywineweekend.com.

All this wine talk is making me thirsty, time to uncork a bottle, cheers!

Powered by WordPress. Theme based on: Motion theme.