Category Archives: California

Wine!

After talking about it for quite some time, Mo & I finally teamed up with the Irvings and took a trip to the northern California wine country, specifically the Sonoma Valley.

On our drive to hotel in Windsor, CA, after arriving in San Francisco, we conferred with our cellphones to find a place for our first meal, and eventually (inevitably?) stopped at…In N Out Burger.

We had our first evening to kill, and found nearby the Williamson Wines in Healdsburg. While the wines were good, what really made them memorable was the cheeses/spices/spreads expertly paired with them, which really brought out the nuanced flavors. Also impressive: free tasting.

The next morning we left for the first of our two winery tours — Frog’s Leap Winery in Rutherford. We were immediately struck by the quite beauty of the flower/vegetable garden which was a centerpiece of the grounds behind the main building. Our guide Seth was knowledgeable and passionate regarding the vineyard’s sustainability commitment. Meanwhile, the harvest was in gear during our visit, so we saw some of the related activity.

frogs leap
a beautiful loaded grape vine at Frog’s Leap

Later that day we toured Cakebread Cellars also in Rutherford. While it was an impressive operation, I think we were just a bit let down after the earlier stop at Frog’s Leap.

The next day happened to be my birthday, and also the high point in our vacation: a guided tour by Sonoma Segway. Yes, that’s right — Segways! Hunt, our guide, set us up, and after ~10 minutes of practice around the parking lot to familiarize ourselves with the operation, the four of us and two others followed him on our four hour scenic “stroll”

After winding our way around the back streets and quite countryside, we stopped among the grapes to discuss sugar content and to sample a couple. Our first tasting was at one of the area’s few German vineyards, Gundlach Bundschu Wineries. It was nice to have a break from the primarily French wines to find some more similar to our Missouri wine country, although we found them to still be a bit drier than our liking.

We next stopped at Buena Vista Winery for a delicious picnic lunch followed by wine tasting and siteseeing at the fascinating grounds of the winery. The owner is definitely a bit of a showman.

Our last stop on our Segway journey was at the Vella Cheese Company. Besides learning about the cheesemaking process, we took advantage of refrigerated rooms to cool off, as the temps were in the mid-to-upper 90’s. We tried several variety of cheeses made here and took home a wedge of Mezzo Secco cheese, a partially dry Monterey Jack, which we shared with friends (to favorable reviews).

vella cheese
among the cheese wheels at Vella Cheese

After turning in our Segways (I named mine “Buck” btw!) and saying our thank yous, we stopped back at our hotel, then went for supper at nearby Kin Restaurant in Windsor. The atmosphere was neat, and the food very good. And a birthday rhubarb crisp for dessert as well!

On our way back to San Fran the next day, we stopped for a bite along the water at Barrel House in Sausalito. The food was great, and the view was outstanding — a fog-shrouded Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz island, with layers of houses hugging the nearby hillsides.

sausalito
the view south from the Barrel House

From our hotel near SFO, I contacted my cousin Mark & his wife Amy, and we met and drove down to a supper at House of Nanking, in Chinatown portion of San Francisco, just over a block from the Transamerica Pyramid. Upon hearing that we had not eaten there before, the matriarch of the restaurant replied, “I take care of you,” and for the next half hour one platter followed another a few minutes apart. We did an admirable job emptying them all (see photo), and it was delicious.

house of nanking
Diners 6, Food Platters 0

We said our goodbyes and thanked our gracious hosts and the next day we wended our way home, wined, dined, and rested.

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