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.
As they enter the training circuit at Curves, female guests come face-to-face with the smiles of other women. And just as points on a circle share a common distance from the circle's center, workout participants share the experiences of those nearby by trading stations throughout the 30-minute training session. Thirty seconds is spent on a piece of strength-training equipment built for feminine frames and designed to work two opposing muscle groups with a single movement. Exercisers then move on to a recovery station, where they run, jog, or dance to maintain heart rates and keep platforms in place during momentary losses of gravity.
Locals Wine Tasting outfits sip-seeking palates in a tasty variety of grapey frocks, all crafted by 11 lauded and loved wineries. Corral a fellow oenophile or wine-fueled automaton for an informative tasting session, which features grape-blood goods from purveyors such as Dark Horse, Foggy Valley, Bedarra Vineyards, and more. The session's flight tastings imbue suppers with a wine-filled cornucopia of vino-based knowledge, such as tasting and pairing tips and how to build a suitable flotation device from leftover corks. All participants leave with a bottle of 2008 Foggy Valley Leras Vineyard, RRV chardonnay, a fruity brew with hints of green apple, white nectarine, and melon.
A restored Queen Anne structure in Sonoma wine country, Grape Leaf Inn won NBC11's award for best area bed and breakfast for two consecutive years. Six available guestrooms await visitors, each equipped with a king or queen bed. A bottle of old-vine zinfandel (a $37.50 value), recently liberated from its oaken prison, regales sippers with tales of life on the inside. Downstairs, the speakeasy offers complimentary vine-blood samplings that awaken the unexplainable urge for more, as well as an intimate setting for romantic paper-football games. Excellent breakfasts of local produce and freshly roasted coffee also await visitors. Wineries available for tastings vary based on date of stay.
Named for the iconic director of The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, the Francis Ford Coppola Winery gratifies grape groupies with a wide array of virtuosic vinos. Pirouette your way into the Bottling Ballet Mechanique tour for a chance to examine the winery’s bottling process, which is exactly the same process used to bottle model ships. From the huge barrels of grape soup in which wines are born to the priceless glass containers into which they’re packaged, the 45-minute tour—which takes its name from the way each bottle shimmies and pirouettes down the line—gives guests the chance to see and more fully comprehend how wine comes to take its uniformly bottle-like shape. Visitors also learn the back-stories behind the winery’s labels and take part in a palate-expanding tasting, completing the beautiful circle of libationary life.
A comprehensive guide to attractions and things to do.