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In Sonoma, a wine region’s glories — without the wine




On a recent spring morning in Sonoma County, California, I found myself in the heart of Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve. There, under a canopy of towering redwood trees in an ancient forest, a yoga instructor, Bridget Boland, led a class through an hour-long session of vinyasas and deep breathing. As we stretched upward toward the sky and down to the cool earth, taking in the grandeur of our surroundings, we succumbed to profound relaxation.

Who said a trip to Sonoma is all about the wine? Wine has long been the main attraction of this photogenic region, home to 64 kilometres of Pacific Ocean coastline interspersed with farmland and redwood forests. Sonoma has more than 400 wineries and 60,000 acres of vineyards, and it is four times the size of Napa. Its silky pinot noirs are world-renowned, and its crisp chardonnay and bold cabernet sauvignon are prolific, too.

The Farmhouse Inn’s spa offers a muscle-relieving treatment where guests lay on a body pillow filled with indigenous alfalfa and lavender.
The Farmhouse Inn’s spa offers a muscle-relieving treatment where guests lay on a body pillow filled with indigenous alfalfa and lavender.  (DREW KELLY / The New York Times)

But imbibing was not the point of my trip. I was there with my husband, Mahir, to discover Sonoma’s growing non-wine wellness culture: The area has more than 40 parks with miles of trails ripe for hiking and biking, a robust industry of olive oil production and an increasing number of wineries that are welcoming non-drinkers with activities such as vineyards walks, horseback rides and garden tours.

The yoga in the redwoods was only part of the day we had booked with Getaway Adventures, a local company offering active tours of Sonoma. Owner Randy Johnson also took us on a two- hour hike in Sonoma Coast State Park, where the sight and sound of the crashing waves as we walked on sandy beaches and up and down grassy knolls was as meditative as the yoga in the redwoods. Given more days and enough stamina, we would have had Johnson take us on two of his most popular excursions: kayaking on the Russian River and biking along vineyards.

Johnson said that when he started Getaway Adventures in 1991, he was one of Sonoma’s few active touring companies; now, there are more than 30 others. “People came to Sonoma only to drink wine, but lately there’s a big interest in active vacationing,” he said. Five years ago, Johnson and his team ran 100 tours a year; today, they run upward of 500.

Hotels, too, are part of the wellness movement. Catherine Bartolomei, co-owner of Farmhouse Inn, an upscale boutique property in the town of Forestville, recently introduced several health-focused amenities such as maps of the surrounding parks with hiking and biking trails marked, and calorie-conscious to-go meals and snacks for guests to enjoy on their excursions such as low-sugar granola bars and kale and quinoa salads.

Bartolomei’s family has lived in Sonoma County for five generations; she said that what is new for visitors is the norm for locals. “Wine is only (a) sliver of what Sonoma is about,” she said. “Locals have always relied on the olive oil and produce, and hiking and biking is how we spend our weekends.”

Bartolomei is incorporating elements of the Sonoma she knows into Farmhouse. The hotel’s spa, for example, has a 90-minute muscle-relieving treatment where guests lay on a body pillow filled with Indigenous alfalfa and lavender. The treatment was inspired by Sonoma’s farmers, who have long used alfalfa to help with sore muscles.

And while Farmhouse has regularly hosted Sonoma winemakers for wine tastings, the region’s relatively unknown olive oil producers have become a significant part of the guest lineup. Colleen McGlynn, the proprietor of DaVero Farms & Winery, for example, not long ago walked a dozen guests through a tasting of her extra-virgin and Meyer lemon oils. “We discussed mouth feel, aromas and health benefits of high-quality extra-virgin olive oil,” McGlynn said.

Tourists also can visit olive oil producers like McGlynn at their farms for tastings and tours. At Trattore Farms, owner and producer Mary Louise Bucher took me on the “Get Your Boots Dirty” tour where we walked through the olive groves so I could see the different kinds of trees she grows. She then showed me the production centre, where olives are crushed in mills and then mixed in vats, where they release their oil. Afterward, I sampled some of her 14 extra-virgin oils including the Mediterranean blend using fruit varietals from Italy, Greece and Spain.

Perhaps unexpectedly, part of Sonoma’s eye toward wellness is being driven by the wineries the region is famous for. Lynmar Estate, a winery situated in the heart of the Russian River Valley, for instance, hosts hourlong walks several times a year through the property’s expansive produce garden, during which guests are encouraged to pick herbs such as rosemary and mint.

“We want people to have a full sensory experience here by smelling the fruits, vegetables and herbs and feeling the air,” said Anisya Fritz, who owns the winery with her husband, Lynn.

For those who want to taste what they see, Lynmar’s executive chef, David Frakes, offers three-course vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free lunch menus using the garden’s bounty.

Jordan Winery, known for its award-winning cabernet sauvignon, recently introduced half-day hikes, held eight times a year, through its 1,200 acres of hilly terrain comprising vineyards, a garden, meadows and a lake. The reward at the end of the heart pumping trek? A picnic lunch served underneath a shade of oak trees.


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Travel & Escape

Why your hotel mattress feels like heaven (and how to bring that feeling home)




(NC) Choosing the right mattress is a long-term investment in your health and well-being. To make a good choice for your home, take a cue from luxury hotel-room beds, which are designed to support the sound sleep of tens of thousands of guests, 365 nights a year.

“When we’re shopping for a mattress, we do lab testing, identify the best materials, bring in multiple mattress samples and have our associates test them,” explains David Rizzo, who works for Marriott International. “We ask for ratings on comfort level, firmness, body support and movement disruption. It takes 12 to 18 months just to research and select materials.”

Here, he shares his tips to pick the perfect mattress for your best sleep:

Understand your needs. People have different food and exercise preferences, as well as different sleep cycles. So, it’s no surprise that everyone has unique mattress preferences. Not sure whether a firm or a soft mattress is better? Rizzo says the best gauge is to ask yourself, “Do I wake up with aches and pains?” If the answer is no, you’re golden.

Foam versus spring. All mattresses have a core that is made up foam or innersprings or a combination of the two. Today’s foam-core mattresses contain memory foam — a material engineered by NASA to keep astronauts comfortable in their seats. It’s special because it retains or “remembers” its shape, yielding to pressure from the sleeper’s body, then bouncing back once the pressure is removed.

An innerspring mattress has an encased array of springs with individual coils that are connected by a single helical wire. This wire creates continuous movement across the coil that minimizes disruption if the mattress is disturbed, such as by a restless sleeper. According to Rizzo, the innerspring is “bouncier.”

Temperature preference. Consider how warm or cool you like to sleep, and factor in the construction of the mattress to find one with a temperature that suits you. The air space engineered into an innerspring mattress promotes ventilation, which some people find keeps them pleasantly cool. To accomplish the same purpose with a foam mattress (or the foam layer of an innerspring) it may be infused with metal, usually silver or copper, to help dissipate heat and humidity.

Need to test out the right mattress for your needs? Find the right fit during your next trip by booking your stay at

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Travel & Escape

How to make the most of summer travel




(NC) One of the best parts of our short Canadian summers is the opportunity to enjoy them a little bit extra on long weekends. If you need ideas, check out these creative things to do whether you decide to stay in town or go away.

Do a dinner crawl. Pub crawls are fun for couples, friends and also families with older kids. For an exciting twist that stretches your dollars and lets you taste food from several spots before you get too full, try a dinner crawl. Eat apps at one restaurant, mains at another and dessert at another.

Go on a mini getaway. You don’t need to go very far to enjoy a vacation – exploring a Canadian city over a summer weekend is great way to treat yourself to a holiday. Whether it’s checking out the museums in Toronto or the parks in Vancouver, there’s something for everyone. For upgraded benefits, special experiences and the best rates guaranteed, join Marriott Bonvoy and book direct on

Host a potluck. Perfect whether you’re staying at home or going to your cottage, gather friends and family together for some food and fun. A potluck is an easy and affordable way to host a big get-together and lets everyone try something new and swap recipes. Make the festivities extra special with a fireworks potluck, too – ask everyone to bring some fireworks or sparklers and put on a light show. Just be sure to follow local regulations for consumer fireworks.

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Travel & Escape

Lottoland: Here’s why Canadians love it!




Lotteries have been in existence for many centuries now and it’s an open secret that most people enjoy playing a good lottery.

Asides from gauging your own luck, the thrill of playing, the anticipation of the results and the big wins every now and then is something most people look forward to. Since 1982, the lottery has been in Canada, but now there is a way to play both the Lotto and other international lotteries from Canada, all from the comfort of your home.

With Lottoland, all you need to do is register and get access to numerous international lotteries right from their website. The easy-to-use interface has all the information you need, and great amount of care has been taken to ensure that the online experience is similar—and even better—than if players were to visit each location personally.

The Powerball and Mega Millions lotteries are hitting record highs with their prize money, in what the organizers claim to be the largest jackpot in the history of the world. However, the U.S. has gambling laws that are state controlled and buying your ticket through an online broker can be considered gambling.

“No one except the lottery or their licensed retailers can sell a lottery ticket. No one. Not even us. No one. No, not even that website. Or that one,” Powerball’s website says.

Therefore, to stand a chance to win the $1.5 billion-dollar lottery jackpot it means you have to purchase your lottery tickets directly from a licensed retailer such as Lottoland.

Since 2013, Lottoland has been operating in Canada, rapidly growing in popularity amongst Canadians. Due to its easy of use and instant access to lotteries that were previously considered inaccessible—as Canadians had to travel all the way to the U.S. to purchase tickets in the past—Lottoland has attracted lots of visitors.

Currently, there about 8-million players on Lottoland, a figure that points to the reliability of the website.

One of the core values of Lottoland is transparency and that’s why a quick search on the website would show you a list of all of their winners. Recently, a Lottoland customer was awarded a world-record fee of $137 million CND.

Also, due to the incredibly slim chances of winning the grand prize not everyone would take home mega-dollar winnings, but there are substantial winnings every day.

Securing your information online is usually one important factor when registering on any platform and as the site explains, “Lottoland works very hard to verify your information.”

The site has a multi-verification process that will ensure that you confirm your identity and age before giving you a pay-out. However, in the rare case that a player has immediate luck and wins a lottery before completing the verification process, Lottoland will hold on to the winnings until they complete your verification.

While this might seem like a tedious process, it is very important as these safety features would ensure that your information wasn’t stolen and ultimately your winning routed to another account.

Lottoland is licensed with the National Supervisory Bodies For Lotteries in several countries such as the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, Ireland and Australia—where it is called a wagering license. Typically, most gaming companies don’t establish insurance companies as it entails that their activities have to be transparent and the must be highly reputable in the industry.

Nonetheless, Lottoland has no issues meeting up to these standards as they have established themselves as the only gaming sector company who has its own insurance company—an added advantage for new and existing users.

Lotteries aren’t the only games Canadians enjoy playing and Lottoland recognizes this by providing players with other types of gaming. As an industry leader, video designers of online games often make them their first choice when it comes to publishing their works.

Online games such as slots, blackjack, video poker, baccarat, keno, scratchoffs, roulette and many others are always on offer at the Lottoland Casino. There’s also the option of playing with a live dealer and a total of over 100 games.

Lottoland has received numerous rave reviews from its growing list of satisfied customer and their responsive customer service agents are always available to answer any questions users may have, along with solving challenges they may have encountered.

More and more Canadians are trooping to Lottoland in droves due to the unique experience of going to a casino without having to leave the comfort of their homes.

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