Wine And Other Adventures In Sonoma

Last week Peter and I took a trip to Sonoma and Napa – because that is what “sane” people do two days after moving. Right?

We arrived early Monday morning and checked into the Hotel La Rose in Santa Rosa. Our wonderful children gave us a gift certificate for a stay at this lovely spot for Christmas a few years ago.

Hotel La Rose

from the hotel’s website

We had a little time to kill before our first wine tasting so decided to check out the Charles Schultz Museum in Santa Rosa.

This sweet museum takes visitors back through the lives of our longtime pals Snoopy, Charlie Brown, Lucy, Linus and the gang.

We learned that Charles Schultz was a devoted hockey player who built an ice arena for the fine people of Santa Rosa. There he hosted ice shows and hockey tournaments, playing on a senior team himself into his 60s. The rink that “Sparky” built continues to host the largest Senior Hockey Tournament in the world.

Also, we learned that Mr. Schultz was obsessed with the Zamboni.

Many of the exhibits brought back great memories but the most amazing display was this giant mural, depicting the recurring theme of Charlie Brown trying to kick the football, made up of thousands of tiles, each showing a different cartoon strip from over the years.

Charlie Brown mural

We covered the museum in about 90 minutes then headed off to St. Francis Winery for their food and wine pairing experience.

St. Francis WInery

Three times per day, on Thursday through Monday, St. Francis offers a tasting menu consisting of four courses plus dessert.

Each delicious course is paired with one of their wines.

Think about that – in a regular restaurant, the chef creates a dish then works with the sommelier to come up with a proper wine pairing but in this case, the chef, wanting/needing to showcase the array of St. Francis wines, has to craft a food recipe that will bring out the best in both the food and wine. I think that sounds pretty challenging.

Challenge accepted and met. Beautifully.

I was too busy savoring to take a lot of pictures but did manage to capture this course of Red Wine Braised Duck over Coriander Spätzle with Grilled Endive, Roasted Pistachio and a Tart Cherry-Apricot Mostarda paired with the 2013 St. Francis Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.

St. Francis Winery food and wine

Open Table users named St. Francis Winery the #1 restaurant in the country last year. Not too shabby for a place that isn’t even a real restaurant.

And I should mention that this meal – 4 courses plus dessert with wine pairings – is $60 per person. A bargain at twice the price.

Thanks for the recommendation, KG!

Because we would be joining our college pals in Napa at the end of the week (more on that soon!), we limited our Sonoma wine tasting to one per day. Hard to believe but there is such a thing as “wine tasting fatigue”. Even for me.

Our scheduled event on day two was a private tasting at Paul Hobbs.

Paul Hobbs

Yep…just Peter and me with the adorable Chelsea pouring some delicious wines.

Paul Hobbs became interested in wine making as a pre-med student at Notre Dame. It seems that his botany professor was a retired wine maker. Paul struck up a friendship with the professor, became hooked on the idea of making wine, left Notre Dame, headed to California and the rest is history.

As a relatively small producer, Paul splits his time between his own winery and their secondary label, Crossbarn, while in high demand as consulting winemaker for some real heavy hitters around Napa and Sonoma.

The wines were incredible. Peter never leads me astray.

Remember when I said that we were keeping to just one scheduled tasting per day?

Well, what are we to do when we encounter a brand new tasting room in downtown Healdsburg right across the street from the restaurant at which we had dinner reservations and an hour to kill? And what if the tasting room just happened to feature Hartford Family Wines which had been recommended to us by our Sonoma expert friends, Ellie and Archie?

We had to stop in. Obviously.

Hartford Family Wines

It was a good call. We added a few bottles to our wine cellar.

By the way, our dinner was at Dry Creek Kitchen, a Charlie Palmer restaurant, also recommended by Ellie and Archie. Don’t miss it!

On day three we headed down to Marin County for a day of hiking in Point Reyes National Seashore.

Knowing that we were foregoing wine tasting for the day, we decided to stop for the next best thing:

CHEESE!

Cowgirl Creamery

Cowgirl Creamery, makers of the magnificent Mt. Tam cheese and others, has a shop in the Ferry Building in San Francisco and this shop in tiny Point Reyes Station, California (population 848).

It’s kind of like mecca for cheese lovers.

We bought a few cheeses to share with our friends in Napa and a little, insulated Cowgirl Creamery lunchbox (ice pack included!!) which they had so brilliantly displayed right next to the cash register.

We also picked up ham and cheese sandwiches (Ham & Tam) to have for lunch on our hike then headed out to the Seashore. Without a doubt this was the very best ham and cheese sandwich I have EVER had.

If you’ve been to the Point Reyes National Seashore, you know that the park can often be fogged in, wet, windy and miserable. Still worth the trip but if you are lucky enough to go on a day like this?

Point Reyes National Seashore

You are pretty darn lucky.

We wandered around on a series of trails, some on the bluff, some down by the beach. The views were breathtaking from every angle.

Oh, but these signs explained why there wasn’t anyone frolicking in the surf.

beach warning signs

No mixed message there for sure!

The next day we headed over to Napa. Stay tuned for details on the eight wine tasting experiences we enjoyed – seven fabulous and one clunker.

For now, I will leave you with this. At the St. Francis Winery, we were joined by a group of ladies celebrating their friend’s 89th birthday. When asked the secret to her long life, the birthday girl said, “Dear friends, great adventures and triple-malt scotch.”

I’d substitute wine for scotch. But the friends and adventure part…count me in.

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Comments

  1. Wow! So many great things here. My husband and I will be in San Fran for a long weekend coming up and we’re planning a day trip to Napa. But after seeing that beach and reading so many great recommendations, we may need to switch it up to Sonoma!
    And the Hartford Family wines I need to check out…
    Allie recently posted…The Rundown – FearMy Profile

  2. What a fabulous trip; wine, cheese, Charlie Brown and gorgeous seashore. You are right about the warning signs at the National Seashore…not one mixed message.
    Beemie recently posted…Trying our luck…My Profile

  3. I’m going to take that 89 year old’s advice. Looks like the beginnings of a wonderful trip. I sent your post to the Mister with the message I WANNA GO HERE!!! Charles Schultz was a hockey player? Wouldn’t have thought that. Great post. You should send your post to the hotel – they may send you a free weekend! Have a wonderful week, dear Mo.

  4. I just adore wine pairing dinners and you always seem to find the best ones. Can’t wait to hear more about your trip!

  5. I love Charles Shultz and actually just mentioned him yesterday! I’d love to see the museum. I’ve been wondering lately how you keep track of all the wines recommended to you and those you’ve tried. Do you keep a journal? With all the cutesy names of wines these days, I’m forever getting them mixed up!

    Glad you had fun and got a little break after the hustle and bustle of moving!
    Leslie Anne recently posted…Comment on Easy decorative book project by Leslie AnneMy Profile

    • The wines are all logged in my husband’s brain. Seriously, he is my wine google. When I see a wine that look interesting, I will ask him if we’ve ever had it and he can tell me. He can usually even recall where we were when we tried the wine. As soon as I finish unpacking boxes, I’m going to do something about organizing the wine recommendations posted on the blog to make them easier to find. Stay tuned!
      Mo Lux recently posted…Wine And Other Adventures In SonomaMy Profile

  6. These are the best vacations. The delights uncovered when time allows. I adore that part of the world. My dad’s cousins grew up at the base of Mt. Tam and we were fortunate to visit many times when I was little. Now that I am of an age when I enjoy a glass or two it sounds even more inviting! Add in Peanuts and I’m hooked.
    Kelly L McKenzie recently posted…Thank You SeattleMy Profile

  7. Looks like heaven…I need to come up with a reason to head back to Napa…it is SO perfect. And, I love Cowgirl Creamery, particularly Mt Tam. Hope you are settling in to Chicago. xoxo
    Sandy recently posted…London In BloomMy Profile

  8. I think that Chris and I need to get back to wine country soon!!!
    Glad that y’all had a little getaway!
    Kim recently posted…This & That (including a new business!)My Profile

  9. Seven out of eight sounds pretty darn good! Sounds like a lovely getaway. We just got back from one too, but I had no wine and plenty of pina coladas.
    Dana recently posted…Dear StephanieMy Profile

  10. so crazy, but have not been to any of those wineries and adding them to my list!!!
    catherine gacad recently posted…The Best 1st Birthday Ever with Help from UrbanSitterMy Profile

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