A rainy day and a beautiful day

Our third day in California was a rainy one, so we planned as many indoor activities as possible. We started with ANOTHER  amazing breakfast at the Farmhouse and then relaxed a bit before heading to Korbel.

The brandy tower was modeled after the tower that Francis Korbel saw from jail in Czechoslovakia. He was a criminal! (Not really, he was protesting or something)

The tour was ok, too much history and too little champagne-making explanation. Our guide was an older gentleman whose favorite phrase was, “Really think about that for a minute.” Then he would immediately start talking about something else.

I was insulted at one point by what I considered to be blatant sexism but Matt says I’m overreacting. The tour guide was explaining why the bottom of champagne bottles have a concave bottom (it’s for reinforcement) and he said, “Ladies, you’ll know this, when you drop a mayonnaise bottle with a flat bottom, what happens? It breaks!” Ahhh right, our small hands and fingers have trouble holding the jar while we’re at home making sandwiches for our husbands.

After the tour we grabbed lunch at Willow Wood Market where I spotted salt and pepper shakers that I really want.

Unfortunately, they weren’t for sale.

I needed a break from wine so I ordered a chai tea latte and was confused to receive this:

Yes, that’s a bowl of tea. For the sake of my bladder, I didn’t finish it.

That night we drove to Santa Rosa for dinner and we ate at Syrah. Wow! This was the first time I did a tasting menu with a wine pairing and it was amazing. Great food, delicious wine, funky decor, good stuff!

The next day was absolutely gorgeous so we tried to get as many outdoor activities in as possible. We visited Armstrong Redwoods State Reserve which was muddy but beautiful.

Many people describe me as tree-like, what with my never-ending legs that hold up my 5’1” body. You can imagine then how large this tree is.

We tried (unsuccessfully) to time a picture but my camera focused on the branch it was balancing on instead. Oh well.

A friendly passerby took this one for us instead.

Being the beach lover that he is, Matt really wanted to drive to the coast. I was lukewarm about it because I thought, we live on Long Island! We’re surrounded by beaches! Yeah so the Pacific Coast is pretty different. My bad.

Sure, that looks just like our beaches…

This rock reminded me of the final scene in The Goonies when they’re on the beach and One Eyed Willie’s boat sails by.

Anyone who knows me knows that I typically avoid places that have danger signs. Once again, Intrepid Matt bullied me and I’m grateful for it.

That’s not a cool new hat, it’s my hair being whipped by the insane wind.

This is how we got back and forth from the car. I get winded just looking at it.

Hey, Matt!

I had no idea that everything in Sonoma closes really early. All the vineyards’ tasting rooms close between 3:00 and 5:00 which was kind of annoying! We were able to stop at Iron Horse Vineyard and Hartford Family Winery to get some tastings in. Hartford looked like a beautiful private residence but it’s primarily a tasting room and wine processing facility.

For our final night in Sonoma we visited Healdsburg and were disappointed to see that all the stores and tasting rooms also closed before 5:00. Annoying! We were able to shop in Lime Stone which had really cool home accessories and jewelry. I bought myself a vacation gift:

Dry Creek Kitchen was the destination of our final dinner and it was fabulous. I feel like I’ve said that for every meal but the food everywhere was just so good! It’s a Charlie Palmer restaurant so I’m interested in trying his places in New York, Aureole and Astra.

Stay tuned for a complete list of restaurants, vineyards and places to visit!

Wine Tour-rific

Day #2 in California was filled with even more food and wine!

One of the perks of staying at The Farmhouse Inn is the breakfast. Oh lord, the breakfasts. No Costco muffins and mediocre coffee here! Yesterday it was oatmeal pancakes and the best scone I’ve ever had. Today it was waffles with a caramelized bacon and banana sauce and a pork patty. INSANE. The most interesting mix of flavors!

The main house and restaurant

Our room

After breakfast we were picked up by Ken, our wonderful tour guide from Platypus Tours. He was really knowledgeable, friendly and accommodating. We visited five different wineries in the Russian River Valley and pretty much loved all of them. There were eight of us in the group and with the exception of “million questions guy,” everyone was normal. We visited Russian River Vineyards, Inspiration Vineyards, Battaglini Estate Winery, Foppoli Wines and LaCzar Vineyards. In addition to meeting the owners/winemakers at four of the five vineyards, we actually had tastings in the proprietors’ homes for the last two.

Our transportation for the day

Russian River Vineyards

This vine at Inspiration Vineyards is over 100 years old. Older vines produce really concentrated flavors but have small yields.

These are younger vines, they are smaller and not designed to grow as thick and gnarly as older vines.

John’s tasting room is his garage which doubles as storage and a crystal meth lab. Kidding.

The forecast called for rain.

I’m starting to doubt that meteorology is a science…

They were big fans of the old country at Battaglini.

That’s us with Joe. Ciao, Joe!

The wisteria covered tasting room

The home of Foppoli Vineyards

The view from their home

Dominic, the guy in charge (he’s my age)

The final stop was to LaCzar Vineyards where we had a tasting (and some delicious snacks) in the owners’ home. This is the view from their backyard. You can imagine what the inside of the house looked like. I’ll give you a hint. GORGEOUS.

I think I could manage to live here.

California, here we come!

Matt and I are settled in to our California trip. We’re spending this week at the Farmhouse Inn in Forestville, about an hour north of San Francisco. Aside from some rain and a dash of traffic, getting here was a breeze!

This was our first time flying on Virgin America and overall, it was very pleasant. I was disappointed to see that the movies were $8 a piece, so instead I watched marathons of Cold Case and Law and Order for free. They also don’t offer any complimentary food so everything needs to be purchased. Boooo!  I picked up some high-brow literature in the airport:

Virgin America is like Jet Blue’s cool younger sister.  Based on previous experience and what The Bachelor tells me, I imagine all pilots to look and sound like John Edwards (minus the cheating and the love child). When the captain came  over the loudspeaker I was surprised to hear that he did not have that southern drawl and instead had some sort of accent, Caribbean, Irish, Mandarin, I’m not really sure. These are some pictures I took from the plane:

For some reason whenever I think of snow-topped mountains I think of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom when he is forced to jump from the plane that’s crashing. I’m a weirdo, I know.

Before heading up to Sonoma County, we stopped at Hog Island Oysters in the Ferry Building by the Bay Bridge. Amazing! The Ferry Building is a fabulous marketplace with tons of delicious looking shops and restaurants. It’s reason enough for me to pick up and move over here.

Image: Ferry Building website

Considering that when Matt and I started dating his palate did not extend past tuna sandwiches, peanut butter and jelly, and chicken parm, I’m proud to say that he ate oysters and enjoyed them! He didn’t go for the raw ones (although I did) but he was a good sport.

possibly the best clam chowder I’ve had – super fresh with a delicate creamy broth, not the bisque-ish consistency I’m used to

the view from our table

After lunch we made our way over  the Golden Gate Bridge and of course I snapped some mediocre pictures. Photography from a Kia Spectra is hard!

In addition to being a hotel, Farmhouse Inn is also an acclaimed restaurant and we can see why! We had a really delicious dinner there on our first night. Pork cheeks (way better than it sounds), halibut, chocolate beignets (fancy doughnut balls), mmmmmmhmmmm.