From time to time, facing the obvious, we tell ourselves: Of course! How haven’t I seen/thought about it before?! And it’s not a case of an acute hindsight bias but something you’d have realized before if you had just thought about it. But you haven’t.
I’ve been living in San Francisco Bay Area for more than a decade now. I always knew that a downside of the climate that I loved so much was a lack of some defined seasons. Autumn to name one. It’s not summer all year-long here, it gets cold, rainy and windy – our version of winter. But in between, with all evergreen plants common in our area, it’s hard to say where summer ends and winter begins.
Did I know that grapevine is a deciduous plant? I did. Many times I saw green leaves when we visited Sonoma in summer and then bare vines during our traditional December trips there. I just never thought what happened in between. Golden, purple, yellow, red and all hues in between grape leaves – that’s what happens in between! Views were just amazing! We couldn’t believe how beautiful nature around us was. During this visit to Sonoma we found autumn that we haven’t seen for more than ten years. From now on we’ll be going to Sonoma in November if we can.
Every time I plan our trip to a wine country I struggle with choosing where to stay. It is so close to home that it feels wrong to spend too much on a room for one night. But at the same time I’m so demanding to where I sleep that I have to try to find the best option for the price I’m willing to pay.
This time we stayed at Marriott Courtyard in Santa Rosa. Pros: price ($135 total cost, no resort fee), location (close to the downtown), clean, good mattress, friendly front desk employees. Cons: old and noisy under the window AC/heating unit, uncomfortable pillows and, the worst part, a very loud bathroom exhaust fan that turns on with the light. I remember reading Vanessa’s horror story about the fan that would work for 10 minutes after the fact of using bathroom’s lights. The fan in our room was on a strict on/off regime so we both voted for relying on our senses other than sight for this night’s bathroom visits. Too bad our neighbors weren’t on board with that decision…
As I mentioned in the post about my recent trip to Napa, in my opinion Sonoma is a much more pleasant place to go wine tasting. And this visit just confirmed my thoughts. The main goal of this trip was to pick up shipments from all the clubs we belong to, so we mostly visited places we like. And I want to share those with my readers.
Suncé Winery is a small family owned and operated winery with Croatian roots (suncé is Croatian for sun). Several years ago a friend suggested we went there. It was a cold day mid-December. We came to a small but warm and inviting tasting room. They fed us hot chicken gumbo and let us try a wide selection of their wines… Three years of a membership in their club later we still like and buy many of their wines (in addition to obligatory bottles) and enjoy every trip to Sunce. All people who work there are so friendly and nice that you just want to go there again and again.
Paradise Ridge Winery is another family owned and operated winery. Paradise Ridge is bigger than Sunce and more formal but that feeling of being welcome is carefully maintained by the staff. In addition to making good wines (not only we like them but also they’re getting all kinds of awards), Paradise Ridge has beautiful grounds (check their website for sculpture exhibits they had over the years). Almost every time we visit we see something new. Also, their tasting room and a picnic area have a breathtaking view.
I urge everybody to visit Sunce and Paradise Ridge if you have a chance. I really hope you’ll like them as much as I do and will have great time there.
The third winery a member of a wine club of which we currently are, Jacuzzi Family Vineyards, also has an interesting history, decent wines and nice grounds. What they also have is an excellent marketing department. Unfortunately for us they seem not to be able to handle the results of their marketing success: they are understaffed and just plainly have no time to cater to loyal patrons. We gave them three chances every time hoping it was a fluke. But no, this is how they are now. We’re dropping a membership with them and will choose a winery that cares. But if you do not mind a crowd it’s not a bad place to visit once.
If you like Indian food (which I do) Yeti Restaurant is a good place to have lunch. Ordering chai, make sure to confirm they’d brew a fresh pot. I had to send back a cup of a microwave-heated liquid they tried to pass as chai but after that I got one of the best cups of chai I’ve ever tried. Food was good without any back and forth dances.
One of the wineries we visited featured local truffles made with one of their wines. I bought one, ate and liked it so much that later we went to that local company’s chocolate tasting room and bought more truffles. Wine Country Chocolates. I’m not sure they are worth ordering online but if you are in the area try them. I plan to go there again next time I’m in Sonoma.
Any trip report wouldn’t be complete without that important part. This time I did something I never do: I wore the same perfume two days in a row. I chose vintage Miss Dior parfum. I figured out that with a small parfum bottle I had a better control over the amount of the fragrance and its placement. It didn’t interfere with wine tasting and I felt happy every time I’d catch a whiff of Miss Dior from my sleeve or scarf.
I brought back something new from this trip but I’ll write about it in my next post.
Overall it was a wonderful trip – a trip to rainbow-colored Fall from my memories.
Images: my own
I only live 15 minutes from Napa wine country. I’d rather much visit Sonoma because it’s less touristy. Despite my proximity, I don’t visit often enough and I should visit during the Fall. Sonoma and Petaluma are charming little towns. Thanks for the recs!
It gets worse (or better – depending on how you look at it): there are much more visitors to both Napa and Sonoma then I remember 4-5 years ago. Still if you can manage to travel there mid-week you can get enough attention from people working in tasting rooms.
I like all towns in the area – Sonoma, Healdsburg, Santa Rosa.
Another pretty picture, Undina. On our last wine tasting trip we considered going to Napa, but then we came to our senses. :) I’m looking forward to seeing what you brought home!
Thank you, Nat! If you have any places you like please share: we’re always looking for something new to try. And with the number of different wineries and tasting rooms it’s so easy to miss a gem.
What a lovely trip! :)
Btw, did I ever say thank you for the Royce chocolates you sent? Absolutely wonderful!
I also like Royce chocolate but it’s very hard to buy in the U.S. A friend of mine brought it from Japan trip. They also make a very interesting soft, truffle-like chocolate (see the main picture here).
Ok, I could have done without that cake image and the possibility of taste stuck in my head. :)
Autumn in Sonoma sounds beautiful, I’m glad you got to see it and are going to make a regular thing of it, if you can. As much as I dislike winter and our excuse for summer in the UK, I’d miss the seasons a lot.
I’m not a wine drinker but I could do with some of that hot chicken gumbo :)
I assume it was a perfume purchase you made? Can’t wait to read more!
How about a good chocolate? Oh, and I forgot, there are many places where you can try and buy good olive oil.
Yes, it was a perfume-related purchase. I’ll try to publish after Thanksgiving, it’s getting a little busy now.
Another amazing adventure! Sigh…I wish I was in CA. I’m watching the snow fall through my office window!
Miss Dior parfum sounds like the perfect choice. A gorgeous perfume for a gorgeous place.
I wouldn’t mind watching snow… for a day or two. But other than that I do not miss real winter at all. I hate when it’s cold. And I have no idea how people manage to drive under those conditions.
Miss Dior was wonderful! I wasn’t tired of it even though usually in two days period I go through at least four different perfumes (one I would wear to the office and then in the evening do my testing of something new, maybe more than one).
Seems like you had a great time. I’ve visited a number of vineyards before in South Africa and Australia and really enjoyed that experience. Sonoma seems great. You didn’t visit Sonoma Scent Studio by any chance?
You knew it! :) I did. And I told Laurie about your resent SSS post. And she has mentioned it in her latest blog update.
This post really make me wish I was living somewhere where it’s possible to go on wine trips. In Sweden, I suppose I could go visit a beer factory but that just doesn’t hold the same appeal… ;)
Yeah… Beer factory isn’t something I’d consider worth visiting. But maybe there are some microbreweries? Even though I do not like beer I enjoyed my visit to one of those during my trip to Seattle last summer.
There are more places to go wine tasting – all in drive distance from where I live. But most often we go to Sonoma. I plan posting updates on our future trips.
Sonoma is such a beautiful place, but the star of this post is kitty!
Vintage Miss Dior sounds like a good fit for wine country, especially with the turning leaves and cooler temperatures; is it awful that I skipped to the bottom of the post to see what you wore? lol.
Sonoma is beautiful. And it’s just several hours flight from you. And they do ship to Texas… ;)
When I read other people’s stories about their trips I also usually look for what they wore or bought (perfume-wise).
You make Sonoma sound so enticing, and even though I’m not a wine connoisseur, I would love to go someday because one of my favorite films is “Sideways.” Listening to Miles and Maya’s conversation on wine leaves me totally undone, but, umm, anyway…
Beautiful post, beautiful photos.
Thank you, Suzanne.
Sideways is a great movie, one of my favorites too.
There are so many other things to do in Sonoma even if you do not drink wine. Let me know when this “someday” comes – I’ll have suggestions for you.
Love how you get your cat to pose so nicely with your wine booty!
I enjoyed reading about your trip and the lovely evocation of autumn colours – I have been to a vineyard in the Sonoma area but can’t remember which one now, as it was in 2001 with my friends from Occidental.
Your mention of the bathroom extractor fan made me smile of course(!) and brought back memories of my trip to your neck of the woods this time last year… : – )
Rusty injects himself wherever anything new appears so all I have to do is to be ready with a camera. I have dozens of his pictures after each of our trips to wine country.
2001? It was too long ago. Don’t you think you need a refresh course? ;)
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