Sonoma County's Vin de Luxe Tours strives to go "over and above" the typical tourist experience– quite literally, as one of the possibilities is a ride for two in a 1926 Travelair biplane to get a birds-eye view of the places you're going to visit.
Before going aloft, guests are given a map of the area, marked with their tour destinations. The pilot dips the wings when they fly over each site, so the guests can spot exactly where they are going.
"They get the sensation of seeing this incredible, majestic landscape quilt below them, and when they visit each place there's a connection with what they saw from the air. This makes it especially memorable," says Vin de Luxe owner and operator Bruce McKay.
"Nobody else does this," he adds.
That's one of the fundamental underpinnings of Vine de Luxe Tours – an innovative approach combined with insider connections, attention to detail, extensive knowledge of the area and the wine industry, and a dedication to quality.
"I want to conduct a tour that I would want to take my wife on," McKay says.
After a career first as an engineer, and then in winery hospitality, McKay founded Vin de Luxe Tours in 2013 with a goal of creating customized private tours for wine aficionados, couples celebrating special events, and "explorers who appreciate being guided by true wine country insiders."
In mid-2014 commercial photographer and winemaker Rick Bolen joined the company. Together, McKay and Bolen craft specialized itineraries to unique wineries and other locales that meet the interests and needs of their guests.
"I want them to just say 'wow' when they see the itinerary," McKay says.
The company's one-of-a-kind "Over the Moon" tour includes a 30-minute biplane flight over Moon Mountain; visits to two exclusive wineries on that mountain; barrel tasting in a wine cave; wine tasting on a mountain top; and a gourmet al fresco picnic lunch at winery's mountainside retreat.
The five-hour "Heart of Sonoma Valley" explores the iconic valley's wines and history, starting in Sonoma and heading north to the small towns of Kenwood and Glen Ellen. Guests will taste wine, olive oil, balsamic vinegars, and artisan chocolates on this overview and introduction to the Sonoma Valley.
To immerse yourself in the Sonoma Valley for a longer period of time, the "Two Days in Heaven" includes, among other items, a cooking class, several private wine tastings, a cheese tasting, and a Zinfandel blending seminar to make your own personal Zinfandel blend.
Of course, there are many options that can be added, such as meals at outstanding restaurants, visits to local gardens or parks, shopping at unique stores, massages, chocolate tastings, cheese tastings, guided walks, talks by a local historian, a private meeting with an acclaimed winemaker, or the services of a professional photographer or videographer to capture your day perfectly.
Think of what you would like to do or have, and then tell McKay. With his insider knowledge and connections, he'll figure out how to make it happen.
"Give me a challenge," McKay says. "That's what I like to do."
Details: Vin de Luxe Tours
Written by Sonoma Insider Patricia Lynn Henley.