We’ve just returned home from a long weekend getaway in California and I’m already dreaming of when we can go back. There’s never enough time to explore everything that California has to offer. On top of that, a long weekend never allows enough time to see all of our friends and coworkers. I did get some time with my family, but that too is never long enough! And we also celebrated our dear friend’s 40th birthday!
But we did what we could and hopefully will be escaping the already harsh cold, here in Minnesota, to come back for a visit… pretty much right around Superbowl time (fingers crossed.) That’s because the Superbowl is set to play here in Minnesota. Woot woot! If you watch football, you’ve likely seen our very shiny new stadium, which is actually breathtaking to see in person. However, since we have no plans to experience any of their outdoor activities or actually go to the game we figured avoiding the crazy traffic, crowds and of course the cold sounds much better! So if all goes as planned, that should give us some time to see those we didn’t last weekend and explore a few areas we were not able to… like actually going to the Vista Point overlooking Golden Gate bridge. We were so close but decided not to do it… just in case we missed our plane, haha! However, here are a few highlights of the things we did manage to do (clearly most of them are wine related, haha.)
Each time we go up to see my family, we usually try out a few different wineries. I’m slowly checking off my long “bucket list” of wineries and it’s so awesome to have family there to help guide you through it. Plus, they are teaching me so much about wine along the way! Our first stop was Orin Swift’s tasting room, located right in downtown St. Helena. I’ve been in love with Orin Swift wines for some time now. Their intimate and incredibly stunning wine tasting room did not disappoint! The wines that caught my eye during this tasting are as follows:
The one wine I wish we could have tried but was quickly sold out was the 2016 China Doll Rosé $19. However, ever since someone coined the term “Rose all day”, those of us who already knew and loved Rosé can barely get a bottle now, haha!
Our second stop was at Provenance Vineyards, located in Rutherford, CA. I’ve sold their wines; I’ve enjoyed their wines, so getting the opportunity to taste their wines at the actual vineyard was a wonderful experience. The one wine that captured all of our hearts was the 2013 Provenance Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard Oakville $125.00. Most wines that come out of the To Kalon vineyards are nothing short of magical and this wine was exactly that. It had power, depth, and character. Being 2013, you can tell it’s still a bit tight, but that is in no way a bad thing. It means it’s perfect to store and rest for the years to come, allowing the flavors and complexity to develop that much more.
On Monday we headed over to the Sonoma Valley area; a quick 45 minutes or so away from St. Helena. That’s the beautiful thing about the wine country. You can cover a lot of ground quickly due to the close proximity of one wine region it to another. Up to this point, I have not spent much time in Sonoma compared to how often I go to Napa, especially for drinking wine. Sonoma is known for their Pinot Noirs and since I’m more of a Cab Sauv girl, I tend to stick to the Napa wine region to get my fill of Bordeaux-styled wines (wines that are made with grape varieties typical to France’s Bordeaux region, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and sometimes Malbec.)
Our first stop in Sonoma was Cornerstone Sunset Gardens + Marketplace. If you have not been then it is a definite must! My first time going was for their annual Sunset Magazine Celebration Weekend and I was blown away by the beauty of this place. I could spend a whole post talking about the food, shopping, wine tasting, and breathtaking gardens, but you simply need to go see it for yourself! But don’t worry, I have a few pictures to pique your interest.
We only had time for one wine tasting at Cornerstone due to a scheduled tasting at Scribe Winery. There are actually 3 different wineries represented at Cornerstone, but the one near and dear to my heart is Meadowcroft Wines. I’ve done some fun posts with them over the summer (read them here, here, and here), so I was excited to stop in and enjoy some wine at their tasting room.
From Meadowcroft Wines, we headed into downtown Sonoma to grab a quick bite to eat before heading to Scribe Winery. We stumbled on Hare & Hatter Sausage Emporium tucked away in a small plaza off the center of downtown. This intimate, unassuming cafe puts out some amazing food and coffee! It was wildly unexpected! Try the Korean Kimchi sandwich because it’s fantastic!
With satisfied appetites, we dashed over to Scribe Winery just in time for our scheduled wine tasting. Reservations are required at Scribe Winery. The 90 minutes wine tasting is $60/person. I was rather nervous to spend so much on a 4-wine tasting. However, I was blown away by my experience. Being a quiet Monday, we had most of the place to ourselves and enjoyed a breathtaking spot on the front terrace overlooking all of the vineyards. I never wanted to leave! The next 90 or so minutes we indulged in 4 beautiful wines. We were greeted with the 2017 Nouveau of Pinot Noir $32 upon arrival to the vineyard. Once seated, we sipped on the 2015 Estate Chardonnay, the 2015 Skin Fermented Chardonnay and finished up with the 2016 Carneros Pinot Noir. What took the tasting to the next level was the food they paired alongside the wine. I was told there would be a small plate to enjoy, but I never expected such beautiful, farm-to-table nibbles.
Marinated olives, roasted Mariani almonds, and freshly-picked crudité
Roasted beets with yogurt, pistachios, and blue cheese
Garden lettuces, mint and a tahini vinaigrette
Garden leafy broccoli with Fatted Calf Toulouse sausage and tomato confit
Roasted shishito peppers
Alison Roman’s sour cream flatbread
Persimmons with Scribe honey
I will never forget this moment and I cannot wait to come back with friends and family. It was worth every penny.
Our last day in town was Tuesday. We were scheduled to fly out in the evening, so we had about half a day to accomplish one last thing. On a whim, we decided to drive up to Tomales Bay. I’ve longed to go for some time now and being rather close we figured there was nothing to lose; apart from missing our flight, that is. Tomales Bay was nothing that I imagined, but just as wonderful. I knew it was known for their oysters, so I supposed I imagined something similar to a fishing village in Maine. The views were incredible, the oysters were fresher than I’ve ever experienced and I couldn’t have been happier that we chose to make such a last minute decision. There’s no cellphone signal in Tomales Bay, so luckily I had done some quick research prior and we decided to try out Nick’s Cove. We cozied up to the bar and ordered a dozen oysters and a hot bowl of clam chowder. I was in heaven! Oysters have never been a favorite of mine, but these were beyond fresh and touched with a hint of sweetness that I was prepared to eat the entire lot. I will say this, be prepared to spend some money if you go; things are not cheap by any means. However, the view of the glistening bay out the large picture windows and the servers dressed up in hipster suits makes this place nothing I was expecting and everything I could hope for in a coastal restaurant.
After lunch, we followed highway 1 as it serpentined along the shoreline, making our way back to San Francisco and ultimately back to the airport. As we drove we gazed in awe of the incredible views; swore that next time we would stop at every little village we passed; and try out the vast array of oyster restaurants dotted along the coast. It’s definitely a trip you need a full day to embark on and truly experience.