Is there anything better than sitting outside on a unexpectedly warm Fall day, gazing out at lush green land, sipping wine and laughing and talking with your friends?
I’m going to argue no. After spending the most glorious 3 days in Sonoma with my college girlfriends last March, I was hell bent on getting back there if we were only going to be 50 miles away. Luckily for me, Anne took no convincing whatsoever and the boys somewhat begrudgingly agreed. (I think they were very content once we got into the swing of things.)
I mean, who wouldn’t be?
We used the same company that I had used with the winos for our drivers – Terrific Tours. I can’t say enough great things about them, especially DJ – who had driven us last year and I requested this year. He grew up in the area in a grape-growing family and is knowledgeable about the area and is on a first name basis at almost every vineyard we visited. But he also backs off and lets a group do their own thing once we get to each place. If you’re ever going to wine country, use them as your drivers! (And trust me, you want a driver.)
On our way out of the city, we were all exclaiming at the views of the Golden Gate Bridge and he asked if we wanted to take a quick pit stop for some photo ops. Of course!
We somehow packed 7 vineyards into our day. We started off at Cline Cellars, because…well, obviously! We’ve had a handful of Cline wines before at home, including one of Matt’s favorites Red Truck. I was glad that I knew I could get most of these wines at Total Wine when we got home, because I wanted to take them all – especially the Zinfandel.
(So, I’m wondering if fixing the broken “E” on the Cline sign is a photoshop do-able thing? I need to learn these skills.)
From Cline, we went across the street to their “sister vineyard,” Jacuzzi. Apparently a Cline married a Jacuzzi, bringing these 2 vineyards into one family. Kind of lamenting that it’s not one of our Clines that married said Jacuzzi. Jacuzzi had some really delicious Italian style wines, but our favorite was the “chocolate shot.” Their dessert wine poured into a chocolate shot – drink the wine, then immediately chew the chocolate. Heck yea. Anne fell in love with a red here called Barbera that she swore was the best red she’s ever had.
From Jacuzzi, we went to a vineyard called Anaba. Instead of the usual tasting room style, we were invited to go sit outside on the patio and she came out and poured one wine at a time and allowed us to sit and sip and talk. I think this was hands down everyone’s favorite place. These were some of my favorite wines we had all day too – I bought a white called Coriol just because I had never had anything like it and Matt picked out a red called Turbine, that was super jammy and delicious.
At these point, we were in need of some food to start soaking up the wine, so DJ took us into downtown Sonoma to a place called Sunflower Café. The long line told us everything we needed to know – and fortunately for our rumbling stomachs, it moved quickly. Per the recommendation of the girl at Anaba, we tried the goat cheese and pistachio stuffed peppers as an appetizer. Ah.maze.ing.
After lunch, we were ready to go again. DJ took us next to a place that was supposed to have some of the best Pinot Noirs in Sonoma Valley called Nicholson Ranch. This was probably my least favorite place of the day, possibly because it was the only place we went where the person doing the tastings was not very warm and really didn’t take a lot of time to tell us about any of the wines we were pouring other than pointing to the tasting notes on a piece of paper. We didn’t stay very long or take home any souvenirs.
From Nicholson, we went on to Robledo which was pretty much the exact opposite experience. The guy doing the tastings was one of the 7 sons of the owners, and not only did he tell us about each and every wine but kept us entertained with stories about how his Dad had started off in the late 60s learning to prune vines and saved every penny he made until he could open his own vineyard in the late 80s. We loved the story and we loved the wines – and Matt loved the hand made furniture in the tasting room (of course). We didn’t have room to put a table in our carry-on, so we settled for taking home a bottle of Los Braceros, a bold red blend.
After Robledo’s, we hit up two more smaller vineyards – Homewood winery and Meadowcroft. Homewood winery is literally a one man show – the owner does as much of the work himself as he can and so production is quite small. Their attitude was that wine making (and drinking) should be fun, as evidenced in the name of their signature wine – the Flying Wizzbanger. I can’t remember how the name came about, but the wine is good! We were definitely winding down by the time we got to Meadowcroft, but they had a great Chardonnay which surprised me as I’m not usually a fan of oaky, creamy Chards. It was the last one to join my collection of souvenirs to come home.
And by then, it was time for us to go home. It was getting late into the afternoon, and our driver said “bad things happen after 7 vineyards.” Can’t argue with that! Back to the city we went…
Waving good-bye to my favorite place on Earth…
Hoping that somehow 2012 holds a surprise trip for me, too…