Sunday, February 20, 2011

California Bliss (again)

I realize this getting repetitive but here’s another blog post about California! Yes, our golden state addiction is getting tough to ignore. For this visit – our third within a year and a half – we went to Napa and Sonoma Valley. Due to the fact these are major wine producing areas, it’s really no surprise we enjoyed ourselves tremendously. It was pure, wonderful indulgence.

First, we visited Nancy and Brian in Sonoma Valley, who were fantastic hosts. Brian’s wine industry connections hooked us up with some sweet recommendations for winery visits (and did I mention the food...oh god, so good). All four of us fell in love with Dry Creek Valley in northern Sonoma Valley.

As Andy and I headed west, I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about revisiting the commercialness of Napa Valley, especially since I’ve developed an affinity for the smaller, and seemingly more down-to-earth vibe of the central coast (Paso Robles, specifically). Conclusion: It’s no accident Napa Valley wine is considered world-class. It was solid. Pricey, yes, but solid.

We tasted wines in every manner we could: we went on a bike tour of the Stag’s Leap district in Napa, which specializes in Cabernet Sauvignon; we did a wine blending session at Ravenswood; tasted out of barrels; tasted on patios overlooking vineyards; tasted with food pairings; tasted in a wine cave; tasted with vineyard dogs napping at our feet; tasted in house; tasted with a mouse; tasted in a box with a fox. (Ha! Just wanted to see if you were paying attention.)

Traveling in the off-season was the way to go for us: First and foremost, there were no crowds, we were able to kick back and talk about the wine with some winemakers; we were able to get reservations at restaurants like Bouchon (Thomas Keller); we were also able to stay in B&Bs we wouldn’t have otherwise been able to afford by finding last minute vacancy each day. In fact, we found we could get a good deal by just asking for it. Very cool. Don’t feel bad for California, we did more than our share to contributing to the local economy - our wine cellar overflowth with all of the good stuff we brought back with us!

There's really a ton to say about our trip, I'll let the photos finish some of the story. Click here to see images from San Fran, Napa and Sonoma Valley!

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