There's a reason why you make an annual trip to wine country during crush despite the crowds: it really is the best time to go. Here are four ways to mix it up this year.
Taste the Gavin Newsom-owned winery's new Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay in a rustic-meets-contemporary setting (wood panels and teardrop light fixtures over the bar). Snack on food brought in from their triple-Michelin-starred neighbors at Meadowood.
5998 Silverado Trail, Napa Valley (707-224-7533)
Campo Fina in Healdsburg
Flex your muscles and your tastebuds after a long day in the car with wood-fired 'za (we recommend the pizza salsiccia with house-made sausage) and a game of bocce. If you're sick of grapes, pair your pizza with a pint of Russian River Damnation, a pleasantly fruity Belgian ale.
330 Healdsburg Ave., Healdsburg (707-395-4640)
Glen Ellen Star
Enjoy outside-the-box bistro fare (tomato cream pie with aleppo chile, romano beans with brown sugar bacon marmalade) in an intimate setting at this newly-opened gem. Top off your tank with a scoop of housemade ice cream. The vanilla maple bourbon flavor is the perfect marriage between fall and Indian summer.
13648 Arnold Dr., Glen Ellen (707-343-1384)
New Lounge Menu at Morimoto Napa
Don't want to drop multiple bills on dinner with the original Iron Chef? Snack on his new -- and comparatively wallet-friendly -- lounge menu instead. Options range from the adventurous chicken-fried duck tongue and waffles to the tamer Korean korn dogs.
610 Main St., Napa (707-252-1600)