Sunday, August 19, 2007

August 18

Saturday, our plan was to hit Sonoma. We woke up and got on the road early, driving over to Sonoma County with the top down and absolutely perfect weather (mid eighties, sunny, no humidity.... why must wine country torment me this way??) My friend Beth belongs to the wine club at Viansa, so we thought we would head south and hit up that winery.

The wine was pretty good, but what I loved about this place was the views.
Oh, and they also had a really great little food/wine store where I purchased olive oil, poultry rub, and peppercorns for our peppermill. Plus, the lady who was helping us with our wine tasting hooked me up with several little Viansa newsletters that had some delicious-looking recipes in them. Lime tequila flat iron steak - on the menu once we move to our new condo!

Our plan after Viansa was to head all the way to North Sonoma County and then work our way back south. Mike had researched the small town of Healdsburg alot when we were planning this trip, and he wanted to stop and eat somewhere there and walk around a bit. After over an hour on the 101 with Mike getting more frustrated by the minute, we pulled into Healdsburg and found a parking spot right by a small farmer's market that was just wrapping up. I had read through the Healdsburg section of the Frommer's guide on the way there, and had a few places in mind. However, once we got there we realized that there was a HUGE street fair going on celebrating the town's 150th anniversary. I was a bit dismayed, as I thought finding anything I had read about would be next to impossible. As we walked from the parking lot into downtown, I spotted a microbrew pub that I had read about and wanted to try. Total dumb luck, but we thanked our lucky stars and ducked inside of Bear Republic Brew Pub for much-needed nourishment. I got the gumbo and Special XP Pale Ale; Mike got (surprise) a cheeseburger and El Oso beer (spanish for "The Bear"). Both dishes were SUPER tasty and so were the drinks.

I get kind of punchy when I need to be fed.

After lunch, we walked around the street fair a bit and checked out downtown Healdsburg. It looked like a cute little town but there were about half a million people at the street fair and we had many places to be that day, so we cut out pretty quickly.

We continued to head north, with the destination of
Ferrari-Carano winery. Multiple people told us that their wines weren't anything to write home about, but the grounds were gorgeous. So, trusty Nikon in hand, we headed onto the grounds. And we weren't disappointed.

In the garden, there was also a cork tree with a label explaining how they harvest (is that the term?) cork from the trees for the wine corks, so that was pretty informative.
After Ferrari-Carano, we headed to Bella vineyards. Both Ferrari and Bella are in the Dry Creek region of Sonoma. Bella was on Giada's weekend travels on the Food Network. I must point out that Giada rented a bike and "rode her bike" to all of the places in the show - and we saw a fair amount of people biking throughout that area. However, I think that some of the places she went were also in downtown Sonoma, and that is FAR away. I would like to call shenanigans on Giada (Still love you, Giada!). Plus I felt really sorry for the people biking, because by that time of the day the temps were in the mid-nineties and it was just sweltering hot. Anyway, I digress. Their wine-tasting room was in a cave built into the side of a hill, and was fairly new and nicely maintained. The wine was really good and we ended up purchasing two bottles to take home. I would recommend visiting Bella, even if it is far away. It's a small family winery, and everyone there was very friendly.

After Bella, we drove around the Geyserville area for about 45 minutes trying in vain to find the other Coppola winery (since we had already joined the Napa Coppola winery, Rubicon, our interest was piqued in Coppola wines). We followed maps, we followed road signs, but to no avail. Finally we gave up on the other Coppola winery. So sad.
I also wanted to visit Iron Horse, the winery that made the Jeroboam of champagne that my Dad bought for our wedding. This place is truly out in the middle of nowhere and when we finally found it, there was a sign hanging on the gate indicating that the place closed at 3:30. We sighed and decided to visit Iron Horse and Korbel on Monday on our way back to Oakland.
Our reservations for dinner were at 6:15, so we had some time to kill. At this point we pretty much just looked on the map to see what was around and ended up stopping at Hop Kiln.
Hop Kiln may have THE MOST informative security guard on the face of the planet, as he told us all about the estate as we were walking into the winery. He had quite the little crowd gathered as he told us that the estate was a gift from Mexico to the family who first owned it. As it was a gift from Mexico during the Spanish American war, the family did not have to pay property tax on the estate or any of the land until it was finally sold sometime in the 80's (I think). Some guy exclaimed "WHY sell it then?!" which cracked me up.... I mean, you sell to get money, and the SELLER doesn't have to pay property tax. yeesh, what a moran.
After Hop Kiln, we headed south to Sonoma to make sure we weren't late for dinner. Mike and I noticed the proliferation of Priuses on the streets in Cali, and at some point he invented a game somewhat like Slug Bug where you yelled "Prius!" but whoever spotted the Prius first got a kiss on the cheek from the other person. Nice little cute honeymoon game. Except for there was literally a Prius on EVERY corner, in every third parking space, and half of all cars on the road. Oh, and I was really bad at the game.

The 653rd Prius Mike spotted that week.
We had about 20 minutes of free time, so we walked around downtown Sonoma, taking pics.
Dinner that night was at the girl and the fig, which I saw on the Food Network and read about in the Frommer's guide. It reminded me alot of Uncommon Ground here in Chicago. Very cute and small - their tagline is "comfort food with a French passion" Mike had his second cheeseburger of the day and I ordered the ham and cheese. I also got fried green tomatoes as an appetizer. The tomatoes were good - they were crispy with a light batter, but were served only with a bit of basalmic vinegar. Another sauce or two would have made for more appetizing options.
My ham and cheese, or as the menu called it "Croque-monsieur." Fancy, no? But also very very tasty.
We were all about ordering dessert at each place. Here is a shot of Mike and our chocolate ganache cake. Mike and I agreed that it was a bit dry, but when the people at the next table exclaimed how decadent it looked we nodded enthusiastically and said "SO GOOD" while continuing to stuff our faces. It was dry, but it was still dessert and it was certainly not going to go to waste!
Holy cow, long day in Sonoma. After that we pretty much just went back to the Marriott and passed out. Sweet sleep ;c)