A Postcard from Undina: Sonoma – Love and Tears

Almost 10 years ago our friends took us to one of the wineries that they liked – Paradise Ridge. It was the last day of a beautiful 3-day Sonoma trip mid-December, right in between two big holidays with inevitable crowds, so we had most of the places to ourselves. It was a magic trip.

There are many good wineries in our region. Some of them look like a small castle or château. It wasn’t the case with Paradise Ridge: it looked quite ordinary from the outside.

 

Paradise Ridge Winery Tasting Room

 

If you expected that the next phrase would be about the great interiors, I tricked you: while it was very nice and perfectly suitable for their specialty – wine tasting and weddings, a large second floor banquet room, a ground floor tasting room and even a wooden deck with tables for picnic under a huge oak tree – weren’t the best part of this winery experience. But the view that opened from each of those areas was just breathtaking.

 

View from the Paradise Ridge Winery Tasting Room

 

That view alone would have been probably enough to visit that place from time to time, but they also produced wine that we liked very much. And about 8 years ago we became Paradise Ridge Wine Club members. Since I haven’t been to wine regions in any other country, I do not know how common are wine club memberships in countries where my readers live, so I’ll just quickly explain that in the U.S. it usually means that you “subscribe” to get a certain number of bottles during one year, and the winery sends you those bottles (of their choice but with 15-20% discount from their regular prices) 3-6 times a year. This is done either prepaid for that year or in installments when they ship (or, as we prefer to do, when we pick up our shipments). Small family owned wineries like Paradise Ridge rarely sell their wines to retail stores: they do not produce enough to benefit from volume sales. So wines that they produce are sold mostly to the club members and in their tasting rooms.

 

ParadizeWine haul from the Paradise Ridge Winery

 

Over years we went there dozens of times – just two of us, with local friends and with friends and relatives visiting from other states. We became… not friends but very good acquaintances with the wine maker and several people who worked at the Paradise Ridge winery. So we kept coming back for great wine, beautiful views and an improvised park with periodically changing strange metal sculptures – just a perfect setting to spend time walking and taking pictures in between visiting other wineries and doing more tasting. One of those sculptures became Paradise Ridge’s trademark (and I shared it with those who were here five years ago in one of my “postcard” posts).

 

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On October 9, when we heard about fires that broke out Sunday night in that region, my first thoughts went to Paradise Ridge and Sunce (our second most favorite winery). As always in such cases, at the same time there was too much and not enough information. I kept telling myself that what were the chances that the fire happens there? Moreover, Paradise Ridge was on the top of the hill, away from other houses and structures… Midday their Facebook page brought the news I feared: the winery completely burned down. I cried. It felt like a personal loss. Pictures below are from their Facebook page taken hours after the fire. You can see all the smoke in the air.

 

 

It was Monday last week. We didn’t know yet how bad the fire would get. Eleven days later, it’s about 80% contained. By estimate, so far it scorched more than 210,000 acres, burned 6,000 houses/buildings and killed at least 42 people, most of them elderly residents of the area who couldn’t evacuate in time – the fire moved extremely fast. 50 people are still considered missing, and about 20,000 people still didn’t return from the mandatory evacuation.

Official air quality in the area where I live (70 miles from the closest affected area) is back to green “Good” (from scary red “Unhealthy” last week) and it is “Moderate” in the area of fires. It a big catastrophe from which we will be recovering for months if not years to come.

When we hear or read about such events somewhere in the world, we sympathize and feel sad, on some level, but we do not feel it as acute as when it happens close to us or to somebody we actually know – and its normal, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to live and function in our age of communications, where every week brings bad news from somewhere, hopefully far-far away from us and people we love.

So while I predict bad fallout from this situation for the area and many-many people, I can’t help feeling relieved and rejoicing from (finally) good news: all people who I care about are fine: Paradise Ridge owner families are alive; Laurie Erikson (Sonoma Scent Studio) safely returned to her house and studio after a week of evacuation. And, according to the most recent reports, Paradise Ridge vineyard survived – so there will be crop next year.

 

SSS Samples

 

Drinking “boutique wines” is luxury (same as wearing perfumes), and we would have been fine with or without our favorite wines. But running wine business, same as producing artisan perfumes, is not a luxurious undertaking: it’s a lot of hard work and very low profitability (at least until a big brand comes and buys you out). So I’m happy not as much for the fact that we’ll get to enjoy Paradise Ridge wines or Sonoma Scent Studio perfumes but mostly that they will be able to keep creating them.

 

Rusty and Paradise Ridge Wines

 

As I’m finishing writing this post, it has started raining outside. It would have helped much more had it happened a week ago but I’m happy about this rain: it is time the Nature joined us in crying.

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A Postcard from Undina: Miss you

Rusty and Bouquet

I realize that nobody is holding their breath waiting for a post from me so this postcard isn’t so much to inform you that I’m hopelessly busy and will post as soon as I have both something to say and strength left to work on saying that but rather to share that I miss you.

How is your year so far? Is it better, worse or the same as usual in terms of free time?

With love,
Undina

 

Image: my own

A Postcard from Undina: Rain!

Marple Leaves In Water

Finally it’s raining! Who would have thought I would be that excited about gray sky without a single ray of light coming through the clouds! I feel very peaceful and calm  – as if the rain washes away my stress from the work week. A purring furry ball  on my lap intensifies the effect. I do not need to be anywhere. I do not have to do anything. I can just relax and enjoy an almost colorless watercolor wash from my window.

I hope your weather cooperates with your plans this weekend.

With love,
Undina

 

Image: my own

A Postcard from Undina: From New York with love

From NY with love

When I saw these billboards just off Times Square I felt some significance in the fact that these were for two my favorite TV shows at the moment, one of which takes place in California where I live and the second one – in New York where I spent the last week. I love-love-love New York! Once I unpack and spend some quality time with Rusty I’ll write up some of the perfume-related impressions from my wonderful vacation.

How have you been? Do you watch any TV shows? If yes, what are your favorite ones?

 

Undina

 

Image: my own

A Postcard from Undina: From Sonoma with LOVE

From Sonoma With Love

This is a view from the deck of one of my favorite wineries –  Paradise Ridge . It’s a great place to visit: they offer wine tasting (we like their wines enough to join their wine club) as well as great place for picnics with breathtaking views and a periodically changing collection of sculptures on the grounds for you to see, touch, climb on and take pictures of (like the one – LOVE – above).

Undina

 

Image: my own

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