We landed in San Francisco, picked up a rental car, and headed, in the Ford Fusion to an intimate Inn called Kenwood Inn and Spa in Sonoma County, California. Sonoma is about 20 minutes from the larger town of Napa. The town of Sonoma is smaller than Napa, and so has a more intimate, less touristy feel. The locals all confirmed this as one of the distinctions they most appreciated about their town.
After relaxing in the intimate room which hailed straight out of a 16th century Castle: stone walls and floors, large fireplace in front of the bed, and heavy velvet, bordeux colored curtains, we headed out for a hearty meal at a restaurant called the Glen Ellen Inn, which was superb!
The next morning, after a big breakfast, we ventured out for our first authentic California wine tasting experience. Our concierge was able to provide us with some complimentary tasting cards (this is common practice, as many hotels have established partnerships with various local wineries), as well as equip us with a winery map of the area which actually looked like an old world treasure map: one or two roads pocked with illustrations of landmarks, except this one was filled with the name of wineries. Our game plan was simple: We would visit a couple which were expressly recommended by the concierge and the rest would be where the wind, or wine, would take us. We landed first at Kunde Family Winery.
What I valued most about visiting the beautiful wineries was the amazing scenery. Many of them perched atop a vast hillside, perked with lush gardens with water fountains, and roses galore! The roses actually grew like weeds and some of the blooms were bigger than my fist.
The other piece was not only tasting the wine, but that which made the wine taste even better: the conversations you had with the wine experts who served you them. There was a story behind each type of wine, and that story prompted you to ask other things, which led to other things that you would come to share, until eventually you discovered why wine tasting was so much fun. One of our wine experts, at Kunde Winery, the first one we visited, was actually a fellow Canadian, from St Thomas, Ontario. We hopped away with 2 amazing bottles of Chardonnay.
We next visited Ledson Family Winery which boasted an amazing tasting house, see below.
Now, I am not a wine expert and I don’t believe that every hostess needs to be a wine expert in order to serve wine to guests, but being able to know a little about wine so that you can pair it with food so as to bring about the best flavors is a good thing to know. I drank a lot of wine on this trip and so some of this will come from my personal experience and other tips will come from the wine “experts” at the wineries.
Most of these are not available for purchase, as they are not made for wide distribution, but you can order them online to be shipped to your home.
Fresh, floral aromatics show a soft touch of spice in this vibrant Chardonnay. Crisp minerality with vivid green apple and bright citrus components contribute to this wine’s complexity.
With such beautiful aromas of peach, apricot and orange blossoms, it’s hard to believe that the palate could live up to it. But it certainly does – with loads of tangelo, honey and apricot that just cry out for peach cobbler and ice cream or lemon pound cake. The finish offers up just enough honey so that it’s not overly sweet. Even many of our red wine lovers have been won over by the heavenly flavors. As an alternative to dessert, treat yourself to a glass of this wine paired with your favorite soft cheese. Delightful!
For the other leg of the trip, we drove to beautiful Carmel, California, where we stayed at Carmel Valley Ranch, one of the most amazing places I’ve ever stayed. Our balcony had an amazing view of the entire valley. I will make it my life’s mission to have a vacation home here one day.
During this time we drove to Big Sur, which offered magnificent views of the coastline..it actually looked unreal, like a masterfully painted landscape. Actually no, I don’t believe anyone could envision that.
I feel rejuvenated and ready to invite friends over for a spring time dinner party where I will serve lots of wine, and pair it with the dinner I will serve. For the menu I am inspired by the best food I have had while in California: Mussels and the Proscuitto, Meyer Lemon and Arugula Pizza from Corkscrew Cafe,
Most importantly, I will bring the spirit of Northern California with me: fresh and organic flavors, the livelihood offered by the outdoors and a renewed pizzazz for life that I will share with friends and family over food and drink.