A Couple of Winers

So, even though I was gone for just a couple of days, it seems like we were gone for quite a while.

Oakland.  The symposium was a lot of fun for me.  I got to see a couple of friends that I hadn’t seen in a while which was great.  Also, I participated in a number of discussions with CSU students about what its like to work in industry and what people look for when they’re hiring (and by “people”, I mean “me”).  As a bonus, I was able to watch most of the NFL playoffs since my sessions were mostly on Friday and Saturday morning.  I didn’t get to see much of Oakland – the meeting kept us as the hotel most of the time.  My friend Joel and I went for coffee Friday morning and got to go through a great street market, with all sorts of fresh produce and live fish.  We also were able to go to a brewpub a couple of times as well.  Everytime we were out, we were aggressively panhandled.  I’ve lived in enough urban environments not to be phased by it, but it gets on your nerves after a while and if I were a woman walking alone, I would have been unnerved.

Sonoma.  On Sunday afternoon, the Beloved and I drove up to the Russian River Valley area of Sonoma County.  I had never been to wine country before, and wow, I didn’t know what I was missing.  We stayed at a wonderful place near Forestville called the Farmhouse Inn.  It had an absolutely phenomenal restaurant that we dined at that evening.  The best part was that we had reserved the cheapest room in the place, but upon arrival we found out that we had been upgraded to the nicest suite, which came complete with sitting room, whirlpool tub and enclosed hot-rock sauna.  Yeah, that was okay.

Monday, we were off to try our hand at touring wineries, something neither of us had ever done before – which might be surprising given the amount of wine we’ve consumed.  Anyway, we wanted to find small vineyards (< 15000 cases/year) that we didn’t know (rather than large ones whose wines we’d already had…) and had gotten some great recommendations from the sommelier at the Farmhouse and from a friend of ours that is in the business.

I won’t go into too much detail except to say that we had a phenomenal time.  Because it was a weekday and in the winter (the RRV was covered in fog most of the morning), we were the only people that were at each tasting and so we received wonderful personal service.  Also, because we are nerdy scientists, we asked a lot of questions about agriculture, climate, mineralogy and winemaking that I think they really appreciated.

The scorecard:
Zichichi: a new vineyard with a great syrah
UNTI: multi-generational grape-growers that are beginning to make some great European styled wines
Ferrari-Carano: Garishly tacky “Tuscan” winery renowned for their whites. (The grounds creeped us out so much, we didn’t actually taste anything here)
Siduri: Garage winery that’s making fantastic single-vineyard pinot niors
Martinelli:  Multi-generational family vineyard.
Merry Edwards:  Famous female winemaker – we were one of the first people to visit their new digs near Graton.  Also, making tremendous single vineyard pinots.  (This one we visited on Tuesday morning before making our way back to Oakland and flying home to San Diego.)

I guess I’d always thought of wine-tasting and visiting wineries as a little pretentious, but (with the exception of Ferrari-Carano) everyone we met was down-to-earth, welcoming and informative.

I don’t know how we’re going to ever go back on a busy spring or summer weekend where you supposedly have to jostle to get to taste – getting the whole valley to ourselves (or so it seemed) was really a wonderful treat.


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22 thoughts on “A Couple of Winers

  1. Sounds like an awesome time! Woo-hoo whirlpool tub and sauna!I worked at a winery in the Santa Ynez Valley (just north of Santa Barbara) for a year or two in the tasting room, and it was an amazing experience learning about the winemaking process and how climate does truly effect the taste of the grapes year to year. I can vouch that on busy weekend days it was basically impossible to do more than pour wine for the patrons. Whereas, weekday shifts allowed for in-depth conversations and definitely more generous pours ;) There's definitely a lifestyle tied to the wine industry that was quite lovely, and not necessarily pretentious (though as you mention it depends on the winery).Glad you guys had a great time!

  2. I'm so glad that you had such a good time. The wineries sound wonderful! I've never been to one before. Sounds like it needs to go on my list of things to experience.
    Sounds like the conference went well too. Glad you had a good time and glad you're back. The neighborhood missed ya!

  3. going on a sunday night was a smart move. getting upgraded is THE BEST! that's what happened when we went to tower 23 in san diego. :Dalso, this time of year is GREAT for wine tasting, as far as service goes. :) i'm glad you had a great time. i love that area…

  4. Awesome, AWESOME pictures. But I'm cracking up at your assessment of the grounds at Ferrari-Carano. We liked them! But they were showy, I'll give you that. Weren't they the ones that made a whole bunch of money in Reno or something? We didn't taste there either – our tour guide (Brian's uncle) said that the quality of the wine wasn't worth the charge for it.
    ….Also, because we are nerdy scientists, we asked a lot of questions about agriculture, climate, mineralogy and winemaking that I think they really appreciated…. I bet they did! It's probably a real treat for them for people to come who want to actually talk wine, not just drink it.

  5. Great photos! Looks like you and the B had a great trip.
    Our family used to have a cabin off the Russian River, closer to the coast. I loved the drive from Sacramento, through wine country, to get there. Then Grams sold the cabin and I haven't been out that way in a long time. Sad.

  6. To defend Ferrari-Carano (a tiny bit) – the amazing gardens were not really at their peak of color (at all). I don't think we saw the "show" that makes them famous in that part of Sonoma. Without the garden, the villa did was just too vegas for our sensibilities (straight from Unti). I did like Bordeaux, the boar sculpture, and made Steve take the requisite tourist photo!

  7. woohoo! what a crazy, fantastic trip! i want an upgrade to a suite like that one! how come these things never happen to me?!the photo of the vineyards in fog is lovely. i'm not much of a wine drinker, but i love the elegance associated with wine-tasting excursions. now i should plan one like that that revolves around CHEESE!

  8. Janette — one thing we missed when we went to Santa Barbara last summer was the chance to visit a winery or two in that area. Now I know who to call when we get back that way… :)

  9. Mello — its funny — several people told us to go to the FC winery, but not to expect that much from the wine. Like the Beloved commented, I think after having a few experiences with real down-to-earth people, it was hard to orient to the "grandeur" of FC.

  10. Cori — oh wow! What a gorgeous area for your family to have had a getaway house — what a bummer not to have it anymore. We kept thinking we'd squeeze in a ride west to the coast, but we didn't make it — I guess we'll have to next time.

  11. marmelade — you know the funny thing is that here in southern California, most of our trees are scrub pines and palms — and so getting to see truly deciduous trees in winter was a real treat!

  12. well, when you live in a place where all trees lose their leaves in october only to go through a cold, snowy, unkind winter, you tend to find it depressing. on the other hand, there's nothing more beautiful than a green april tree! it makes you feel reborn.

  13. Pingback: Happy Returns | Stevil

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