More than 2 miles above the Russian River, a skydiver jumps from a plane, quickly accelerating to racecar speeds of 120 mph before a canopy opens above and glides the diver to earth amid views of neighboring clear waters, sprawling vineyards, and the San Francisco skyline. Located in the heart of wine country, NorCal Skydiving's professional staffers make it their mission to pass on these thrills to each customer regardless of skill level or ability to fly his or her own plane. During tandem jumps, experienced instructors and novice divers conjoin and jump together from a plane 13,000 feet in the air. Once students are hooked, instructors can coach them on advanced techniques, such as canopy flight, and then help them become licensed skydivers. Additionally, NorCal Skydiving's staff regularly parajumps into the U.S. Parachute Association to work as safety and training advisors.
River's Edge Kayak & Canoe Trips' owner Lollie Mercer likes to joke about being in the business of curing nature-deficiency disorder. It's certainly true that sunlight and exercise provide the body with a whole host of benefits, and Lollie's customers get plenty of those riding the rapids of the Russian River. She and her staff outfit guests with one of six types of boats, which include styles that range from the classic canoe to double kayaks. Self-guided groups embark on three- to six-hour trips where they navigate Class I and II rapids. When the water calms, they can view the abundant wildlife along the river's banks, including osprey, eagles, otters, and turtles. Eventually, groups land at River's Edge Beach, where Lollie and her crew collect gear and guests reunite with their less-awesome land-based vehicles.
Sapphire Hill Vineyards has been a small, boutique winery ever since it first opened in 1989, and that is just the way that the staff likes it. Owners Lisa and Chris Mulcahy are content with keeping their production limited and manageable, which gives their team more freedom to experiment with new varietals and slightly different wine-making techniques, occasionally making as few as 24 cases of a particular wine just to see what it tastes like. Even when experimenting though, every wine is intended to be a pure representation of the character of Sonoma fruit. This is evident in the winery's current releases, such as a Russian River Valley chardonnay that is aged in used oak for 16 months, lending a rounded toastiness to the grapes' crisp citrus notes, as well as in the Dry Creek zinfandel?harvested from 70-year-old vines?which balances its dark berry flavors with a peppery streak and fine tannic backbone.
Mutt Lynch Winery owner Brenda Lynch loves wine and dogs, so it makes sense that her winery seamlessly integrates these two interests. Both Dog Fancy and Wine Advocate have praised Brenda for her dog-friendly winery, where canines and their owners can tour the facilities and sample several tasty wines. Cleverly named varietals range from the 2009 Merlot Over and Play Dead to the 2007 Portrait of a Mutt Zinfandel, while series include the limited production "mbf"—man’s best friend. Not only does Lynch oversee the winemaking process, she also donates a portion of the proceeds of every bottle to support local animal rescue organizations.
Led by experts in both local history and wine production, Healdsburg Wine Tasting & History Walking Tours is a feast for the mind and senses. On tours that run two hours, guests have the chance to see, smell, and taste what makes Healdsburg such a popular stop on visits to Sonoma's world-famous wine country. Follow a path along the town's quaint gazebos, scenic green spaces, and historic central plaza, stopping to taste wines or take in a brief history lesson. At each tasting room, the guides provide background information on five wines, expounding on everything from their flavor profiles to their favorite books.
Healdsburg Golf Club carves through Wine Country, loping over undulating terrain marked by mature fir trees and views of Dry Creek Valley. Before taking the course, limber up on the all-weather driving range, with 18 stalls spread over three tiers that allow golfers to smack 300-yard drives or attempt to sink a two-story practice putt. The nine-hole course wraps well-manicured fairways around doglegs and surrounds greens with an entourage of bunkers and rolling mounds. Though suited for beginners, the course is a test for players of abilities, challenging golfers to hit a variety of shots, from long drives down par 5s to bicycle kicks past the goalkeeper on the eighth green. Golfers can relax after their rounds with a relaxing meal at the club’s bar and outdoor patio. The elevated patio overlooks the course as it fades into a sea of trees, misty mountains lining the horizon, and a wormhole leading to a secret nine-hole course on the moon.
Course at a Glance