travel:: Napa, Sonoma, SF (part 2)

SONOMA::

For our second full day of wine tastings, we chose to head to Sonoma to see what that area had to offer. Sonoma County is about twice as large as Napa County, but it has less wineries, so we found that we spent a good bit more time traveling between each location. The scenery was beautiful and we found ourselves up in the hills and off the beaten path for most of the day.

B Wise Vineyards was another incredible way to start the day, and for me, nothing else topped it. We had another private tasting set up, and our host Josh was, just like our other hosts, very knowledgeable, welcoming, and passionate about what he does. Our tasting took place inside a cave that actually once served as the owners’ home until they built their permanent home on the property. It’s still set up like a working home and was so neat to spend our morning in.

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We enjoyed cheese, meat, and olives (which are grown on the property) while we tasted six different red varietals… and I wanted them all. We ended up taking home more wine from here than anywhere else, and I cannot wait to open up a bottle when they arrive. The Cabs and Pinots were outstanding, and we also picked up a great table wine for the low low price of $30 (which seems like a steal in comparison to most of the wines we’d been tasting on this trip).IMG_1246

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Did you know that winemakers often plant rose bushes at the ends of the rows in their vineyards? They do this because a rose bush will show signs of sickness more quickly than the grape vines will, and it’s easier/faster to diagnose the problem. Genius and so pretty, too!
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We stopped for lunch in downtown Sonoma and had another meal that did not disappoint. OSO is located right on the main square area, and Denise came through once again by suggesting we call ahead with our order to save time. We were always on a strict time schedule, which she thankfully kept us on to make sure we hit all of the spots we wanted to visit. I ordered the Achiote Chicken Sandwich (avocado, red onion, lettuce, pepper jack cheese, jalepeno aioli) and a Blood Orange Margarita, which was a nice respite from wine tasting. The sandwich had such an interesting combo of flavors, and I ate every single bit of it. I just wish we’d had more time to hang out and enjoy more of the menu! IMG_1273

After lunch, we drove waaay up in the hills to Stone Edge Farm. The setting was so serene and quiet that I think we all really would have preferred to take a nap instead. Our visit started off a little slow with a slide show and a tour of the property, but our sweet French host more than made up for it with a gorgeously set table that looked like something out of a magazine, olives and olive oil made by them, meats and cheeses, the most amazing butter crackers, and of course, fantastic wines to taste. They’re currently in the process of building a beautiful outdoor kitchen for events and dinners, which would be pretty neat to come back for. Any foodie would love this place and their mission.
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To round out our day in Sonoma, Denise scored us a reservation at Scribe, which is apparently hard to do because it’s become so popular with the “millennials.” I’d say she was spot on with that opinion… the place was quite busy, and I think we were some of the oldest people there. BUT — we were set up at a big table on the patio overlooking the palm tree-lined driveway and vineyards, the weather was perfection, and they served us several small plates of beautiful and delicious food to snack on with our wines. I don’t feel like we learned much at all about the wines or Scribe itself, but it was a nice way to cap off our day and just relax with our friends for a bit. 
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For our final Napa dinner, we headed over to the Oxbow Public Market downtown, thinking we’d just pick up some pizza or something simple (and cheap) at one of the food stalls. Instead, we ended up at Kitchen Door, which is one of the restaurants at the market and came recommended by our server at Scribe. Most of us did end up with pizza after all, and it was just what we needed. Thin and crispy, cheesy, and full of pepperoni — yum! We couldn’t help but get some ice cream cones from Three Twins Ice Cream afterward, too. The peanut butter cup was a unanimous favorite.

I think if I had to pick favorites, I love the Napa area more than Sonoma, but B Wise (in Sonoma) was my favorite winery and tasting. Italics was a close second. I was highly impressed with all of Denise’s recommendations, because all but one of them provided a private tasting with very personal service, and we saw almost no one else on any of our tours. It pays to have someone with knowledge and connections to the industry helping you plan your trip. This is by no means an inexpensive vacation, especially if you plan to buy wines along the way, but we had such an elevated experience that I think it was worth every penny. Next up, a day in San Francisco!

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