Come summertime, everyone wants a change of scenery, but the cost of practically everything, including travel, prompts most of us to vacation a bit closer to home these days.
Yet we do live in Wine Country, where a "staycation" is a very appealing prospect. People travel from all over the world to come play in our backyard.
We'll be offering a series of ideas for spending your time off a short drive away, starting today with the obvious option of visiting some of our wineries.
While dozens of wineries make good destinations, some offer the added attraction of fine art exhibits. It's a "two-fer": first you drive out to the winery to soak up the atmosphere and enjoy the scenery, and then the art you find there transports you again.
"I think enjoying art at a winery adds to the ambience of the whole experience, which leads to more appreciation, hopefully, for both art and wine," said Rene Byck, co-owner of Paradise Ridge Winery in Santa Rosa, known for its outdoor sculpture.
Here are some destinations you won't want to miss:
Clos Pegase Winery, 1060 Dunaweal Lane, Calistoga. 942-4981, clospegase.com.
Visitors to the winery are greeted by "Gaia," a statue inspired by the Earth goddess of Greek mythology and created by late English artist Henry Moore, world-famous for his abstract sculptures based on the human figure.
The winery's grounds also feature a Renaissance bronze fountain from 17th-century Italy, as well as many other pieces from founder and proprietor Jan Shrem's personal collection. Tours are available.
The Hess Collection Winery, 4411 Redwood Road, Napa. 255-1144, hesscollection.com.
"The Hess Collection! That's like a New York museum, and they have that flaming typewriter," one local art lover wrote when we asked for readers' suggestions.
"Hommage, 1974 Modified Typewriter," by Leopoldo Maler of the Dominican Republic, an old Underwood typewriter that emits flames in place of words, is typical of the provocative art you'll find here.
Swiss entrepreneur Donald Hess began collecting art in 1966, and gave the public access to his collection with the 1989 opening of the winery, which houses just part of a huge collection that is shown in museums worldwide.
The art is paired with Hess Collection wines from the winery's Mount Veeder estate vineyards.
Paradise Ridge Winery, 4545 Thomas Lake Harris Drive, Santa Rosa. 528-9463, prwinery.com.
Paradise Ridge Winery is home to Marijke's Grove, named for Marijke Byck-Hoenselaars, late wife of winery founder Walter Byck. Byck and their five children, including son Rene, still own the winery.
Walking through the grove, visitors get a close look at sculpture by internationally known artists. Currently, the grove features the "The Spirit of the Man" exhibit, now in its second year, in memory of the late Al Voigt, co-founder of the Voigt Family Sculpture Foundation. The exhibit features 38 major works by artists from all over the United States.
One of the highlights of the show is late Sonoma Mountain sculptor Robert Ellison's newly restored sculpture, "4X's Daily," originally created for San Francisco's Civic Center plaza and later displayed in Marin County.
The winery also has a commanding view of the Russian River Valley, and invites visitors to its weekly "Wednesday Evening Wines and Sunsets" tastings from 5:30 p.m. to sunset on the winery's veranda.