Monday, April 16, 2007

California Dream'n

Well, just back from visit to family in Silicon Valley.

Took a side trip up to Sonoma & Napa to "explore"

Quick summary:

We took the day to run up Rt 1 from SanFran to Healdsburg, with stops along the way, including Parkside Cafe - Stinson Beach, CA (good solid lunch) and visit to Armstrong Woods (Redwood Sanctuary by Guerneville).

Stayed at Raford Inn

First night we tried Mosaic (review : Mosaic Restaurant & Wine Lounge - NorthBay biz) in Forestville, right down the road. I went for the "Coffee Encrusted Filet" while Shirley tried the "Sonoma Duck Confit". Both were excellent. I went for a nice Stag's Leap Cab (Fay Vineyard - more on this later).

Wed. we were up and out just after breakfast to do quick survey of Napa, driving NE on River Road/Mark West Road/Porter Creek Road and Petrified Forest Road to Sterling Vineyards

A bit on the larger scale, but wonderful view of the valley and some good information on a "self-guided" tour. Later we'd catch some much smaller vineyards as well as drive by even larger operations.

If you have the chance, the tram up to the winery and stroll is worth a few bucks ($15 each) for a start to the day.

We then headed to the home of one of our favorite wines ...Rombauer Vineyards where we ended up with several bottles of their excellent Carneros Chardonnay.

A major issue (for us) is the difficulty in shipping to Michigan. Some wineries have jumped through the hoops to be able to do so, many have not.

Then it was time for lunch in St.Helena.
We asked around and were directed to Market : An American Restaurant
I tried the Wild Mushroom Risotto, while Shirley went for the Dungeness Crabcake salad. Both were very good, we cleaned out plates.

After this light lunch we headed to Beringer with an eye to catching one of the tours. Alas, our timing was wrong so we tried some of the product. Again - no shipping of the higher end products to Michigan, and we left empty handed. Nice facility, but maybe a bit on the "big" side. I believe it's owned by Nestle'.

Then we headed on down the valley, knowing we could only stop at one or two more tasting rooms before closing. These close from 4 to 5PM, so you really should plan your stops.

On to Stags' Leap
Some excellent product, but again - no Michigan shipments ... bummer.
Here's a review :
Wine Review Online - Stag's Leap Wine Cellars: Bottling the Test of Time : "Stag's Leap Wine Cellars, Napa Valley (California) Cabernet Sauvignon Fay 2002 ($80): Though all the SLWC Cabernets are world-class, this is my personal favorite.� Floral aromas of violets and roses waft from the glass and are followed with dark red berry fruit flavors accented by a touch of earthy complexity. It is the mouthfilling, supple texture, however, that reels me in. Drinking this wine is like drinking velvet. Drink now or age five to ten years. 96"

Then we swung around north of the town of Napa and back up Rt 29, past more "industrial" looking operations and back towards Santa Rosa.

Tonight, supper was to be at z a z u where we were "walk in's" and found it charming. I went with Tomales oysters followed with "boater scallops" while Shirley tried a thin crust pizza with asparagus drizzled with lemon oil.

I stuck with a half of Sonoma Cutrer Chard, while Shirley sampled several Pinot Noir's (I forget which she settle on).

All in all, a good day.
Back to the B&B for power outage and early evening.

Another day ahead of us. It would be shorter as we planned to get back to Los Altos by evening.

Day Two : shorter circuit.

Again, breakfast, and we were packed and out.
Short run up the road to Hop Kiln Winery, where we got there before the power was back on.
Finally a winery that can ship to Michigan.
I may go with their "Big Red" (table wine), and we tried their Pinot vintage May '07.
Today was going to be try Pinot day.
Next was stop right next door to Rochioli
where we didn't purchase, but were given leads to services that could assemble orders and ship for us. Something to look into!

One more stop on the way to Healdsburg for lunch and exploring.
The young man at Hop Kiln recommended Belvedere Vineyards & Winery
Well, with a simple tasting room, and nice "aroma garden", Shirley was ready to stop right there ... fini, done, "perfect".
We picked up a nice Chard and a Pinot to take back to Los Altos.

Tapas style lunch at Willi's Seafood and Raw Bar
Shirley proclaimed the Spinach Salad as the best she'd ever tasted, along with nice "Salt & Pepper Baby Back Riblets", I went with BBQ oysters, and a "flight of cheese" (Cowgirl Creamery triple cream drizzled with truffled honey, Humbolt Fog, and Stilton Blue ... the Humbolt Fog and Truffled honey are available @

Then it was top down, drive back south.

Aside : we're already talking about a month next spring ...
Russian River Valley Winegrowers, Sonoma County, California


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