Rainbow Autumn in Sonoma

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.

Fall in SonomaDid 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.

Accommodations

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…

Tasting Rooms

Rusty and bottles of wineAs 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.

Food

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.

Wine country chocolatesOne 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.

Perfumes

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.

Fall in SonomaImages: my own

Advertisements

Lock, stock and barrels

Customs official: Anything to declare?
Avi: Yeah. Don’t go to England.
Snatch

I’m lucky not only to live in the area with a great climate but to live really close to two wine regions in California – Sonoma and Napa. Being wine enthusiasts, my vSO and I belong to several wine clubs in Sonoma and three-four times a year we take short trips there “to pick-up our shipment”. Of course, we could use a mail delivery option since if to add up the cost of gas, hotel and meals for those trips there will be no savings whatsoever – quite the opposite. So we use that reason just as a pretext to go away from a daily life for a couple of days.

Napa, CANormally during Sonoma trips we would go to one-two new (for us) wineries, visit two-three places we liked and wanted to see which new wines they’d released and also stop by those wineries where we had a pick-up. This time we decided to stir thing up and go to Napa.

We’ve been to Napa before many years ago and had some warm memories about that visit so the idea was to just spend some time there, do some tasting and go to those places we liked from the previous time.

Accommodations

There are not too many nice hotels to stay in Napa area so I was very proud of myself when I managed to score a “four star” Silverado Resort through priceline.com for $120/night. Plus tax. Plus, as I found out the day we checked out, a $20/day “resort fee” and $2/day “occupancy tax”. Whatever. On the plus side, they had very nice bath robes – not that I needed it since I always bring something to wear in the room, but it was nice. On the minus side, even though the room was clean the carpet was way beyond its natural life span and the fact that we could get some sleep should be attributed entirely to the nice weather (have I mentioned how lucky we are with our climate?): had it been a little warmer or colder, the sound from the cooling/heating unit strategically placed almost above the bed wouldn’t have allowed us any night rest… Well, after some thinking I have to take that “strategically” back: our neighbors’ AC, for all ten minutes they thought it was hot enough to turn it on, produced the noise that wasn’t much less irritating than the unit over our heads did.

Tasting Rooms

St. Clement wineI still remember those times when tasting was free at most places. I didn’t like it because every time I felt obligated to buy something after a nice person poured me some wines and entertained me for ten minutes throwing in appellations, terroir and other very important words. I always felt I’d preferred to pay for trying those wines and then decide if to buy anything on its own merit. Should I have been more careful with my wishes?

We deliberately chose several well-known wine producers and decided to try their reserve/exclusive/etc. lines. We knew about $20-$35 tasting fees non-refundable with purchase and we were fine with that. What we weren’t prepared to was a complete lack of attention and service that you get (should I say “didn’t get”?) for that fee. I can’t believe people who work at Silver Oak’s or BV Private Reserve’s tasting rooms really think that anybody drives all the way out there to drink 3-4 ounces of wine in silence. I could have stayed in the hotel gone to a bar and had a better drink for cheaper (I refer to the process, experience and not the quality since everywhere we went wine itself was very good. Overpriced but good).

Sequoia Grove winery testing roomI want to mention two places that stood out in the positive way: St. Clement Vineyards and Sequoia Grove winery (see picture on the right). At both places stuff was knowledgeable and friendly.

Food

Since this visit wasn’t connected to any events or celebrations we decided not to spend time researching restaurants and both evenings in Napa we just walked in the downtown from one menu to another until we found something we wanted to eat. We enjoyed eating at both places we chose, so I want to mention their names – Zuzu Tapas & Paella and Angèle Restaurant.

Perfumes

As much as I love our trips to the wine country I always struggle with the self-imposed limitations on wearing perfumes to wine tasting. This time I realized the vacation wouldn’t be as enjoyable as it could without perfumes. I decided to find perfumes that wouldn’t interfere too much with wines. The idea was to use perfumes that were as far from the wine smell’s components as possible. I chose La Tulipe by Byredo and Eau du Soir by Sisley.Both scents worked perfectly for the occasion. One night to the restaurant I was wearing Chanel No. 19. This one works for me always.

During our walks in Napa we stopped at the Baker Street Downtown“Tobacconist and Lifestyle store for Discerning Men and Women”. I didn’t realize it was a tobacco store until we were inside and I was about to leave when I spotted some perfume bottles. This store carries perfumes by Lubin. I sniffed them from bottles and then went there the next evening and tried two – Gin Fizz and Idole. Gin Fizz was exactly like I imagined it would be – sparkling, citrusy, uncomplicated. It wasn’t interesting enough for me to pursue it in future even to try again. With Idole it was a different story. I liked it from the first wear. It was woodsy, smoky and spicy. I will try to get a sample to test it more.

On our way back we stopped at the Mill Valey’s shopping center to visit Nicole Grey & Co. gift store. I found it during one of the previous trips. It carries several rare perfume brands: Boadicea the Victorious, Carthusia, Juliette Has A Gun, Profumi del Forte and some others. After a couple of rounds of sniffing from bottles I moved to blotters and then by the elimination process chose four contenders to go on my skin. By the time I arrived home I had a winner: I will be seeking By Night, White by Profumi del Forte for the further testing. I liked it through all the stages – from the top notes to the drydown.

Do I have anything to declare? Yes! Don’t go to Napa. Sonoma is a much friendlier and more enjoyable place.

What is your drink of choice? Does it go with your perfumes?

As always, feel free to post a link to your blog’s post(s) related to the topic.

Images: my own