The sun rises on Jimtown Cottage. Next door, a rooster crows. (Seriously.) And we are all tucked in our snuggly, warm beds, while visions of zinfandels danced in our head.
No, wait. Scratch that. We were all lying awake staring at the clock since about 4 am, still on East Coast time.
By 6 am, we had all gathered in the living room, lamenting over the lack of coffee and decided to pile into our mini-van for a Starbucks/Grocery store run. With a little advanced planning (and some crazy Excel spreadsheets), we divided and conquered the grocery store. Groceries for 3 dinners, 3 breakfast and snacks for 5 girls? Purchased in less than an hour, for about $45/person. Amazing.
With our provisions secured, we headed back to the house to wait our driver with a warm-up glass of wine on the porch.
(Also, we were really pleased with the driving services, but I’ll save my review for that on yelp. However, if you’re going to Sonoma look up Terrific Tours.)
Pam and I had researched the vineyards (Excel, again) and had narrowed down a list of 70 recommendations into approximately 12 vineyards . We turned the list over to our driver who made some tweaks according to their experiences and connections. I was totally pleased with the choices they came up with, even though it changed about half of the places we had researched.
The day was nothing short of magical. Standing shoulder to shoulder at bars that ranged from beautiful, polished oak overlooking lush green rolling vineyards and palatial Italian terraces to old wooden plank bars in a farmhouse to wine glasses held directly under a spout in a barrel. We visited seven vineyards today: Ferrari-Carano, Sbraglia Family, Preston, Bella, J. Rankin, Pedroncelli, and Coppola.
My favorite thing about vineyards in Sonoma was how tucked away they all were. Without GPS or an experienced driver I’m not sure we would have found half of them. One of my favorites was Preston, which was a beautiful farm house and an organic farm. Here we sat outside (despite the cold) and ate our Oakville Grocery sandwiches accompanied by purring, friendly cats.
Another favorite, J. Rankin was basically a shed with a wildly hilarious pourer and a beautiful dog named Shelby who recognized five dog lovers and literally threw herself at our feet. The vintner is a current ICU nurse, who makes wine in his “free time.” I loved the places were making wine was more about the passion than the pennies.
Around 3:30, we left J Rankin and our driver asked us if we wanted to make one more stop. Most of our visits had been about 45 minutes, so I’m sure he figured he had plenty of time for us to make one more stop. We agreed (of course) and he pulled up to Francis Ford Coppola. As a downpour began, he pulled us up to the door and we slipped inside to safety. This was the most crowded place we had been to, which is not surprising given it’s a little more well-known. We had to wait for a seat, which is apparently more than standard for normal in-season, but we had been spoiled by visiting places that were practically empty when we arrived.
Our pourer started off with the 5 wines on the tasting menu. We struck up a conversation with a couple next to us, and when they stood up to vacate their seats they waved us into their spot. In the midst of our conversing with the fellow patrons, we had lost the attention of our pourer. But at this point, we had become more interested in each other than the wine being poured. Once back in the hot seat, we turned our focus back to the task at hand.
“Have you all tried this one?” the pourer asked. I looked at the bottle, and didn’t recognize it. “No?”
“Well the couple who was sitting here wanted you to try it.” He poured me a glass, and it was one of the most delicious wines I had had all day. I couldn’t find the bottle on the tasting menu, until I finally found it on the list of wines for sale as one of the pricier selections. WELL. Good to know that there is a difference between the seventy dollar bottle and the twenty dollar bottle. Our enthusiasm won him over, and he came back with wine after wine for us to try as the tasting room emptied out.
All of a sudden the door flung open, allowing light to pour forth into the dark tasting room and our driver anxiously peered inside. "I just wanted to make sure you guys were still in here!" Once we got back to the car, we understood his worry – 2 hours has passed during our free-for-all of tasting!
The rest of the ride home we laughed and giggled and compared notes about our favorites. (My faves: Ferrari-Carano Fume Blanc and Coppola Sofia Blanc de Blanc.) Our driver dropped us off, and carried our armloads of souvenirs inside. We prepped dinner (spinach dip by Pam, steak and couscous salad by Jess) and rehashed the day. After dinner we attempted to watch American Idol, but it wasn’t long before our heavy eyelids won over. One by one we drifted off to bed, eager to repeat the day’s events again tomorrow.