July 27, 2014


July 27, 2014 Photo (208/365): "Vineyards"

For the past three days, we have been touring Wine Country -- Sonoma and Napa Valley, California. We began our vacation in San Francisco with a quick overnight stay; but since we were there last year, we left town in the morning, drove across the Golden Gate Bridge, and were in Sonoma County an hour later. Per a friend's suggestion, our first stop was Merry Edwards in the Russian River Valley to try their Pinots. Although we enjoyed all three vintages (Coopersmith, Georganne, and Sonoma Coast), we were most impressed by their Sauvignon Blanc. The wines were great, but the tasting felt like a business appointment since it took place in a small office. Our next stop was lunch at the Willow Wood Café in Graton -- great sandwiches. Our server suggested three local vineyards (one for the gardens, one for the animals, and one for the view and the sparkling wine). Guess which one we chose?  Despite the 99° temps, we enjoyed our outdoor sparkling flight on the top of a hill. Although we tried five vintages, including one first served at the Reagan-Gorbachev summit in 1983 and that continues to be served at the White House, we preferred the classic brut.

Sparkling flight at Iron Horse
Gracianna - one of our favorites

On Saturday, we drove along the scenic Alexander Valley highway to the Napa Valley. We began our day at Sterling Vineyards where we took a tram up into the hills to visit the winery and tasting experience. The view was spectacular! After our tour, we had a delicious lunch at the Rutherford Grill where we met the president of a local winery and her chef husband who offered more suggestions on their own favorite vineyards and restaurants. We took their advice and visited Saddleback Winery; we weren't disappointed. We ended our Saturday in Napa at Domaine Chandon where we tasted 11 different sparkling vintages before enjoying a bottle of Étoile and truffled popcorn on their beautiful terrace.

Sterling Vineyards
Domaine Chandon

Today, we toured the lovely Dutcher Crossing Winery (gorgeous Zins and a port and chocolate finale), owned and operated by fellow Wisconsinites, and the Fritz Underground Winery (fun people and many varietals).  Today's lunch was at the Hamburger Ranch where Eric had the best BBQ ribs he's ever had. Our final tasting was at Francis Ford Coppola Winery where we enjoyed a tasting among some interesting movie memorabilia, including props from Apocalypse Now, the desk and chair from The Godfather, and the miniature ships used for the mock naval battle in the Versailles fountains in Marie Antoinette

The gorgeous view, flora, and fauna at Dutcher Crossing

Movie props at Coppola Winery
This evening we will regroup for the next leg of our journey to Monterey and Carmel.