By Cathy Leestma

I have found a new passion for my retirement years and you’ll be pleased to know it is quite civilized. It combines the appreciation of regional art and architecture, the renewing of the soul, the company of good friends sided with new relationships, is heart healthy, delicious, aromatic, has ancient roots (literally), is affordable and worldwide.

The square in downtown Sonoma

Sonoma Dormant vines

If you guessed wine tasting, then cheers!

We are so fortunate to have raised our family a stone’s throw from the magnificent valleys of Napa and Sonoma in Northern California. Many a happy day has been spent over good conversation and a lovely glass of Cabernet. But there is so much more to this passion than a nice glass of wine. Inevitably we meet fascinating folks many of whom have traveled the world (or not) but each with a good story to tell. Those who pour the tastings are the true poets explaining in the most lovely terms the varietals of wines that compose the glass I am about to taste.

A dramatic 10′ metal art sphere decorates the grounds at the home of Sunset magazine in Sonoma County.

There are wine caves and caverns to explore, along with magnificent gardens of lavender, roses and herbs. In Tuscany we dined and wined in an historic farmhouse. Near Lake Lure we spent an afternoon in the most lovely outdoor garden while sipping some new wine. (Please see our very own Justin Taylor’s “Wine and Vine Column,” p. 43)

Patz and Hall Winery infinity walkway

Wine tasting – it’s just such a very civilized way to spend an afternoon. Don’t you agree?