Go Away With … Kathy Benziger Threlkeld

By Jae-Ha Kim
December 7, 2010

Kathy Benziger Threlkeld knows her wine. The 44-year-old Sonoma, Calif., resident is a partner in the family business: Benziger Family Winery. An avid traveler who enjoys destinations that offer both snow and beachfront views, she picks a Wisconsin resort as her all-time favorite hotel.

Q. What is your favorite vacation destination?

A. (Hawaii’s) Poipu Beach, because it is a true vacation spot where you can completely disconnect and relax. You have the option of being active by hiking the Na Pali coast or just sitting on the beach, soaking up the sun and escaping into a good book. Guess which one I like to do?

Q. Where are your favorite weekend getaways?

A. Aspen, Colo. Aspen is such a special place in both the summer and the winter. Besides having great music, art, food, and wine festivals, there are a tremendous amount of things to do — skiing, hiking, biking, dancing, dining. … Plus, this is where I met my husband. The locals rock! When we don’t feel like getting on a plane, San Francisco. The city boasts great restaurants, music venues, hotels and scenery — the skyline while biking through Sausalito, an espresso and cannoli while people watching in North Beach. The great thing about San Francisco Bay Area is you can go on mini day trips to Carmel, Half Moon Bay or (Northern California’s) Wine Country. My family’s winery is in Sonoma County, just 50 minutes from the Golden Gate Bridge. Our biodynamic vineyard tour is the best in the industry and our award-winning wines are outstanding.

Q. What is your favorite hotel?

A. The American Club in Kohler, Wis. From the phenomenal cuisine to the championship golf courses, this resort is a hidden gem in the Midwest. It’s is not just about great bathrooms. Trust me, go check it out!

Q. What is your favorite restaurant?

A. Francesco’s Restaurant in White Plains, N.Y., is my all-time favorite restaurant. My East Coast pals and I always plan a Franc’s night when I come into town to visit. We reconnect, walk down memory lane and savor the world’s best sausage and mushroom pizza, as well as the Chicken Francesco.

Q. When you go away what are some of your must-have items?

A. A headlamp so I can read at night without disturbing my husband and running shoes. An early-morning run is the best way to explore the city you are visiting. Getting to witness a city waking up is magical.

Q. What are your five favorite cities?

A. New York, San Francisco, Chicago, New Orleans and Aspen — not necessarily in that order.

Q. What is your best and/or worst vacation memory?

A. My worst was when I went on a European adventure over the Christmas holidays with some friends in 1995. I got my fanny pack stolen on the overnight train from Amsterdam to Berlin three days before Christmas with my credit card, Eurail pass, and passport. This just happened to be during the American budget crisis when the federal government shut down and all American consulates were shut down in Europe. I was stranded in Berlin over Christmas but ended up being adopted by this couple that took us into their home for the holiday.

One of the scariest experiences ended up being one of my most meaningful. My best was in 1997, when my family and I took a mountain-to-the-beach vacation. We spent Christmas in Colorado and New Year’s in Hawaii. To be skiing in waist-deep powder one day and the next to be sticking your boot-sore toes in the warm sand is truly the best feeling in the world.

(c) 2010 JAE-HA KIM




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