By Meg McConahey
As a longtime day tripper in my Wine Country backyard, I’ve never lost my wonder and appreciation for the seemingly endless source of entertainment offered by North Coast wineries.
If you’re looking for something to do, you don’t have to dig hard to find a winery with some intriguing attraction that goes beyond the tasting room. It may be the gorgeous gardens at Ferrari-Carano, or the chickens and pigs at Quivira, the aerial tram ride up the mountain at Sterling Vineyards or the tractor pulled tram ride through the vineyards at Benziger. Some, like The Hess Collection and Clos Pegas, have impressive art collections.
But a number of wineries also have what amounts to small museums that reflect the owners’ interests and passions. Francis Ford Coppola has a small museum of his film memorabilia. Cline Cellars in the Carneros owns and displays a set of vintage scale models of California Missions created for the 1939 World’s Fair at Treasure Island.
But among the shiniest and least expected collections are the classic cars at Far Niente Winery near Oakville. Owner Beth Nickel lovingly maintains — and still drives — a gleaming collection of to-die-for rides assembled by her late husband Gil. When not in use, they are on display for winery visitors to ogle and admire. The automobile treasure includes a 1966 Ferrari 500 Superfast and a 1961 Corvette roadster. Gil’s tastes were eclectic, running the gamut from a 1950’s Chevy panel van to a London taxi.
A stop at the Carriage House where the collection is garaged is included with a winery tour. Cost is $50 but there’s a lot packed into a visit, including a stroll through 40,000 feet of wine caves, walks through Southern-style gardens inspired by the Nickel’s upbringing in Oklahoma — both came from families who owned nurseries — and a seasonal cheese pairing along with tasting of five wines. To arrange a tour call 944-2861 or visit farniente.com. The winery is a 1350 Acacia Drive, Oakville. Tours and tastings are by appointment daily, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
If you’re an aficionado of German sports cars you may want to carve off a slice of Sunday, Sept. 25. That’s when the Ledson Castle in Kenwood becomes the backdrop for an array of gorgeous Porsches. The winery has an oak grove perfect for picnics, which can be purchased on site from the winery’s Gourmet Marketplace.
The cars will be available to admire from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. The winery is located at 7335 Sonoma Highway in Kenwood. 833-2330 or Ledson.com.