Explore this low-key Northern California wine town
Why go in summer: To kick it vine-side, and poolside, in low-key Alexander Valley.
Main drag: Geyserville Avenue is 2 blocks of Wild West-looking brick storefronts housing galleries, tasting rooms, and one especially tasty pizza parlor.
Looking for an actual geyser? Head about 25 miles southeast to Calistoga.
Dress code: Country casual. Leave the blazer and black dress at home.
What it has: Cows, character, and world-class Cabernet.
What it lacks: Luxe hotels. You’ll find those, plus Michelin-star restaurants, about 8 miles south in Healdsburg.
Advice from local artists: Don’t forget to look up around 7 p.m., when the hills glow, gorgeous and golden in the dusky sky.
Overheard in town: “Geyserville is meeelllloow. And that’s the beauty of it.”
The obvious exception: Francis Ford Coppola’s flashy new winery/pool/playground.
A pie worth a try: The brick-housed pizzeria and salumeria Diavola rivals any in the big city. The pies are thin and blistered; try the Salsiccia made with house-cured meat. $$; 21021 Geyserville Ave.; 707/814-0111.
Now this is a tasting room: In between Healdsburg and Geyserville, Medlock Ames is a winery where you want to hang out all day. Inside, it’s eco-mod, with walls of reclaimed Doug fir and windows that open to the patio. Picnic and sip rosé at the communal table, while general manager Kenny Rochford fires up the outdoor pizza oven. $10 tasting; 3487 Alexander Valley Rd., Healdsburg; medlockames.com
The classic country store: Around lunchtime, pelotons of cyclists pull into Jimtown Store and park by the old, rust red Ford pickup. They cram the aisles stocked with jars of jams and order sandwiches like pulled pork and smoked brisket with chipotle mayo. To avoid the weekend crowds, come for breakfast: pecan sticky buns and egg-and-cheese sandwiches. $; 6706 State 128, Healdsburg; 707/433-1212.
Geyserville’s own Water World: Minus half-pipes and Hurricane slides, Coppola Winery’s new pool-club-for-everyone has a ginormous pool with hillside views, cabines with private showers, a poolside cafe, and a rustic restaurant and tasting room. $15 pool pass; cabines $75 per day; 300 Via Archimedes; franciscoppolawinery.com
3 more wineries to match your mood
Get serious: At almost 40 years old, Jordan Vineyard & Winery’s ivy-draped estate is a pioneer in these parts. Tour the grounds covered with oaks and olive trees, bass-filled lakes, and acres of grapes. Then settle into a leather chair in the “wine library” to taste crisp Chardonnay. By appointment only; $20 library tasting; jordanwinery.com
Lounge on the lawn: The nice folks at deLorimier Winery not only let you linger, they encourage it with couches on the patio, good live tunes, and flowing Sauvignon Blanc. Order by the taste, glass, or bottle. $5 tasting; 2001 State 128, Geyserville; delorimierwinery.com
Picnic in the shade: Drive the winding country lane to Stuhlmuller Vineyards. The tasting room is rarely crowded, and the patio begs for picnicking and sipping ’09 estate Chard. It’s by appointment, but if you happen to just show up, you won’t be turned away. 4951 W. Soda Rock Lane, Healdsburg; stuhlmullervineyards.com