Our Trip to California: Wine Country

When Patrick and I planned our trip to California, I did not want to go to Napa Valley.  Wine? Good.  Snooty people? Bad.

In my mind, Northern California’s wine country was going to be full of people who knew way more about wine than I did, and would gladly point that out all day long.   I am so thankful that I didn’t listen to my own twisted ideas about Napa Valley.

We spent the last three days of our trip in Northern California, just a 45 minute drive north of San Francisco, in wine country.

You can read all about wine country on many blogs and endless travel sites.  But, it feels good to share our memories.  Patrick and I were able to spend three days enjoying nature, drinking the fruits of the vine, and disconnecting from the world around us.

Here are the things we would go back and do again:

The Beltane Ranch.  This best kept secret was also the best part of our trip.  The two-story 1800s mansion is surrounded by acres of gardens, horses, and trails.  A chef prepares a delicious homemade breakfast every morning, including fresh produce from the ranch’s gardens.  My favorite was the Raspberry pancakes.  Oh, and did I mention that they bake ooey-gooey cookies every day at noon? They will be ready for right before you head out for your afternoon wine tastings, and if you’re lucky, there’ll be a few left when you get back.  (Warning: The Beltane Ranch does not have central air– be ready to leave your windows open at night, to allow in the breeze)

The Frog’s Leap Winery.  Of all of the wineries we visited, this one was by far our favorite.  Although it is in Napa Valley, you will not find snobbery here.  This organic farm gives tours every day at 10:30 and 2:30, and keeps your glass full all along the way.  The folks at Frog’s Leap taught us everything we needed to know about wine-making.  AND they have corn hole.

A great place to stop for lunch while you (carefully) drive up and down St. Helena Highway?  Oakville Grocery.  Make a picnic! Eat outside or take what you find and go!  This place has it all.  We would highly suggest striking up a conversation with folks at surrounding picnic tables to hear about their favorite wineries– you may just get a great tip!

Last but not least, there is Schug.  Though this winery does not give regular tours, the tasting room is worth a visit.  With warm rich Pinot Noir, and supple Cabernet Sauvignon, we couldn’t stop drinking.  And still haven’t.  After three days in Wine Country, and visiting eight wineries–the only grapes we continue to seek out at home, are those from the Schug Carneros Estate.  Yum.

On the way back across the Golden Gate Bridge, which we had biked across a week earlier, Patrick and I both felt a pang of sadness.  We had such an adventure during our 9-day trek in Northern California.  Neither of us could imagine a better vacation.
Want to see the other six days of our trip?  We spent two nights in San Francisco, three nights in Carmel, and one night in Big Sur.
In three weeks, Patrick and I will head out on our next big traveling adventure… guess where we’re going?