30 places to welcome spring

Blow the dust off winter with blooms gone wild, bike trips in the blossoms, gushing falls, and more

Taste bubbly after a balloon ride
Photo by Frederic Larson; written by Matthew Jaffe

Taste bubbly after a balloon ride

Spring takes its sweet time in wine country. The hills hold their winter green, and some years snow lingers atop Mount St. Helena. The big crowds are months away, but the mustard and lupine are blooming, and nowhere is the display more gorgeous than from the air. “Flying in the springtime,” says Sonoma County balloonist Mike Kijak, “you have all the greens and then, bam, that contrast with the yellow mustard. It’s like somebody took a paintbrush to the land.”

Insider tip: After a Sonoma flight, people always ask Mike, owner of Up & Away Ballooning (up-away.com), which winery they should visit. “There are so many you can’t pick just one,” he says, “so I send them to Korbel Champagne Cellars. They have tours and you can see how Champagne is made, which is a whole different process than winemaking. And the gardens are gorgeous.”

Eat: Jimtown Store has the smoked brisket sandwich and box lunches for picnics. $; 6706 State 128, Healdsburg; 707/433-1212.

Stay: The eco-mod cottages of Guerneville’s Boon Hotel + Spa sit among redwoods and feel remote, but with easy access to wineries. From $155; boonhotels.com

Do: It’s not all wine here. Sonoma County Farm Trails has guides to more than 90 local creameries, orchards, and farms. farmtrails.org


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