California’s Paso Robles area offers wine-tasters variety

PASO ROBLES, California — Winemakers around this central California city can grow a mind-boggling variety of grapes thanks to a wide diversity of microclimates. Visitors can take a tasting tour of European varietals — from Italy and Spain as well as France’s Rhone and Bordeaux regions.

Audubon’s annual Christmas Bird Count stronger than ever

Ít’s been 120 years since New York ornithologist Frank Chapman launched his Christmas Bird Count as a bold new alternative to what was a longtime Christmas tradition of hunting birds. Today, the annual count continues, stronger and more important than ever.

‘100 nativitiy scenes’

Pope Francis, flanked by Archbishop Rino Fisichella, visits the exhibition “100 Nativity scenes at The Vatican” on Monday in Rome. The exhibition, containing more than 130 nativity scenes from some 30 countries, opened Dec. 8 and will be on display until Jan.12, 2020.

Shinto festival carries on centuries-old tradition in Japan

CHICHIBU, Japan — As fireworks light up the winter night, scores of men, women and teenagers crying “washoi, washoi” haul the last of six towering, lantern-covered floats up a small hill and into the town center, the culminating moment of a Shinto festival that evolved from a harvest thanksgiving into a once-a-year meeting between two local gods.