Wednesday, October 22, 2014

California Trip Part 2: Sonoma

When we left San Francisco, we decided to take a scenic drive up Highway 1 on the California Coast.  Our little Ford Focus rental handled the drive through death defying cliffs with flying colors. We also learned (much to my chagrin) that Daniel has a future as a race car driver!

Gorgeous views!
A lookout point we stopped to visit along the way.

Clearly we are new to selfies.
We passed tons of cow pastures on our way to Santa Rosa.
We decided to stay in Santa Rosa during our time in Sonoma.  They have a great downtown area and is a reasonable distance from the Redwoods and San Francisco.

When we got settled in at our hotel (the Hyatt Vineyard Creek...I would definitely recommend), Muffin and I decided to go to a wine tasting room downtown.  We tried two different flights and had a great time in the cool California air.

We then decided it was time to head back to the hotel and find a place to eat dinner.  We settled on another french restaurant (apparently we were on a kick).  This place had the BEST escargot.  I know some readers are losing their minds over my love of snails...but I just can't help it!  They have such a rich taste and are a Katie and Daniel favorite!

Our amazing escargot!
The next morning we woke up bright and early for our day.  We scheduled our wine tour for mid-morning and had a few errands to get out of the way before it was time for our tour guide to arrive.  We stopped by a local breakfast place and again ate some amazing food! Next up was a haircut for Daniel.  The barbershop we went to was really interesting--they offered us bourbon at 9 am.  Needless to say, that was a little early for us!

Daniel's yummy huevos rancheros

Daniel's haircut
 We then headed back to the hotel to meet our tour guide for our day of wine tasting.  We used Wine Country Journeys, and I HIGHLY recommend them.  We went to four vineyards that produce 5,000 cases, or less, of wine per year.  For those who might not know a lot about wine production, these are tiny vineyards that would be hard to discover at home.  I think our favorite of the four was J. Rickards.  It's a small vineyard that is run by a former cattle rancher.

The best part of going to such small vineyards, however, was being there during harvest time.  Each vineyard was full of activity and we got to experience all of it.  We ate grapes from the vines, we ate grapes in harvest buckets, and ate grapes just about everywhere!  We also got to taste freshly pressed grapes, wine in various stages of fermentation, and had barrel pours of aging wine.  The best part was getting to meet so many of the vineyard owners.  I loved hearing their stories and perspectives about wine.

Eating harvested grapes.
Gorgeous vineyard views.

Grapes ready for harvest (the yellowing leaves are a big indicator that it's time to harvest).

One vineyard made the cutest custom sign for us!
 Once we got "home," we wanted some nice relaxation time in the hotel courtyard.  We read books, ate local cheeses, and got a small dinner at the hotel.  After dinner, we decided to read some more and relax in the hot tub.

Oh, the hot tub.  There is just something about my face that says tell me your deepest (and most awkward) secrets and I will be here to support you.  Let's keep in perspective that Daniel was 100% against going in the hot tub for this very reason--I always make interesting friends wherever we go.  However, Muffin is sweet and decided to let me win this one.  So, we get in the hot tub where there is already a couple enjoying their evening.  We begin to read immediately in order to A.  accomplish our mission of relaxing and B. mind our own business.  Next thing you know I am in a full on conversation about knee surgery, marriage, planning a wedding, and, worst of all, mediating an argument between this couple about their wedding.  After 2 hours of this, they decided to call it a night and Muffin just hung his head with amusement.

 The next morning, we woke up to explore a few more vineyards before heading to Morgan's wedding venue. We spent the day at some larger vineyards that were equally as fun and delicious as the smaller ones we visited the day before.  Korbel made it to my Sonoma bucket list since it was my favorite drink in college.  We couldn't leave without visiting!  We also went to Rodney Strong and J vineyards (both amazing and highly recommended wines).

Korbel, in it's original building since opening in the 1800's.
Wine and food pairing.
Amazing food for our wine pairing.
And just like that, we were off for Part 3 of our California tour!  Wine country is officially the most relaxing place I've ever been!  We had a great time, but were even more excited to head to Morgan's special day!  Stay tuned for Part 3.

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