Sharon Rooney of the historic, romantic Gaige House didn't mean to laugh when a caller announced that U.S. News & World Report has named the inn one of the best hotels in America.

It's just that the magazine has grouped and rated the winning hotels by geographic area, and it declared the Gaige House the No. 5 hotel in all of Napa Valley.

Rooney, a director of the firm that manages Gaige House, composed herself and gently explained to the woman from the magazine in D.C. that the inn and its town, Glen Ellen, are firmly located in Sonoma Valley.

The reply: "Either you're in the Napa Valley category or you're not on the list."

So Gaige House, with its centerpiece 1890 Valley of the Moon estate, remains on the Best of Napa Valley hotels list — and in good company.

U.S. News ranks Sonoma's MacArthur Place as the 9th best Napa hotel, Kenwood Inn & Spa as 11th, Boyes Springs' Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa 17th, The Lodge at Sonoma Renaissance Resort & Spa 18th and, as the No. 20 hotel in Napa Valley, the Vintner's Inn just north of Santa Rosa.

"Little by little," sighed Rooney, of Gaige House, "we will gradually teach everybody that there are two valleys (not to mention Alexander, Dry Creek, Bennett, Russian River, etc) — and two counties."

THE RING LADY has done it again.

Not long ago Liz Beale, a key staffer of State Parks' district office in Duncans Mills, went to heroic lengths to locate the owner of a Tennessee high school ring found on a Sonoma Coast beach.

That triumph prompted her boss, Jenny Donovan, to seek her help to find the owner of a Louisiana high-school ring that Donovan found a couple of years ago at L.A. International Airport.

The ring bears the year 1972 and, inside, the inscription "MYOR." Liz connected with a employee at the high school, who researched and concluded the ring's owner must have been Marion Yvette O'Rourke.

More Internet sleuthing by Liz produced an address for Marian Y. Ostrander in Orange County. Liz dropped her a letter.

Liz's phone rang days ago and an astonished Mrs. Ostrander said she'd loaned her 40-year-old class ring to her daughter to wear to her graduation, and the teen lost it.

By now she has surely found a small package from Duncans Mills in her mail.

ALL ON THE 9ERS: Way back at the start of the 2012 baseball season, Sonoma County pals Daniel Garcia, Adam Derum and Adam Giusti pooled $75 and placed a bet in Las Vegas that the Giants would win the World Series.

Look what happened. The guys took their $675 in winnings and back in November bet it all on the 49ers winning the Super Bowl.

The trio will trek Saturday to Vegas, imagining just what they'll do with the $4,725 when their favorite football team follows the lead of their favorite baseball team to become the world champions.

For Daniel, "This week isn't going to go by fast enough."

(Chris Smith is at 521-5211 and