Thursday, April 12, 2012

Wine Country...my kind of place

Hi everyone! Hope you are having a fantastic week! I know I have been pleasantly busy, with the Easter holiday, staying home for a couple days with the family and getting back into the swing of things here in Boston - so without further ado...I give you the final piece of our trip to California, wine country tour of Santa Rosa!

Let's see where I left off...oh yes, we were just getting on our way North from Berkeley to Santa Rosa, to check into our next hotel and explore a bit of wine country on the way.  We stayed at the Hilton Sonoma County and it was a pretty little place, with an outdoor heated pool and hot tub, which as soon as we were done putting our bags down, we were jumping into.  It was a pretty full day, what with the 7.5 mile trail run, closing of summit, and drive north - so the pool and hot tub was a great way to unwind and lounge out a bit.

We started our time in Sonoma County out right, with a trip to Glen Ellen Inn for dinner and our first taste of CA wine (of the trip of course).  The dinner was top notch, the Inn was cozy and the service was great...oh and the cocktails and wine weren't too bad either.
We ordered the mussels as an app, which wasn't a huge portion, but a great taster...and coupled with the homemade foccaccia bread and scones, it was the perfect starter.  J and I ordered the Italian fish stew, which was top notch, and well presented as a plus.
After some great martinis, food, and a bottle of wine, we were pretty full and satisfied, but the desserts were too irresistible to try so we shared a little mix (homemade truffles, caramel popcorn ice-cream sundae, and tiramisu!).
After dinner we headed back to the hotel for some de-briefing of the weekend and another bottle of red wine as a night cap (hey, with four girls, a bottle doesn't last too long!) and then it was off to bed for an early wake up and wine tour!

Monday morning we met up with Ken, from Platypus Wine Tours, at our hotel to start our expedition through Santa Rosa (Dry Creek Valley) wine country - mainly private estate tours in this part of the region.  I have used Platypus before, for a wine tour of Sonoma County and had an absolutely phenomenal time, so I convinced the ladies to book them again.  Ken had prepared us a picnic lunch and a cooler of water for our trip, and we left the hotel with his words of wisdom "it's ok to not finish every glass, or else you are going to be hammered, so remember to PACE yourself" - see wine touring is kind of like running a marathon - it can take 4 or 5 hours to conquer miles of terrain and carbs.

First stop, Harvest Moon Vineyard.  We paired each wine with a different cheese or chocolate, and the favorite for me was the  Dry Sparkling Gew├╝rztraminer paired with the manchego cheese, but I unfortunately did not snag a bottle.  I wanted to pace my bottle purchases so I didn't end up with half of wine country and no way to get it all home! The woman helping us with the tasting was fun and laid back, we didn't feel like we were being ignorant or wine-snobbed out, which was comforting, since none of us know a whole lot about the complexity of each wine...we just wanted to see what we could learn, taste some good wine, and have some fun (not to spoil the story, but mission accomplished...)
Next up, Hook n Ladder Winery, right next door to Harvest Moon.  This was a nifty barn full of wine barrels and old firemen T-shirts left as memories of the firemen from all over the country who have come to visit this winery.  We spotted the Boston shirt right away, but were more interested in getting our second tasting of the day in and taking pics with the towering pile of barrels.  I had some success here though, and brought home a great Cabernet mix, The Tillerman.

Third stop = lunch stop.  Ken had set it up so that were picnic lunching during our time at the third estate vineyard, Foppoli. Foppoli is a not a wide-spread wine to the best of my knowledge, but the retail production was started a few years ago by one of the younger sons in the family in his young 20's (he is still 29, or at least that is what he told us).  So while we dined on turkey sandwiches and brownies, Dominic (the young owner), told us the history of his family's involvement with wine making, which dated back much further into northern Italy, and then in CA around the time of prohibition, to selling their grapes to other vineyards in the area instead of making their own wine, all the way to him re-starting the wine making process in 2005.


His grapes grow on this really pretty and expansive farm, with cows, donkeys, roosters, the whole nine yards!  I picked up a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc here, but I am not going to lie, Dominic was not my favorite person on this trip - he was pretty full of himself and very "markety" if that makes sense, but we somehow managed to agree to meet back up with him later in the evening to show us the area and where we should go for dinner - but more on that later.  After many stories and way too much time spent at "lunch" we had burned through our time allotted to the fourth winery (we were supposed to go to 5, and only made it to 4) and had to go straight to the final estate, La Czar Vineyards.
The owner's backyard view at La Czar...not too shabby!
At La Czar, I would say the views were the main draw.  The wine was alright (not the best we had tasted, but it was also the fourth tasting and we had a bit of wine at the other estates), but he is closing his production so he can move south (Hawaii - tough life) so he offered us 50% off if we bought four bottles.  I had only bought 2 bottles up to this point, and the price of 4 w/ the discount was too good to beat, so I picked up 2 cabs, 1 zinfandel - maple vineyard (that was pretty darn fantastic) and a Sauvignon Blanc.
After La Czar we were all pretty tipsy and beat, so we headed back to the hotel, bid farewell to Ken and decided to rest a little.  After some coffee and showers, we were ready to get some dinner and headed out to meet up with Dominic to get some dinner in Healdsburg....everything post this was pretty fun, but also a slight crash n burn....we continued to drink at dinner, a few too many glasses of wine, a very small, but yummy portion of dinner and then...well the night went on a little longer than it needed to, but it was all good fun, so the hangover the next day was well worth it!
Final shot I had of the night, at Bear Republic Brewery for pre-dinner beers - I enjoyed a Racer 5 pint...mmmm
The next day was our last, so we headed back to San Francisco, where we were flying out of...on the way we explored the gorgeous Marin Headlands, some breathtaking views of the Golden Gate Bridge, and walked around Fisherman's Pier like true tourists! After a very full and tiring week, we flew out to Boston on the red-eye and never looked back...well maybe a little, but check out these pics and you will see why!
J and I with the view of the bridge 
Ashley and Julia at the top of one of the Marin Headlands hills

On top of the world!
And of course the Sea Lions at Fisherman'd Wharf, no trip to San Fran would be complete without this picture!
And that my friends, was my Cali trip in a nutshell! Thank you Luna and Clifbar & Co. for bringing us out there for three days of fun-filled activities and info, and thank you northern California wineries for making such yummy beverages and scenic drives :)

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Do you drink wine? Have you ever been on a tour? 

Are you a red or white kind of person?

all the time, I am a red person, but I do enjoy a nice chilled prosecco or suavignon blanc in the summer months.

2 comments:

  1. Looks like you guys had a blast!! I don't drink wine...or any alcohol for that matter! I never really got into the taste of alcoholic beverages. Some people think I'm weird but I just consider myself a money-saver!! Hahaha! I think I would love to go on one of those tours though. I think wineries are beautiful!

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  2. How wonderful... I love Sonoma and Napa and the whole wine country experience. It is also a golfer's Heaven.

    Great to getaway with the girls. Looks like you had lots of fun and drank and ate lots and lots of good food and wine, and martinis... yummo! So nice to see your smiling beautiful face. I have missed your posts.

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