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.
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.