Decent wine and real cheese are hard to find in Southeast Asia. And while we wouldn’t call ourselves connoisseurs, we missed both dearly while abroad and thought it necessary to spend a few days catching up with our old friends. What better way to reacquaint ourselves than a day trip from San Francisco up to Sonoma County?
A drive through Dry Creek Valley, north of Sonoma, got us off the beaten wine-tasting path and into some small, family run vineyards with $5 tasting fees. Lush fields dotted with grazing cows, a mountainous skyline, rolling hills covered in rows of grapes, and the sky — varying between cloudy with light showers, to brilliant sun beams poking through cotton balls — served up a feast for the eyes. There are over a dozen vineyards in the area; we visited five, and our decision making process was pretty random, Was it one turn away? Did we like the name? Was it open? The only real requirement was no tasting fee over $5.
The area specializes in Zinfandels — we tasted a lot of spicy wines. Of the vineyards, my personal favorite was Bella, where the tasting was inside a cave, the walls lined with contemporary barrels. The only bottle we purchased was a Savingnon Blanc from Quivira, where our host described tastes in terms of the optimal food pairings. The Food & Wine section of their site does something similar, handy for those of us who are looking to extend our wine knowledge. We checked out the friendly farm atmosphere at Preston Wines, where Leah’s roommate suggested we have lunch in their outdoor area, complete with sheep and picnic tables — but the tasting was $10 and the weather less than optimal for doing anything outside. Our final stop was Zichichi Family Vineyard where the wine selection was limited, but we did a barrel tasting. Gotta love the wine thief. At our very first stop of the day, Wilson Winery, our hostess told us about a lookout point, where after a long day of tasting we went for a bird’s eye view of the valley.
On our way back to San Francisco, we wound our way up and over forested hills and through small, charming California towns, to get to Highway 1. We definitely took the long way around thanks to the lady in the GPS, and our friend Phil wrote an interesting post inspired by this experience (travel with versus without digital navigation). Either way though, we reached the stunning Hwy 1 and stopped to hike down to the beach and watch the strength of the Pacific pound the dark sand. The rest of the drive put some of the most beautiful views in America on display as we hugged the coast back down to San Fran, eventually entering the city via the Golden Gate Bridge.