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Article: The best spots to wine and dine your Valentine

By Chris Macias | Posted on: 02/11/2020

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Lovebirds passionate about wine are in luck this year. Valentine’s Day falls on a Friday, so the celebration can last all weekend.

Wineries are an ideal setting for soaking in the romance with their picturesque vineyards, clinking stemware and, of course, wines to set the mood.

Here’s a guide to our favorite spots in California wine country that spark romance.

Domaine Chandon

A ride on the Napa Wine TrainPeter DaSilva / Special to The Chronicle

Some purists might knock this popular Napa attraction for being a tourist trapIt’s also fun. The three-hour trip begins with a glass of sparkling wine, then more wine and a multi-course meal while rolling through the Napa Valley on an elegantly restored railcar. The 11:30 a.m. “sweetheart” train on Feb. 14 costs $170 per person; a dinner ride costs $185 per person.

Handcuffs and wine in Napa 

Those who prefer “Fifty Shades of Grey” over Shakespeare’s sonnets can book a tasting at Prisoner Wine Co. in Napa, where the decor includes handcuffs, clusters of balls and chains and wines with names like Headlock Charbono and Blindfold White Blend. Tastings cost $45 each or $145 per person for a wine and food pairing. Copy of “Venus in Furs” not included.

 A stroll and a picnic in Lodi

Woman biking in Lodi, California wine country
Gabrielle Lurie / The Chronicle

Heritage Oak winery is on a quiet stretch of Woodbridge Road near Lodi. The winery specializes in Chenin Blanc, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc that can be sampled with a modest $10 tasting fee. The property also includes a 2-mile-long hiking trail, the perfect excuse to pack a picnic basket and blanket. Those not in a rush can camp overnight in a tent along the Mokelumne River for $130 per night.

Sunsets and selfies 

Whether you’re looking for a perfect spot to enjoy a Valentine’s Day sunset, or just need a great backdrop for your Instagram couples’ selfie, there are plenty of wineries with unbeatable views. Here are a few:

From the patio at Iron Hub Winery in Amador County, you’ll be treated to the dramatic backdrop of the Shenandoah Valley and snow-capped Sierra in the distance. For those on a budget, the tasting fee is just $5 per person.

The gondola at Sterling Vineyards in Calistoga cruises 300 feet above the valley, with views of the nearby Mayacamas and Vaca mountains. Once you arrive at the winery, a self-guided tour, with tasting,  is just $35, a steal in Napa. Pro tip: There are lots of nooks and crannies around the property for canoodling.

Chronicle wine critic Esther Mobley says this might be the best view in Mendocino County’s  Anderson Valley. Toulouse Vineyards is nestled among redwood trees and sweeping views of the hillsides. These peaceful digs are the perfect spot to cozy up with a glass of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris.

Sip through Sonoma

The 5 acres of gardens at Ferrari-Carano invite long walks. Continue to unwind with $15 wine tastings that include Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and other varietals. Ferrari-Carano is also offering a “Wine & Roses” event on Feb. 14 and Feb. 15 that includes pairings of wine, cheese and chocolate.

Jordan’s opulent chateau is a touch of Bordeaux in Healdsburg. Opt for one of a variety of tastings, including Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay poured in the cellar room for $35. Those looking to impress might opt for the $125 estate tour and tasting that includes guided tours of Jordan’s vineyards, chef’s garden and more.

Live it up in Livermore

Concannon Winery, vinyeard, winery, tasting room, women and wine, wine tasting, Livermore, California, The Press
John Storey / Special to The Chronicle

Napa might have its Wine Train, but Livermore has its Wine Trolley, ready to roll on Feb. 14 and Feb. 15 with a “Valentine’s Romance Wine Tour.”

The trip starts at Wente Vineyards, a storied Livermore brand founded in 1883 that set the stage for this wine region on the far eastern edge of Alameda County. A candlelit barrel room sets the stage for wine tasting and dancing. Part two of the tour includes a trip to Rubino Winery for more wine, chocolate and Cupid-related activities for $99 per person.

McGrail Vineyards boasts one of the best views in Livermore wine country and produces well-structured and fruity Cabernet Sauvignon. Its four-hour feast on Feb. 14 includes a short-rib dinner, a bottle of wine and live music for $100 per person.