Trip to Sonoma and San Francisco

I’ve been meaning to post about my (somewhat) recent trip to Sonoma/San Francisco – and if you follow my Flickr photostream, you’ve already seen the pictures.  If not, check out the pictures from our trip here.

I’ve been wanting to go on this trip ever since we saw Sideways.  The idea was to go to Napa and Sonoma and check out a ton of wineries, but once we got over there we found that there was so much to do just in Sonoma.  There wasn’t any need to spread ourselves too thin.  We flew into San Francisco on a Thursday morning and stopped by Sausalito for a quick lunch at a great taco place called the Salsalito Taco Shop.

Salsas at the Salsalito Taco Shop
Salsas at the Salsalito Taco Shop

Quickly realizing that hanging out in Salsalito wasn’t the ultimate destination on our trip, we hopped back into the car and drove to Sonoma.  Unfortunately our slow trip up there made us miss the opportunity to do a tasting at a winery.  This worked out for the best though. While walking around the Sonoma Plaza we started formulating the wineries and restaurants that we were going to go to.

The first night we had a cheese plate at The Girl and the Fig (which was great, and we went back to The Girl and the Fig two more times just for either drinks or dinner).  Then we moved on and had a great meal at el Dorado Kitchen.  The bartender at TGATF told us to order the “crack fries” at eDK, which are fries cooked in truffle oil with parmesan.  They were awesome.  The food was really really good, but my favorite part of the meal was the Sauvignon Blanc that the waiter recommended to us from Rochioli, a local winery in Russian River Valley.  We liked it so much we decided to drive about an hour north to pick up a few bottles.

Sauvignon Blanc from Rochioli
Sauvignon Blanc from Rochioli at El Dorado Kitchen

As you can see I’ve pretty much only talked about food so far.  This was definitely a vacation about relaxing, eating and drinking.

Friday was the big winery day, we visited four wineries…Ledson, Chateau St. Jean, VJB and Imagery.  The only one that left something to be desired was VJB.  VJB was located about 10 feet off Sonoma Highway, and didn’t give us that “we’re at a nice winery” feeling.  Out of this day, our favorite was Ledson.  Ledson had really great wine, and the winery was located at a huge castle.  Chateau St. Jean had an awesome garden area where we ate our lunch with some wine, and by the time we got to Imagery, our taste buds were tired but could still tell that the wine was very good.

Ledson Family Winery
Ledson Family Winery
Garden area at Chateau St. Jean
Garden area at Chateau St. Jean

Moving onto Saturday, we made it to a winery that we had heard a lot about: Benziger.  Benziger put on a tram tour of the winery and wine caves.  Learning about how they make biodynamic wine was fascinating, and the caves were amazing.  We only saw about 10% of the underground caves, but walking amongst the barrels made us much more aware of the process that the grapes have to go through to become the wine that we drink.  Going on the special tour allowed us to taste some of their reserve wine, which I’m not sure if it was because we were drinking in an amazing setting or that the wines were that good.  I think it’s a little bit of both.

Tasting room in the Benziger Caves
An amazing setting - The tasting room in the Benziger Caves
Oak Barrels in the Benziger Caves.  Each barrel costs $1,000!!!
Oak Barrels in the Benziger Caves. Each barrel costs $1,000!!!

After a few hours at Benziger, we drove up to Rochioli.  Rochioli was tucked away in the Russian River Valley, but the interesting thing is that all their wine is grown right on the estate.  This can be uncommon for some wineries since they partner with vineyards in different areas to make different wines.  From what I remember, they only offered the Sauvignon Blanc and also a Pinot Noir.  That night we ate at another Sonoma favorite (the locals told us so) called Harvest Moon.  The restaurant didn’t have much seating, but the kitchen was directly viewable from almost any table.  It felt like you were in their kitchen.  Great food, and the first time I’ve ever tried Fiddleheads (ferns).

Rochioli Winery
Relaxing at Rochioli
Dining at Harvest Moon.  The chef is right there in the background!
Dining at Harvest Moon. The chef is right there in the background!

After experiencing a lot of what Sonoma had to offer, we headed back towards San Francisco.  On the way, we did a hike at Muir Woods, then met up with Dave for dinner.  Oy…that was a long post.  But, the trip was everything I wanted it to be, and I can’t wait to go back and explore more of wine country.

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