A quick drive from San Francisco and my partner in crime and I were lounging on Adirondack chairs over-looking the golden vineyards in Sonoma County. Our first stop on the winery trail was Copain Wines and from there we stopped at Arista Winery. It was late in the afternoon so most other places were just about closing as we passed by. While enjoying a glass of wine and the setting sun from the unique Japanese garden on the Arista property, we began to get hungry and made our way to Healdsburg. Healdsburg is a quaint town that is home to many of the winery workers in Napa area. There are many small shops and restaurants to choose from. That night the temperatures were quite cold. It seems that this was the trend of Northern California: warm days and cold nights. It is definitely important to wear layers.
The next morning we continued our drive down from the hills to Napa Valley. The landscape of rolling hills and farmland was a bit surprising and in the distance we could see the high hills of Mount Helena. Once we arrived in Napa County itself, I was reminded of France’s Cote d’Or the way Highway 29 is bordered by vineyards and wineries with a large hill on the western side.
We started the day with an amazingly educational tour of the Long Meadow Ranch estate, which consists of acres of vegetables, chicken, herbs, and orchards as well as vineyards on the hilltop. My favorite part of our nearly 2 hour excursion (perks of being in the business I guess) was when we entered the winery itself. It was perched on top of the hill with a breathtaking view of Rutherford below. But more than the view and the peaceful quietness that accompanied the location, I was soaking in the smell of fermenting wine. I associate this smell with my time living in France. It is like home to me in a strange way. In fact, this smell, and the equipment inside the winery feel comforting to me. Like home in a strange way.
Walking back into the cave of the winery, we were able to see some of the oldest bottles of wine that the winery has kept in their cellar. After this, we continued the journey up the mountain and found the some horses, bulls and old olive groves. I learned (by way of experimental tasting) that olives taken off of a tree are hard and the oils released are toxic tasting and bitter. To make edible, delicious olives these little guys need to be soaked in salt water for months on end. Lots of work!
When we finally returned to civilization off of the secluded hillside, we enjoyed a delicious farm to table lunch at the wineries restaurant. It was so neat to have seen where the kale, beef and tomatoes we ate had come from. The meal was absolutely delicious and a recommendation even if you don’t take a long tour beforehand.
With our full bellies, we made our way to a few more wineries along Highway 29 before switching over to Silverado Trail and going off the beaten path to White Rock, one of the wineries that I represent in New York . This was the only winery where we got to see the actual harvest taking place (most of the grapes had already been picked the week prior to our arrival). When we pulled up to the cellar the team was dumping the grapes from large crates into the sorter which pulled off the stems. It was a cool experience to see the machinery we had seen “off duty” on other tours actually being used for it’s purpose.
Visiting the wineries in California was a treat for me and a learning experience for my PIC. We had seen a lot, drank a lot and learned a lot about wine during those two days.
Next stop: the coast road!