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STAYCATION IN THE VINEYARD
Few are the cynics who, like one prominent English wine critic, look at a verdant vineyard and see nothing more romantic than a potato field. Lots of folks just love the vineyards and long to roam through the vines of Sonoma County and Napa Valley under what some observers have called a remarkably Tuscan-like experience.
Sound like the right kind of getaway? A number of wineries, most of them small, are adding to their bottom line while helping vacationers do just that by renting out their vineyard houses.
Occidental Road Cellars
Follow a collection of rusted crawlers past the old metal box that used to be the Monte Rio jail and up the drive to Joelle and Richard Prather's three-bedroom rental overlooking their Horseshoe Bend Vineyards. Located just 70 yards from the Sonoma Coast viticultural area, the vineyard is surrounded by second-growth forest and supplies Schramsberg, Radio-Coteau and other wineries, as well as the Prather's own efforts—a bottle of which is included with your stay. Rates average $333, Monte Rio jail not included. occidentalroadcellars.com.
It's no extravagance to travel across the pond for the weekend, if it's the placid little pond behind the Landmark tasting room. Here's a little cottage just for two—or more, with the sofa bed employed—within walking distance of Kenwood area dining and hiking. It starts at $325 a night, a comparative economy rate for private accommodations in wine country. (Clearly, the owners of Pom Wonderful aren't counting on the extra dough.) A guest suite is also available from $300, including continental breakfast and a bottle of gently oaked Overlook Chardonnay. landmarkwine.com.
You've seen one lurid, Victorian wallpapered B&B room too many? Stay in a crib owned and decorated by Swedes. Katarina Bonde and Bengt Akerlind rent out a tidy, three-bedroom cottage they call the "Big Oak House" adjacent their tasting room, just outside of Healdsburg. It's the oak that's big, not the house, but it can accommodate up to eight people for a big weekend in Dry Creek Valley. Rates from $395 to $650. westwines.com.
Jordan Vineyard & Winery
Yes, even in rural Alexander Valley there's at least one way to fulfill your dream of staying in a real, faux-French chateau, complete with private driver: members of Jordan's Platinum and Gold rewards clubs may purchase winery stays for as little as $50—plus 5,000 points. That's a lot of wine, so start stocking up soon. jordanwinery.com.
In Napa Valley, county regulations prohibit wineries from operating a rental for less than 30 days at a pop, so options are limited. But they are luxurious.
Developer Cliff Lede was careful to build his expansive, five-room bed and breakfast on the same footprint of a previous residence, and it's located away from his eponymous winery and vineyards, which guests may view from the lobby veranda, from the decks adjoining their rooms—even while naked, from the capacious open-air showers that overlook Napa Valley. Casual luxury is the mode in this joint, where the uniquely furnished rooms are named for beard-scratchers and tortured souls—poets Walt Whitman, e. e. cummings, Robert Frost, Robert Louis Stevenson and Emily Dickinson. The tub in the Whitman is vast, and could very well contain multitudes. Rates start at $650 in winter and top $1,900 in summer—but that does include a three-course breakfast. With kale! poetryinn.com.—James Knight