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Cousin Time at Rendez-vous

My cousin from San Francisco was coming to town last weekend, so I brainstormed a list of places I could take her that would be different from her haunts in the City. After all, Sacramento does have its own unique charm—if you look for it. Among other things, Sacramento has a lot of great local wineries  perfect for wine tasting Sacramento in some really neat places. For example, I recently discovered the Old Sugar Mill in Clarksburg after doing a half marathon there. It’s like Napa, but has a decidedly more country feel. It’s charming and quaint—perfect to bring my city slicker cousin to.

We ended up making a day of it, nearly driving the entire way near the river. We actually had lunch at Swabbies on the river and made our way to the Delta. It was a perfect day to be on the Delta and an even more perfect fall day to go wine tasting. My cousin may have the City at her fingertips, but I was showing her something she didn’t get to see all the time. And that’s why I love Sacramento, you can go from the grit of downtown to the country in a matter of minutes.

When we got to the Old Sugar Mill, we took a walk around to take some pictures of the pretty fall leaves and the colors changing everywhere. It was just gorgeous. After we got all the photos we wanted, we went inside for some wine tasting. The first thing we saw when we walked in was someone sampling olive oil and balsamic vinegar. We were a little hungry, and we never turn down free food, so we tried some and IT WAS DELICIOUS! Sure, we were hungry, but we were pretty sure it would have been awesome even if we weren’t desperate for food at the time we tried it. Once we had the oil-soaked bread in us, we were ready for wine.

As it turned out, the people who were handing out olive oil where a part of one of the wineries called Rendezvous Winery. I didn’t remember them from the time I went to Old Sugar Mill before, but they said they had only been around for about a year. We went in and decided to taste some of their wines, and we ended up hanging out there for the rest of the afternoon. We talked to the winemaker who used to make wines in Napa, but has moved his passion to the Sacramento region. He was very friendly and talked us through the wine making process as well as introduced us to each of the wines we tried. By the end of the afternoon, we had nearly run out of time. So instead of tasting more wine, we just wore off our buzz by walking around the grounds again.

We had such a great day with Rendez-vous and my cousin and I have agreed to make wine tasting at the Old Sugar Mill a tradition. Only, we promised each other we would try to go to other wineries next time.

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Updated kitchens, pretty and functional bathrooms, and classy curb appeal still rank high on the list of renovations that lure homebuyers. But today’s soft housing market conditions demand that homeowners carefully consider projects in order to get an attractive return on their investment.

Homeowners should conduct a cost analysis of their remodeling budget and pay close attention to local real estate values. A $50,000 kitchen renovation in a home currently worth $200,000 makes little sense for resale in the predicted steady to slowly improving months ahead.

[See America's Least Expensive Housing Markets.]

“In general, kitchens and baths still sell a house, though maybe to a slightly lesser degree than when the market was stronger. Buyers seem to be more interested in “the deal,” and if they have to do some work themselves, they seem to be amenable to that,” says Atlanta-based ReMax Realtor Bill Golden.

Yet in some locations, buyers are demanding turn-key purchases more than ever.

Tracie Golding, an agent with Stribling & Associates in New York’s Manhattan borough, says buyers are using low interest rates and high inventory levels to hold out for fully renovated apartments. Buyers would rather move into a mint-condition space they can finance than spend out-of-pocket to renovate, she says.

Space and flow are the keys to home buying decisions and should drive remodeling choices, too. “The basic size, layout, and location of kitchens and baths are still of utmost importance to buyers,” says Golden. “In other words, it may be OK if they need updating, but a tiny kitchen or bath, or one that’s poorly located in the home, are still big turnoffs for most buyers.”

[See Will This Home Renovation Pay Off?]

Sal Alfano, editorial director at Remodeling magazine, which publishes the annual Remodeling Cost vs. Value Report, agrees. His research finds that in the current housing economy, homeowners are getting more bang for their buck on space changes within the existing footprint of their house, rather than with new additions. For instance, upgrading from a 1 ½-bathroom to a 2 ½-bath home in a neighborhood that’s flush with 2 ½-bath dwellings is money well spent and likely necessary to compete against comparable listings, he says. Basement renovations, especially if they include an extra bedroom or an office, also bring value.

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