Through the hilly streets of San Franciso, past the clanging trollys and beyond all the Starbucks, we cross the foggy Golden Gate Bridge and wave goodbye to the silvery city for the day. It doesn’t take long for rolling hills to appear and before we know it we’re passing carpets of green vines across the dusty landscape. Everyone knows what the towns of Napa and Sonoma are famous for, but to truly appreciate it, it’s best to familiarize youself one sip at a time.
First stop is the largest winery of the day. Large tour buses park in front of the stone, italian style building, herding the tourists in and out, while our small group situates ourselves in a shady spot to talk about everything from the vines to the proper way of tasting. I knew this was the right group when our fearless leader borrows a bunch of grapes straight from the vine for us to sample, making my first tasting of pinot the purest of all. Inside, we twirl, sniff and sip whatever is poured into our glass. While the choices all had their different flavors and aromas, nothing blew me away. This place also had an olive oil tasting room which doubled as a store of course. I had to escape to the patio and take in the glorious scenery. The bright sunny day complmented the villa like backyard quite well.
Next stop was a smaller family owned winery. This one was more ranch like, but produced some of the best cabernet I’ve ever tasted. Again, our guide went man vs. wild on the vines all in the name of vineyard education. I was starting to finish the samples at this second winery, instead of pouring out what didn’t excite my palete. Therefore, I was in need of some sustenance, especially since it was only noon, and I’ve alread consumed the equivilant of atleast one full glass of wine.
Thankfully we took a break from tasting and headed to downtown Sonoma for lunch. Sitting on the back patio of the Sunflower Cafe, thoroughly enjoying a duck breast sandwich, was exactly what I needed to rev me up for more wine.
The third winery was right off the main street of town and known for it’s pinot noir, my favorite. Perfect. The atmosphere felt more like a backyard get together than a fancy schmancy winery. Sitting underneath a giant redwood tree, swishing around some of the most interesting flavors of pinot, I was starting to feel the kind of relaxation equivalent to a day at the spa. However, as soon as I stood up, I felt the kind of dehydration equivalent to drinking an entire bottle of wine.
The fourth and final winery was also on the smaller scale. Here we sampled our first blush and paired a port with chocolate. The perfect ending to a lovely day in wine country.
I started to feel I could get used to this lifestyle, and the ride back was filled with daydreams of sitting on a porch overlooking the rows of growing grapes, sipping pinot as I write, enjoying the sweetness of life.