Long visited by dreamy visions of starting their own tour company, Jewels Wine Tours owners and Napa Valley residents Julia Young and Ryan Raes utilize their regional intimacy to construct guided tours to the finest wineries, distilleries, and restaurants the area has to offer. The team takes great joy in customizing packages to their guests’ preferences, whether customers are looking to taste-test a certain hard-to-find vintage, or just want to be driven around by someone other than the family dog. A dedicated driver handles navigation for the duration of each tour, allowing the grape gurus to focus on enriching the tour experience by answering in-depth questions and providing insights into Napa and Sonoma Valley history.
It's a daunting task to visit all the wineries in the Napa/Sonoma region?there are more than 900 of them. Luckily, Stacy's Wine Tours is up to the challenge. They whisk visitors to a wealth of boutique wineries and vineyards during customized wine tours aboard a fleet of luxury vehicles. Guests can cruise through the grape-dotted countryside inside a stretch limo or opt for a basic designated-driver service.
They can also skip the wine tastings and head out on a brewery tour via Tap in Tours. A tour bus described as an "Irish pub on wheels"?though it's missing drunken novelists and poets?ferries passengers to various microbreweries along the 121 and 101 corridors, including Lagunitas, Hop Monk, and Petaluma Hills Brewing Company.
Breezes swirl down a corridor made by trees standing up to 100 feet and perched atop levees, which form the banks of the 200-year-old Bear River. Above rustling branches and the calls of nearby eagles, the hum of an engine cuts through the tranquil air. Dave Jewell of Blue Sky Powered Paragliding takes thrill-seekers—some as old as 80 years of age—soaring up to 500 feet above rolling, farm-dappled country and between Bear River's banks on propeller-powered parachutes. Though currently surveying Californian skies, Dave has led flights and organized clubs in Japan, Nigeria, Mexico, Germany, and France, and he continues to draw on knowledge of flight mechanics from extensive Air Force parachute training. Today, Dave takes off from 24 acres of campground, where a paragliding club meets occasionally to heckle poorly shaped clouds.
A sweeping bonfire pit, rustic picnic tables, and grassy swathes for RVs welcome campers waiting their turn to fly. Dave also mans a parachute and equipment shop where he conducts repairs and reanimates the corpses of dead kites. Dave insists that he never tires of his sport, as the weather and surrounding terrain are always changing, making his higher-altitude experiences "terrifying without being terrifying.” With a small wingspan, the motorized parachutes can also approach wildlife more closely than other aircraft; on one flight Dave found himself flanked by two bald eagles, beating their powerful wings just 20 feet away.
Staff Size: 2–10 people
Average Duration of Services: 2–4 hours
Pro Tip: Locally owned and run by longtime residents to the Mendocino coast
Handicap Accessible: No
Most Popular Attraction/Offering: Lost Coast Eco Tour
Recommended Age Group: All Ages
From art and chocolate to edible mushrooms, the guides of Mendo Insider Tours host excursions designed to pique travelers' curiosity. Having lived in the Mendocino area for years, the proprietors have used the stores of knowledge available only to locals to develop unique twists on the usual tours. For example, rather than offer yet another vineyard-hopping tour, they instead visit the home studios and workshops of notable local artists, serving snacks and beverages from award-winning and up-and-coming wineries along the way. And instead of simply pointing out the beauty that Sinkyone Wilderness State Park has to offer from the inside of a van, they lead two-hour hiking excursions across the wild region in hopes of spotting wildflowers, elk, and wine-makers nesting beneath the vines.
Since arriving in California in 1938, the Weibel family has produced rare and celebrated varieties of wine. To accomplish this, they draw from three generations of family experience?both in their ancestral home of Switzerland and in the fertile valleys of Mendocino County. Today, Fred Weibel, Jr. continues the traditions of his grandfather and father before him by growing, brewing, and bottling delicious wines such as cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, or the vineyard's signature sparkling whites.
Beaver Creek Vineyard's staff, helmed by grower Martin Pohl, cultivates grapes on more than 185 acres without artificial fertilizers or pesticides, and ferments them into certified organic wines free from commercial additives. The 2007 cabernet sauvignon traces its roots back to the hills of Horne Ranch in Lake County, where grapes grow in a blend of volcanic soil and mountain-valley loam, learning to sing Motown hits from their California Raisin cousins. After 14 months aging in 50% new American oak barrels, the biodynamic libation unleashes a taste bouquet featuring hints of tobacco, sweet oak, and cherries. Following Beaver Creek's USDA organic certification and Demeter Biodynamic certification, winemakers ferment their blends using only native yeasts, leave each barrel unfiltered, and prohibit robots with artificial intelligence from attending estate tastings.