NorCal, take 2

I once called Oakland home, for a short time while studying abroad at UC Berkeley back in 2009. Places and people change over the years, but it still feels a bit like home when you know where to go and who to see. I visited Maya again, and this time her shrunken belly had turned into a breast-feeding, squinty-eyed baby named Chloe. Her dog Duke was the same old, happy to snuggle away any attention he still got in Chloe’s presence. Their orange and lemon trees were creaking under the weight of fresh citrus, so missing out on freshly juiced lemonade was’t an option.

the best way to wine taste Sonoma – by pedal bike

The weather was slightly warmer, and the surroundings more green, but northern California seems to be constantly in a state of transition from spring to summer. When the fog rolls in, you have no idea what season it is, but you’re still sure of where you are. Driving 20 minutes east into the hills slaps dry, desert heat straight into your face, and you wonder how the state is ever going to recover from a water shortage with all those millions of people living in a tiny bay.

the vineyard of bubbles, Gloria Ferrer in Sonoma Valley

This time around, the focus was food and wine. Chef Thrainn from Iceland was in, and we had our fill of Moroccan inspired cuisine at Mourad in San Francisco. We carried on to Sonoma, where our dinner at the Girl & Fig kept our bellies fed and finally filled with something other than wine. We spent a day wine tasting in Napa as well, where we lunched at Thomas Keller’s Bouchon (The French Laundry was too daunting). We rounded off our wining and dining with some craft beers at Faction Brewing and some hard spirits at Hangar 1 vodka, both located on Alameda island in converted WW2 hangars.

Hangar 1 distillery bar, Runway Spirits

Our last meal was at Bird Dog in Palo Alto, a modern, Asian fusion bistro style restaurant, with another couchsurfer and one my oldest friends from UBC days. We boarded our Wow air flight back to Reykjavik 2kgs heavier, and the sight of Keflavik in a dismal, rainy grey made me want to turn right back around to sunny California.

Advertisements

Sonoma & Napa Valley Wine Tasting

the oldest wooden structure situated at Green Strings farm, with a healthy field of grape vines growing behind

the oldest wooden structure situated at Green Strings farm, with a healthy field of grape vines growing behind

Many know the Northern California region is quite famous for its wineries, so going wine tasting in the Sonoma and Napa Valley regions seemed like a necessary trip to take while living in California. It’s only about an hour’s drive north from San Fransisco, and I’ve been told there are about 400 wineries in the entire region, ranging from small, 10 acre family run farms, to hundred-acre, major distributing wineries like Sebastiani.

A friend visiting from out of town and myself spent a couple days in the area, starting at Green Strings Farm, an all-organic, sustainable, grape and produce growing farm near Petaluma. It was the most beautiful, idyllic, relaxing country landscape, nestled near the Sonoma hills, with some of the best tasting food I have had in a long time.

The following day we weaved our way through a few Sonoma Valley vineyards, visiting some of the oldest wineries in the USA including Bartholomew Park Winery, Gundlach Bundschu, and Buena Vista winery. They all cost between $5 – $10 for a tasting flight, specializing mostly in red wines except for a few chardonnays, gewurztraminers and white rosés.

We carried over to the Napa Valley, driving north along the Silverado trail, famous for its back to back wineries. We visited some modest wineries, like Judd’s Hill that specilizes in private sales, and built up to the more extravegant, $15 – $25 per tasting flight wineries like Darioush, Black Stallion and Signorello.

In addition to the amazing wines, wonderful weather, and scenic roadtrip, wine tasting Sonoma and Napa Valley served as the perfect getaway from the hustle and bustle of the Bay area, so I would suggest to anyone planning a visit to San Fransisco, you should include a little wine tasting time in your itinerary.