It never quite occurred to us that our troupe of three could possibly be cut down to two for any foreseeable reason, as it was when Sarah had to fly home for her family emergency. As it were, Joey and I were on our own for the rest of the road trip, about to leave San Francisco and tour through California's wine country for the next few days. I think a few people back home had a few chuckles at our expense.
Regardless, we paused on the way out for a Hemcher shot with the Golden Gate Bridge, and continued into Sonoma for the day, leaving the fog in our wake.
The drive from San Fran to Sonoma was a walk in the park, only an hour drive north on nice quiet roads. I do't think we even had to drive that far - all we had to do was plug the words "winery" and "vineyard" into the GPS and see which one popped up closer. In this case, "vineyard" won.
First stop was the Jacuzzi Family Vineyards
, which was set in a beautiful building and an even more beautiful location. The guy behind the bar was not exactly exploding with personality, as I believe I captured very well in this picture. I tried to get across the point that I prefer sweet wines to dry wines, and he kind of rolled his eyes at me in disdain for even my lack of understanding as to the terms "sweet" and "dry" in reference to wine. People like him are why I drink beer.
The other side of the building from the tasting room was the other half of the family's business, featuring assorted artisan foods with a heavy emphasis on olive oil. They had something like 12 or 13 different types of oil free for tasting, and Joey proceeded to throw back a taste of every one of them. We bought some cheese and hit the road.
Needless to say, finding the next winery in the Sonoma Valley is a lot like finding a casino in Vegas. A short drive brought us to Cline Cellars
, another gorgeous vista in these lovely parts. The building had a backwoods feel to it and was pretty busy with guffawing visitors. Here, our bartender (for lack of a better term for what these folks do) was a lovely woman named Suzy, who totally made up for the last guy's utter lack of personality. These wines were clearly more complex than I was used to sampling, and I felt somewhat insignificant in the face of all that I didn't know about the wine I was drinking.
Next up the road was a much larger winery called Sebastiani
. The facility was decadent and roomy, and our bartender was a little fellow who reminded me of Bilbo Baggins. One thing we couldn't help noticing was the higher price of tastings here, as opposed to other parts of the country like Texas and upstate New York. But you get what you pay for - and it's not like price was going to keep us from experiencing this part of the trip.
The next stop added some color to the day, at Buena Vista Carneros Winery
. We had to walk down a long driveway to get to the tasting room, and when we settled into our spots, someone mentioned the company "Whole Foods" between Joey and I, the bartender, and the husband and wife standing to Joey's right. Joey mentioned his disdain toward Whole Foods, for having a very vocal CEO whose views on health care reform were ridiculous and utterly unintelligent.
The woman standing to Joey's right chimed in, voicing her own disapproval for health care reform in America. She asked Joey, "What about personal responsibility?" as her argument against the need for a public health insurance option. Joey's face twisted into a dark spiral of hatred and scorn, but held his tongue. It's not like the Joey I know to hold his tongue, but after four wine tastings he was a little slower to formulate an appropriate retort. I heard about it from him for the rest of the day - he really wished he had been on his game.
With Joey still fuming, we stopped next at Nicholson Ranch Winery
, where the crowd was thin and the people were very friendly. By then it was getting on in the day and our still-open options were growing limited. One of them, Domaine Carneros
, specialized in sparkling wine, which we opted into for a change of pace. This place was the most expensive of the whole day, and I think technically falls into Napa more than Sonoma. But it was fancy, ornate, and the kind of experience that frankly would have been better shared with my girlfriend.
Finally, after snacking on nothing but cheese and french bread all day, we brought our day of tastings to a close with a heavy meal at a spot in Napa called Downtown Joe's
. They brewed all their own beers, which was a nice change of pace from the day's grape consumption. I wolfed down the magnificent burger shown in the photo, and when I got up to use the restroom near the end of the meal, Joey knocked his beer over onto the booth and we hastily made our way for the exit.
The next day was our day in Napa, which Joey will be covering. Look forward to that coming very soon.