Catch up on part one of my California travel series featuring San Francisco must-see attractions here.
On August 13th we woke up to Nata’s birthday and we couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate than head to the wine country for a beautiful scenery and a bottle shock! ;) We had booked the tour via http://www.allsanfranciscotours.com. A comfortable tour-bus picked us up from the Fisherman’s Wharf early in the morning and we ventured out to visit three wineries in Sonoma and Napa Vallies. The tour was led by a very humorous, entertaining and experienced guide who did his best to make the whole experience even more enjoyable.
A drive through California’s wine country was genuinely picturesque as we observed meticulously manicured vineyards lined up on both sides of the road.
NICHOLSON RANCH WINERY
Our first stop was at Nicholson Ranch Winery in Sonoma. This family-owned artisan winery produces premium grapes for Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Syrah.
This winery had a very intimate setting. The staff was very welcoming and offered a comfortably unrushed atmosphere to an exquisite wine tasting experience. First, we were greeted outdoors with a nice taster of chilled Chardonnay.
The estate stood looking over the vineyards and enjoying the morning sunshine while sipping on a glass of wine was just perfect.
We then moved into the tasting room where the owner explained the vineyard and gave red wine tastings. The Pinot Noir in particular was really excellent.
Already a little tipsy and quite impressed with our first winery, we continued our drive to the next destination.
Located in the world-renowned Carneros region, the Bartolucci family has found success with their organically grown grapes and Estate Bottled wines. In addition to practicing natural farming methods, they also combine traditional and modern wine-making techniques.
Our tour started with a sneak peek into their barrel room where our host spoke of the family history and their methods. Natural cork, French oak barrels, hand foiling – this place does it by the book!
After that we were escorted to the tasting hall, where the host gave a mini lesson on how to properly taste wine, as well as a brief but interesting description of each wine. Their dessert wines are like drinking a warm hug. As a huge sweet wine fan my favorites were the Rosé, the Gewurtztraminer and the Moscato.
In addition, they showed us a multitude of wine gizmos (openers, bottle bags, etc.) and souvenirs that were interesting and some people (meaning us!) wound up purchasing.
We also had some time to tour the grounds and take in the gorgeous scenery of the Estate.
By the time we were about to depart the winery, it was already noon, and the guide drove us to a little idyllic town of Yountville in Napa. Here, we had some down-time (from drinking! :P ) and a chance to enjoy lunch at one of the local cafes, as well as browse numerous boutiques, galleries and gastronomy-inspired stores.
Yountville has a big culinary reputation and is a true paradise for food lovers as it boasts more Michelin stars per capita than any other place in North America. On top of that list is Thomas Keller’s The French Laundry (three stars), one of the best restaurants in the United States. The line-up of acclaimed eateries also include intimate spots like Bistro Jeanty as well as high end dining restaurants like Bottega, in which renowned chefs create culinary art with the Valley’s fresh, local ingredients.
For an interesting shopping experience stroll though vine-covered V Market’s numerous clothing boutiques, art galleries, and gift stores.
Following this relaxing afternoon, it was time to board the bus yet again and head to our third, and final, winery.
SUTTER HOME WINERY
Established in the late 1800s, Sutter Home has become a household name for its creation of White Zinfandel in the early 1970s. Sutter Home Winery is also one of the largest family-run independent wineries in the United States.
All of their wines are very inexpensive and seem to be designed for new wine drinkers and those who like wines that are very simple, sweeter tasting, with very minimal acid, tannin or structure.
If you like sweet wines, then this is the place for you. We were given 5 wines to taste along with some delicious snacks: tortilla chips with gourmet dips and salsas, breads with flavored oils.
You can walk around the small gardens and take some pictures of the actual famous “Sutter Home” which is not open to the public as it is for corporate use. However, the estate is stunning especially in the spring time when all the flowers are in bloom.
I absolutely loved their small shop which was filled with tons of little kitchen trinkets, -wine-related gizmos, souvenirs and most importantly, delicious pantry products. I ended up buying a heavenly Balsamic Vinegar Reduction which I unfortunately recently ran out of. :(
While there are numerous famous and gorgeous wineries out there that you can explore on your own, we were very happy with the selection of wineries made by the tour company. Overall, we thoroughly enjoyed the wine tastings while admiring endless stretches of vineyards, had a relaxing lunch in Yountville and were able to snatch a bottle or two to bring back home. ;)
Have you been to California’s wine country? Which wineries did you visit? Which were your favorite? Do you have blog posts I can read? I’m always eager to hear your stories! :)
Disclaimer: this post is not sponsored and everything written is based on my personal honest opinion.
i actually went to school at sonoma for a semester, it was so nice!
Gosh, you are so lucky! It is so beautiful there! Did your college semester involve a lot of wine drinking on the weekends? ;)