November 3rd and 4th:
We spent Sunday and Monday exploring Napa and Sonoma. A dream for both of us come true. We have had many friends (and family) visit these two unbelievable regions of our country, but this was a first for both of us. It is quite possible that we could have spent our three month journey alone in just Napa and Sonoma, and still probably not get to every winery, tasting room and vineyard.
We started in Napa and were overwhelmed by the beauty of the rolling vineyards, the smell of the grapes fermenting as we drove through and the sun beaming down giving the entire setting this euphoric and romantic glow. And, the weather could not have been more perfect. We could not think of a better location to drive Stella with her top down, so that is just what we did.
Thank you so much to our friends and family that sent us recommendation after recommendation and idea after idea of places to go, see and taste. It is very clear we surround ourselves with people that enjoy wine as much as we do!
In between visiting the vineyards in Napa, we stopped into the Oxbow Public Market. The minute we walked in, Cate was taken back to her days in Europe visiting the many many artisanal markets she loved so much. Oxbow is an closed (roof), yet, open market filled with restaurants, wine tastings, bars, food vendors and more. We wanted to spend all day here! Spices, teas, oysters, cheeses, wine, drink concoctions, serving dishes, cupcakes, vegetables and fresh produce and olive oils, OH MY!
Our friends Richie and Shannon are huge Napa visitors and know the ins and outs and places to go. Richie had set us up for a tasting at Ladera. The wine was divine, the setting spectacular and we loved learning about the family story of purchasing the land and creating the vineyard it is today.
We stopped at several other vineyards in Napa including Brix, Mumm’s, Stag’s Leap, Silver Oak, and the list goes on. While we didn’t taste everywhere we went, it was fun to just drive and walk through all the different wineries and vineyards.
As the sun was beginning to go down for the day, we headed over to the Sonoma Square to take a quick walk around (we would be back tomorrow!). The main square is such a fun area to walk around, shop after shop, tasting rooms, restaurants, cheese shops and of course, more wine wasting rooms.
Sunset in Napa:
As we were window shopping in town we came across Eric K James tasting room and decided to pop in. This small “micro-winery” only produces 40 barrels a year and their vineyards are located on the Sonoma Valley floor just minutes away. What makes them unique is that they only sell from their tasting room. They do not sell to restaurants and stores. Kind of a cool concept to keep the wine intimate and personal.
We loved spending some time with Robert, tasting the delicious wine, learning more about him and his journey through the wine making process. Robert even let us play a little music for the fellow guests in the room! Robert, you are a blast, we love the personal touches you have done to the room and your zest and passion for what you do.
On Monday taking the scenic drive from Petaluma up the 101 to 12 and down through Santa Rosa, Glen Ellen into Sonoma.
Cate’s friend T.J had highly suggested we stop at Benzinger Family Winery in Glen Ellen. They are all about three things: great wine, family and healthy vineyards. The minute you walk onto the vineyard, you know something is different. You are overwhelmed with this feeling of family, community and collective happiness. Everyone that works there loves their job, loves to be part of this community and it is so overwhelmingly evident.
Benzinger is also a biodynamic, organic and sustainable vineyard. After our tasting, we took some time to walk around the vineyard and learn more about the biodynamic process, very very interesting. Oh, and did we mention that they have chickens and animals galore on the farm?
As we drove through Sonoma, dare we say it, we pondered the “could we live here? life would be so amazing here…” The scenery is just breathtaking, the wine unbelievable, and there is no way you cannot be happy in Sonoma.
We had an amazingly delicious lunch at The Girl and the Fig (you must go if you are in Sonoma!), and spent some more time walking around the main plaza. Here is a fun fact: Sonoma City Hall is located in the middle of the square and looks exactly the same from all four sides. It was built this way so that no one would ever have to look at the “back” of the building. Kind of a genius concept, no?
Our friend Pat McGee had sent us a long list of his favorite places, including Westwood Winery. He had said, if you are not to miss any of the places I sent you, this is the one. So to Westwood we go. And thank you Pat, we are so so glad we did!
You walk down a dimly lit long entranceway off the square, unsure really where it is leading. But it is beautifully lit with candles and you are intrigued. The tasting room has a small outdoor area filled with candles, flowers and seating area before you walk into the room. The room looks like your cozy living room where you would enjoy a great wine with your closest friends and family. Dark woods, leather oversized chairs and perfect lighting. Our intention was to just check out the room, have a sample or two and get on the road to San Francisco before it got dark out. Well, two hours later, we were still at Westwood tasting and talking to our new friends, including Westwood “founder and creator” John Kelly. We had such a blast talking with Kyle and John about Westwood’s growth and wine, but also about life and west coast vs. east coast living. About Rhode Island, a very special place in Cate’s heart and for John too. About a better quality of life they have found in Sonoma, about following your dreams and pursuing what you truly love to do.
Thank you so much for sharing your amazing wine with us, but more so for sharing your passion for what you do and your own personal journeys. And, Pat, thank you for not steering us wrong once again! We had a glass (or two) of redFOUR in your honor!
Sonoma and Napa, we cannot wait to come back to explore more of you.