Wine country getaways for less

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Fine Dining: Instead of the $240 prix-fixe at Thomas Keller's French Laundry, go for a sumptuous $48 4-course prix-fixe at Thomas Keller's trailblazing new restaurant Ad Hoc - and you don't have to reserve 2 months ahead. Savings: $192
website: www.adhocrestaurant.com

Sightseeing for Art Aficionados: Instead of paying a $25 entry fee to view faux-medieval murals at Castello di Amarosa (tasting an additional $10-15), head to the Hess Collection to see signature works by such major modern artists as Anselm Keifer and Robert Motherwell for free - tack on a tasting for $10. Savings: $25
website: www.hesscollection.com

Sumptuous Spa Treatments: Instead of splashing out $75 for a half-hour restorative soak in a pebble-lined tub at the Spa at Carneros Inn, head to Calistoga Spa Hot Springs after 7pm, when entry to the four mineral-rich natural hot springs pools costs just $10 (spa closes at 9pm). Savings: $65.
website: www.calistogaspa.com

Wine Tasting: Instead of wine tasting in Napa Valley, which often costs $15-25 for a wine tasting, head to Dry Creek Valley - it looks like California countryside, tastes like Tuscany, and wine tastings are usually free or $5. Reserve ahead at Unti to try certified biodynamic Sangiovese that tastes like a high-end Brunello for free in their tasting shed, then stop by the gingerbread farmhouse at certified organic Preston vineyards to taste blackberry-juicy Barbera with house-baked bread and estate organic olive oil - the $5 tasting fee is applicable to purchase, and you can picnic or play bocce ball out front for free. Savings: $20.
website: www.wdcv.com

Eco-friendly Luxury Accommodations: Instead of $375+ for a spa getaway surrounded by tourists in Yountville's new green-friendly Bardessono spa-hotel, unwind at Boon Hotel + Spa, a new eco-retreat among the Russian River redwoods for $185. Savings: $190 per night.
website: www.boonhotels.com

Drinking without Driving: Instead of taking a limo (minimum $300/6 hours) with prescribed tasting stops, explore wine country on a bike. Napa Valley Adventure Tours offers a 6 1/2 hour biking trip to Silverado wineries, artist's studios, and organic farms for $139. Savings: $160.
website: www.napavalleyadventuretours.com

The Ultimate Wine Country Souvenir: Instead of the standard wine collector's souvenir of Opus One ($179, or $35 for single taste at the winery), pick up a bottle by a rising-star artisan vintner at the Wine Garage, where all wines cost $25 or under. Savings: $154
website: www.winegarage.net

About the Book:

Our Napa & Sonoma Encounter whittles down the 750 wineries in the region into a list of 100-plus vinters of distinctive artisan wines that are seldom seen outside California, yet generate a whole lot of buzz.

We've sought out wineries that consistently produce outstanding wines, and those who also think outside the bottle in some areas--with sustainability high up on our list.

In fact, we'd like think that this book is the greenest guide on the market to Napa & Sonoma, not only cherry picking the organic and bio-dynamic wineries but the locavore and farm-to-table restaurants that really define the region's flavor. We even give high priority to the "eco-boutiques" in our shopping listings, when items in a shop are locally and sustainably produced.

>> Buy the book on Amazon: Napa & Sonoma Encounter (Best Of)

About Alison Bing:

Alison Bing is a notable wine, food and travel writer who is based in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has vast knowledge on the history and practices of the food and wine industries in Napa & Sonoma.

website: www.lonelyplanet.com

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