The Napa & Sonoma book
The Great Destination books have their good and bad points, much like any other book series. On one hand, theyíre written by someone in the area they write about. These people supposedly know the best local spots, can give you insider information and an unbiased look at the region. On the downside, many of the books Iíve read in the series are written by Ďnearby peopleí - who really donít know the region well, who donít keep the entries up to date, and have their own pet areas they play up while neglecting others.
The Napa & Sonoma Book is better than most. The couple lives in the center of Sonoma, and the husband writes about wine for WineToday. Seventy or so pages (about 1/5th of the book) is dedicated to the wineries in this area. The two area maps are a good way of quickly identifying which wineries are in a certain area, so you can plan the order of visition.
However, for a book in its fifth edition, put out quite recently, there are a large number of missing wineries, wineries that are listed and have gone out of business, and incorrect information. Many of the changes happened over five years ago. While I used those maps as starting points to get an idea of what to do, I then went to actual web pages to get reliable information and brought those pages with me.
To me, the restaurant list was the second most important thing. You need to eat while you taste - drinking a lot of wine on an empty stomach isnít a good idea! The restaurant list in this book, though, ranged from pretty expensive to ludicrously expensive. Many people we met while touring were in jeans and tshirts, and would never have been allowed into the restaurants suggested. While itís a good place to look for a very special meal for the last night of a honeymoon, it wasnít much help for places to eat on a multi-day visit.
A large chunk of the book was taken up by lodging information, and again, at least a portion was out of date. Again, this is an area that the web is so much more helpful - with current prices and availability, color pictures and more, Iíd trust the web to find somewhere to stay over a one-paragraph blurb in a book.
The rest of the information was interesting for a quick read - the history of the area, the museums, the parks, shopping, hikes, and more. I would really have liked to see much more of this sort of thing - which playhouses tended to put on good plays, where the best bike trails were, that sort of thing.
Itís not a bad book to take out of the library, to get a rough idea of what you want to see and do in the area. To really plan your trip, though, the book has too little in some areas, and too out of date in others to be relied on.
by Tim Fish & Peg Melnik
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