Philo Apple Farm Cooking School
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Road trips from Southern California: California wine country

Distance: 498 miles one-way.

It was on my weekly trip to the farmers market that I learned about the Philo Apple Farm Cooking School, 120 miles northwest of San Francisco in the bucolic Anderson Valley wine country. Karen Bates, whose parents founded the French Laundry in Napa Valley in the late 1970s, offers, on the family-run farm, weekend cooking classes that focus on organic, seasonal ingredients. It wasn’t going to be all hard work though. The weekend promised plenty of relaxing, eating and drinking.

-- Phil Zimmerman

 (Mark Boster / Los Angeles Times)

Distance: 416 miles one-way.

Glen Ellen (once the home of writers Jack London and M.F.K. Fisher) is just north of the city of Sonoma. Take your eyes off the road long enough to read the vintner’s notes on a bottle of Viognier and you’ll miss it. More funky than fashionable, Glen Ellen’s main street (Arnold Drive) has wooden sidewalks, clapboard cottages and a saloon.

More important -- because when it’s not just about the wine, it becomes way more about the accommodations -- Glen Ellen is home to the Gaige House, a luxury hotel with a Victorian facade and a Zen attitude.

-- Janis Cooke Newman

 (Chris Hardy)

Distance: 217 miles one-way.

Gary Eberle is the Johnny Syrah-seed of Paso Robles. In the mid-1970s, he planted the first commercial Syrah in the state, and you can still find it at Eberle Winery Vineyards, along with a T-shirt that says, “Up Shiraz.” Time it right and Eberle will barbecue you duck sausage to go with one of his full-bodied reds. Both of which you can enjoy from the fabulous wrap-around deck above the vineyards.

Jeff Pipes of Pipestone Vineyards was the kind of kid who grew up watching the Farm Report. Now he plants his organic vineyard according to the principles of feng shui and cultivates it using a pair of draft horses. At Pipestone, you’re welcome to wander into the vineyard and check out the goats, or just settle in at a picnic table with some wine and soak up the chi.

-- Janis Cooke Newman

 (Irene Lechowitzky)
Jeff Pipes of Pipestone Vineyards was the kind of kid who grew up watching the Farm Report. Now he plants his organic vineyard according to the principles of feng shui and cultivates it using a pair of draft horses. (KI·Kirk Irwin / Eberle Winery)

Distance: 412 miles one-way.

The city might not have as much clout as other Sonoma County spots but there are hidden treasures to discover.

 (Scott Hess)

Distance: 483 miles one-way.

From birth in 1965, Sea Ranch, 110 miles north of San Francisco near Gualala, has been a utopian experiment: top-drawer architects building low-key homes -- and a 20-room lodge -- in harmony with a stretch of rugged Northern California coast. Fences, lawns and ostentation are basically banned (although the chapel, pictured, is pretty wild), allowing the landscape to prevail. Hike, bike, ride a horse, play the resort’s links-style golf course or kayak.

Info: Rooms at the 20-unit Sea Ranch Lodge run $169 to $395 nightly ([800] 732-7262). Six agencies handle rental houses, at rates of about $170 to $715 nightly (taxes and cleaning fees included, two-night minimum): Rams Head Realty & Rentals, (800) 785-3455; Coasting Home, (800) 773-8648; Ocean View Properties, (707) 884-3538; Sea Ranch Escape Vacation Home Rentals, (888) 732-7262; Sea Ranch Vacation Rentals, (800) 643-8899; and Beach Rentals, (707) 884-4235.

-- Christopher Reynolds

 (Chris Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)

Distance: 443 miles one-way.

Seghesio Family Vineyards is all about family (the Seghesios have been making Sonoma wine for four generations) and food. Especially food. The Family Table tasting pairs Seghesio wine with Seghesio family recipes. And during events, you can learn how to make pizza or stuff your own sausage. You can also take a bottle of wine out to the boccie courts.

Ridge Vineyards makes serious wine in an unserious atmosphere. Really serious wine. Its Monte Bello Cabernet blend earned 97 points from Wine Spectator. For an extra fee, you can include it in your tasting. Ridge also has one of the most spectacular picnic spots in all Sonoma, set at the edge of rolling hills crisscrossed with vineyards.

-- Janis Cooke Newman

 (Chris Hardy )

Distance: 398 miles one-way.

In California, Napa Valley and “wineries” are synonymous. The area also offers a slew of restaurants, splendid rolling hills and Bay Area adjacency. What more is there to say?

Contact: Napa Valley Conference & Visitors Bureau, (707) 226-7459, www.napavalley.org

 (Marcio Jose Sanchez / Associated Press)

Distance: 430 miles one-way.

Maybe you came here, to the edge of wine country, for some grown-up fun amid the Cabernets and Chardonnays of Napa Valley. But for dessert, you get the house that Charlie Brown built.

Or rather, the museum Charles M. Schulz built. And the ice rink, the coffee shop, the gift shop, the gardens and the baseball field.

Schulz, the father of the “Peanuts” cartoon strip, lived in Sonoma County for more than 40 years, constructing an empire around the hapless Charlie Brown and the irrepressible Snoopy. Within two years of the artist’s death in 2000, the Schulz family had put up the Charles M. Schulz Museum & Research Center here, 56 miles northwest of San Francisco. It gets about 60,000 visitors a year.

-- Christopher Reynolds

 (Christopher Reynolds / Los Angeles Times)
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