Many Petalumans don’t know where they’re going to be next week, let alone next year. But local wine aficionados who are used to thinking in terms of annual vintages, may already be saying “Same time, next year” when it comes to the “Petaluma Gap Cruising the Rhone River.”

The week-long cruise through France’s famed Rhone wine region begins March 23, 2017, but staterooms aboard the 148-passenger ship, the AmaCello, are currently available.

“They’re fairly small ships. This one is like 148 people, so they fill up fairly quickly,” says Doug Cover, board director of the Petaluma Gap Winegrowers Alliance, who is also wine cruise business development manager at Expedia CruiseShipCenters, North Bay. “People on these kinds of cruises are ones that have an affinity for wine and food. There’s  four winemaker dinners, there’s four wine-tasting events that are hosted by the winemakers onboard, and you’re traveling through some of the legendary wine country of France.”

Hosts include winemakers from Keller Estate, Fogline, Trombetta Family Wines, and winemaker Alexander Remy from Agnitio Wines who, actually began his career in the Rhone region.

So, you know, not your typical booze cruise.

“They typically fill up about six to nine months ahead of the cruise, so we’re out there giving people the opportunity to get onboard with the cruise early while there’s a great discount going on for the, for the staterooms on the ship,” says Cover.

For those on a budget, you can always smuggle a bottle onto our own river (or slough, depending on your attitude) and cruise for free via the Boating at the Barn program at the David Yearsley River Heritage Center every Sunday morning.

But, hey, what is the Petaluma Gap anyway?

It may sound like it belongs in the outlet mall but it’s actually an American Viticultural Area – or at least it will be. The “Gap” is actually a wind gap named after a coastal mountain opening that stretches east from the Pacific Ocean through Petaluma and out to San Pablo Bay (check out this handy gap map). In February 2015, the PGWA submitted its petition to the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau to establish the area as a formally recognized American Viticultural Area.

Fogline and Keller Estate are near the eastern border of the Gap, relatively near Petaluma Hill Road and Highway 116, respectively. Agnitio Wines sources its grapes from the Sun Chase vineyard, which is on the eastern side of the Gap where it abuts Sonoma Mountain. Trombetta Family Wines sources its pinot noir from the Gap’s Crown Vineyard on the western slope of the mountain.

And here’s a soundbite you can use at your next Petaluma wine tasting: “Syrah that’s grown in the Petaluma Gap area is often compared to the Northern Rhone style from the Côte-Rôtie and Crozes-Hermitage regions of the Rhone River.”

Chin-chin.

For more information about Petaluma Gap Cruising the Rhone River visit PetalumaGap.com.

Daedalus Howell is the author of Quantum Deadline, a darkly comic sci-fi crime novel, set in Lumaville. Also, you’ll never believe the strange goings-on at DaedalusHowell.com.