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Dreaming of a Californian Christmas?

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Each year Napa Valley produces about 9.2 million cases of wine, 75 percent of which are red 

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David Auerbach of Carols in the Caves has performed in the cellars of more than 40 wineries

Photo: Rhoda Stewart 

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The Napa Valley Wine Train features vintage cars that date back as early as 1915 

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Sonoma County is home to more than 250 award-winning wineries 

29 OCTOBER 2009

If you're looking to trade in snow and eggnog for sunshine and wine this holiday season, then California's wine regions might be the perfect destination.

Napa Valley, home to David and Victoria Beckham's private vineyard as well as Francis Ford Coppola's Rubicon Estate, offers a number of special holiday events.

In the depths of the region's wine caverns and barrel cellars, Carols in the Caves has been reinventing traditional holiday songs for more than 20 years.

The one-man improvisational concert features old favourites like Silent Night and Deck the Halls performed on 100 rare and exotic instruments, including the kettle drum and vibraphone.

Above ground, visitors to the area can feast on a seven-course dinner of traditional holiday fare while aboard the Napa Valley Wine Train.

The three-hour round-trip on December 17 provides spectacular views of the vineyards and wineries between Napa and St. Helena.

And those with tots tagging along can hop on the Santa Express, an hour-and-a-half long ride with Santa, Rudolph, and friends.

Family-friendly fun continues in Calistoga, in the northwest part of Napa Valley, which hosts the Annual Lighted Tractor Parade on December 5.

As a celebration of the town's agricultural heritage, an array of brightly lit vintage and modern tractors, antique trucks, and construction vehicles roll down the main street, bringing Santa Claus with them.

Sonoma County also knows how to put on a show for Christmas. During December, the region's wineries participate in a gingerbread house competition, each constructing a sugary likeness of its grounds.

The sweet creations are displayed in the wineries' tasting rooms, where visitors can consider their choice over a glass of holiday wine. Every vote is then entered into a draw to win a case of the region's best bottles.

And if the gingerbread vineyards leave you feeling inspired to create your own confectionary at home, you can attend the Relish Culinary Center's Family Gingerbread House Decorating.

To the sound of holiday music, groups can work together to decorate their houses with frosting, candy, and powdered sugar snow.

A vacation in California, however, wouldn't be complete without some sun and sand. The coastal city of Capitola, located on Monterey Bay, is a two-hour drive from Napa Valley.

On the beach there you'll find the wetsuit-wearing Surfin' Santa, who checks over children's Christmas lists and hands out candy canes to all.

For more info visit www.discovercaliforniawine.com.

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