santa rosa hot air balloon

Photo: Courtesy Steve Lowry

Santa Rosa’s myriad vineyards.

Santa Rosa

Gateway to wine country

FIRST-TIME ESSENTIAL  It’s a little spendy, but a meal at John Ash and Co is one you won’t forget. As one of the first restaurants to pair local and seasonal ingredients with the region’s world-famous wines, the quaint 32-year-old eatery is credited as “the father of wine country cuisine.” vintnersinn.com/johnash.asp

MAXIMUM EXPOSURE  Santa Rosa’s scenery—and excellent wines—are best enjoyed from the comfort of a gel-padded saddle. Getaway Adventures leads Sip ’N Cycle bike tours, outfitting you with wheels and helmet. The leisurely five-hour tour takes you along country lanes to a few wineries—with a picnic lunch in between. getawayadventures.com

FOR LOVERS  The Italianate villa is enchanting, and the impressive variety of wines is certainly tasty, but the real draw at Ferrari-Carano Vineyards and Winery is following the meandering footpaths through five acres of spectacular gardens, glass in hand. ferrari-carano.com

RETAIL THERAPY  Satisfy your antiques urge at Santa Rosa’s historic Railroad Square, where treasure hunters regularly score rustic finds at Whistlestop Antiques or rare Japanese collectibles at Green Fish Trading. railroadsquare.net

  • 1 flight from PDX daily
  • 63 average high temp in February
  • 328 wineries in Sonoma County

EAT THIS  Zazu Restaurant & Farm feels like a little piece of Portland tucked away in wine country: Roadhouse vibe? Check. Menu sourced from the garden? Yup. Infatuation with all things pork-related? Obviously. zazurestaurant.com

REST YOUR HEAD  Within walking distance of many restaurants and tasting rooms, the historic brick Hotel La Rose promises a cozy base of operations for oeno-explorations. hotellarose.com, from $129

ZEN MOMENT  Quelling the butterflies at 1,000 feet, as you float in a hot air balloon above the lush vineyards, low green hills, and tiny farmhouses of Sonoma County. Up & Away Hot Air Ballooning offers scenic, hourlong flights that include a champagne brunch at a Kendall-Jackson Winery. Private flights for two are also available, so you won’t even have to share the airspace with strangers. up-away.com