Best Place to Make Your Friends Jealous of your love life
Once in awhile, a romantic getaway is in order, complete with a magical, slightly rococo setting, soothing spa treatments and that validating, celebratory "investing in our relationship" feeling. Kenwood Inn and Spa, a picturesque villa on Highway 12, is the answer to these justified aspirations, especially given its "No kids" policy. With only 29 rooms, a heated pool, a cozy wine bar and many other perks, Kenwood Inn is both classy and a little rustic, and the bonus: you'll end up with Instagram and Facebook photos guaranteed to make your less romantic friends green with envy. It could be even more romantic, and cheaper, to book a room in the middle of the week when all those photo-snapping tourists are out of sight, and you get the beautiful courtyard all to yourselves. 10400 Sonoma Hwy.,Kenwood.800.353.6966.—F.T.
Best Romantic Outing, in the Classic Sense
The original Romantics weren't romantics as we think of the word today. Their idea of romance involved much more than chocolates and Hallmark cards. The Romantic movement of the 18th century celebrated the expression of free-flowing emotions, unadulterated nature and ancient times as a reaction of the cold rationalism of the dawning Industrial Revolution. Writers like Lord Byron, William Wordsworth, Victor Hugo and Jane Austen were part of this intellectual and artistic movement. Mary Shelly wrote Frankenstein as a dystopian Romantic novel, a thought experiment in which science goes horribly astray. I guess I'm more of a Romantic than a romantic. So here's my idea of the perfect Romantic outing: Grab a bottle of steely Riesling and a bag of ice-packed Tomales Bay miyagi oysters from Petaluma's Bodega Bay Oyster Company and head for the rocky, wind-lashed Sonoma coast with someone you love. Bring some wood to burn, a soft wool blanket and maybe a loaf of crusty sourdough bread, too. Build a beach fire, and enjoy the fresh shucked oysters and cold wine. Cozy up. Read some poetry into the north wind. It's not just the romance of being with your beloved that makes this romantic, but the raw beauty of sitting on the edge of the continent staring into a churning sea while wood smoke and ocean brine commingle in the air, perfuming your tousled hair as you slurp down another oyster, another glass of wine and another eyeful of the sea's rugged beauty. To life! 12830 Valley Ford Road, Petaluma. 707.867.3010.—S.H.
Best Place to Pick Up Chicks
These springtime rituals are always the same: the rains end, the sun comes out, the daffodils bloom, and love is in the air. Then we get the annual email from our friends at Western Farm Center, the subject line of which reads, "New Chicks at Western Farm Center." Could this be our lucky day? Is this some kind of an invitation to speed-dating with freaky farmer ladies, perhaps? Wow. This sure beats Tinder, or Bumble, or Match, or any of those online dating services that are for losers. We're headed to Western
Farm Center in March, because that's when the new chicks are available! Whoo-hoo. Oh. Oops. Wrong chicks. Cluck this. 21 W. Seventh St., Santa Rosa. 707.545.0721.—T.G.
Best No-Fail Jewelry Store
I've been told I'm not great at choosing gifts, so that's why when I need a special piece of jewelry for my wife, I go to Artisana to get some expert advice. The shop feels more like a gallery than a jewelry store. Many of the items are made by local designers, and the staff is infinitely patient as they lead me around the store showing different pieces of jewelry. But even with the help I get from the gracious women at Artisana, I can still strike out. The store maintains a customer wish list that includes my wife's favorite designers. Now I can zero in on items from her favorite jewelry makers, and I know I'll get something she loves. Everybody wins. 146 N. Main St., Sebastopol. 707.829.3036.—S.H.
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Best Panoramic View to Impress Your Date
A lot of wineries boast beautiful views to go along with their wines, yet none can equal the stunning 360-degree panorama that Sterling Vineyards offers. Likewise, no other winery can say it employs a gondola that rises above Napa Valley, the way that Sterling Vineyards does, ushering tasters to its impressive winery 300 feet above the town of Calistoga.
And breathtaking transport is only the beginning at Sterling. Once you arrive at the winery, an architectural gem built like a castle with shimmering white towers and terraces, you're greeted with a glass of wine and allowed to roam the grounds at your leisure. You can visit the spectacular art galleries located throughout, listen to the chime of 10th-century church bells brought over from England, or stroll along elevated walkways, where the views continue.
Sterling also offers several tours and tasting experiences, so you can customize your romantic outings. www.sterlingvineyards.com.—C.S.