A Little Taste of Sonoma in One Day…

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Happy Wine Wednesday!

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A trip to California is never complete without visiting Wine Country!

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Yes, we dedicated one day to do just that. Besides, Shondra, Jenny and I all met in the wine business just a few months after I met Rob!

I’ve been really spoiled on my last few trips to California Wine County…

2005 – Sonoma County, California

  • I earned an all expense paid trip (for 1) to Sonoma by doing in-home wine tastings with The Traveling Vineyard.
  • Everything was planned. All food, wine and transportation was included. I didn’t have to think.
  • I knew that the wines would be great because we’d be visiting the wineries that supplied our wines!
  • Highlights of the trip:
    • After all of the times I’d been to Europe, this was my first time in California – and I fell in love.
    • I learned to love Pinot Noir, thanks to Guy Davis of Davis Family Vineyards. Many others bottling this varietal are doin’ it wrong!
Guy Davis - the king of Pinot Noir (imho)

Guy Davis – the king of Pinot Noir (imho)

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2009 – Napa County, California

  • I earned an all expense paid trip (for 2) to Napa by doing in-home wine tastings with The Traveling Vineyard.
  • Everything was planned. All food, wine and transportation was included. I didn’t have to think.
  • I knew the wines would be great because we’d be visiting the wineries that supplied our wines!
  • Highlights of the trip:
    • I was able to take Rob on a trip that was completely free and he didn’t have to spend a penny. {I only earned a portion of his trip to Tuscany the year before. We had to pay the balance. He proposed there anyway!}
    • Rob negotiating the corkage fee at an outdoor burger joint for our entire group.

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2013 – Temecula, California

  • This was time we added on after going to a friend’s wedding in L.A.
  • We were so lucky that another fellow Wineaux friend had been to Temecula before and guided us on what to do – where to stay, what her favorite wineries were, etc.
  • The area is much smaller than Napa or Sonoma. After a little dinner and drinks on our first night, we got some great recommendations!
  • Rob drove and let me do the majority of the tasting!
  • Highlights of the trip:

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2015 – Sonoma County

This trip was so much different from all of my others! There were four of us this time around. Plus we decided to wing our own wine tasting experience!

First Tasting

Matanza Creek Winery {photo courtesy of Jenny}

What to consider when booking a one-day Sonoma wine tasting outing:

Transportation

  • Have a designated driver.
    • This is probably the cheapest option.
    • But if you are in wine country with Wineaux friends, no one wants to volunteer! {Though, if you are there for multiple days, you can take turns. Trust me, you might get wined out!}
  • Book a Tour
    • Tours will include transportation and stops at around 5 or so wineries
      • These generally run $100 – $120 pp, sometimes include lunch and do not include tasting fees.
      • Pros: You don’t have to decide where to go, someone is driving you.
      • Cons: You don’t have a choice in where you go.
  • Book a Custom Tour or Limo
    • Generally much more expensive, but you get to customize your tour.

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Winery Selection

  • Did you know that there are over 400 wineries in Sonoma County alone compared to the approximately 40 in Temecula?! Choosing can be an absolute nightmare, especially if you just have one day to taste.
  • If you are building your own winery itinerary, you are going to have to consider proximity. If you’ve got just one day, you’ll want your winery visits to be fairly close together. You don’t want to spend all day driving/riding.
  • Consider types of wines. Luckily, those in our group had very similar tastes! However, you’ll want to change things up and try something new, too.
  • Consider and plan for tasting fees.
    • Expect to spend approximately $15 per tasting per winery.
    • A couple or two friends can share a tasting.
    • Some tasting rooms will charge more, some will charge less.
    • Some will offer a Reserve Tasting for a higher price.
    • Others will waive your tasting fee with a wine purchase.

B Wise Vineyards Tasting Room {photo courtesy of Jenny}

Jenny’s and my favorite vineyard we visited was VJB!

Their tasting fee was only $10.

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We loved that we got to try a Prosecco. Jenny and I love the bubbly!

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We enjoyed all of the wines there! Our bartender was just lovely and gave us a few extra tastes of other wines, including the Chardonnay Port that had us intrigued. She also gave us a couple of two-for-one tastings to Kenwood Vineyards.

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If you have some forethought, you can find package deals or free tasting coupons online, too. However, Shondra was able to score us some deals that she found online that day!

Because of Shondra’s finds, we enjoyed completely free tastings of what felt like 15 wines at this Zinfandel-specialty vineyard. We were the only ones in there on this beautiful Monday. So we got special attention, too. 😉

Rob and I were about to join the Wine Club at St. Anne’s Crossing, since it was so highly Zinfandel focused. But our fun wine guide could not give us the cost of wine club membership that would include shipping. I found that odd. But we loved that place and would recommend their wines.

What we learned this trip, was that despite the fact that we thought we all had similar tastes, when wines were compared side-by-side, we all had different favorites. Wine, and your palate, can surprise you sometimes.

I was surprised I wasn’t a huge fan of the wines at Loxton, a winery focused on Syrah/Shiraz, owned by an Aussie!

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But I did love the garage-style tasting room!

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In fact, on the way back to the bathroom, I found this:

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I sent this photo to our friends Sally and Ryan with whom we are making wine. Sally ties a nice little ribbon around the neck of our carboys to label them. I found this duct tape method effective, but not quite as classy as Sally’s! 🙂

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We hit seven wineries that day. That’s a lot! We didn’t stop to eat lunch, but we munched on some cheese, crackers and salami in the car between winery stops. It was a long day of tasting. We were ready for dinner.

We dined at HopMonk Tavern just down the road from our hotel in Sebastopol. 

The food was good, but the real star of the show was recommended by our busboy:

CHICKEN PHILLY ON NAAN All natural grilled chicken breast, red onions, fire roasted red peppers, topped with 3 cheese blend and spicy aioli on traditional naan bread

Chicken Philly on Naan – All natural grilled chicken breast, red onions, fire roasted red peppers, topped with 3 cheese blend and spicy aioli on traditional naan bread

Jenny let me take a bite of this delectable sandwich of hers and all I could say was, “Naam! Naam! Naam!”

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Next time I’m in California, I might consider doing only a few higher-end tastings. I might focus on a place that does cheese and wine pairings. I might go to a winery with a beautiful landscape and just sit outside and enjoy a glass. Next time, I might consider quality over quantity. I’ve done the multiple winery thing in California now. It was a ton of fun; but I think I’ve got it down. 😉

In fact, a future trip Rob and I’d like to take is to Portugal where they have tapas and port tastings while overlooking the beautiful landscape. Has anyone done that before? The drummer of this band recommended it to us when she waited on our table at King’s Wine Bar in Minneapolis. We’ve wanted to go ever since.

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No matter what, there’s nothing like a good zin and some friends.

“Over a bottle of wine, many a friend is made.”

Other posts on our 2015 California Trip:
Day 1 – Sunny Cali
Day 2 – Along the PCH to Santa Cruz
Day 3 – The Football {San Fran portion}

How do you choose which wineries to visit in wine country?

Cheers~
Carrie

 

 

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2 responses »

  1. Pingback: Best way to end a cali vacay | Season It Already!

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