A number of years ago I made a week-long trip with my best friend Jim to Napa Valley. We kept notes everyday on what we did, which appear chronicled below. I highly recommend making a similar log if you tour wine country. It serves as a living memory that can be revisited over and over. It’s amazing the memories you can pack into a week and you’ll not want to forget the details.
And drinking wine all day long does tend to lead the memory loss.
Tuesday, May 2nd
- Easily avoided a lady backing out onto Andrew Road, who was looking in the wrong direction (maybe English?)
- Played the CD with the intro and music to get in the vacation mood. Worked.
- Really long flight from Columbus to Philadelphia to San Francisco (9 hours). Went well. Open middle seat to SF helped.
- Immediately went to the Buena Vista, near Fisherman’s Wharf, for Irish coffee. Then to the hotel in Rohnert Park.
- Hotel has no in-room coffee, hair dryer, fridge, or about anything else. Next to Booger King and Toxic Bell. But a nice buffet and Chili’s is close by. The buffet has a senior discount Jim loves.
Wednesday, May 3rd
- Quick breakfast at Arby’s. Need something in the stomach.
- Started at Chateau St. Jean. Typical $5 tasting fee. Get 5 tastes. Ended up with 12 tastes (about 1 ½ to 2 glasses). Off to a flying start. Paul bought an awesome 2002 Sonoma County Reserve Chardonnay and a great 2004 St. Jean Estate Vineyard Viognier.
- Continued down Route 12 to Kunde (rhymes with Monday). Met Bob Kunde, the 78 year old owner. The pourer, Bruce, is a 75 year old retired Minister. No way he looks 75. Does a lot of Europe travel and uses www.untours.com. Jim buys a bottle of 2002 Bob’s Red, a very good wine for the money.
- Lunched at a Mexican restaurant (La Casa) on downtown Sonoma
- Short ride over to Ravenswood. Pourer suggests Ledson Winery for Petite Sirah. Jim buys bottle of sweet wine, a 2005 Muscato Leggero. Paul buys a 2003 Sonoma County Petite Sirah. Ravenswood is having a BBQ this coming Saturday evening (Cinco de Mayo + 1). Under consideration.
- Long ride over to Napa, stopping first at Trefethen. Paul buys a 2002 Oak Knoll Cabernet Franc, two shipping boxes and a better cork puller for Jim.
- Last stop was Goosecross. Since Paul is a wine club member, we get free tasting. Paul buys a 2005 Napa Valley Viognier. Most rocking winery, most fun.
- Dinner at Fresh Choice near the hotel. Salad, soup, pasta and dessert buffet. Jim enjoys the senior discount.
Thursday, May 4th
- Breakfast at Starbucks.
- First winery of the day was Ledson in Kenwood, suggested by the staff at Ravenswood. Huge castle based on a European style. Introduced to Ken, who pours our wine. Wines are absolutely fantastic. Paul signs up for their wine club (2 bottles, 6 times per year), they waive the tasting fee and then began pouring their best wines, and a lot of it. We were there about two hours and had about two glasses of wine in total. Paul orders a 2003 Knight’s Valley Bellisimo, a Meritage blend, for Richard, and a 2003 Contra Costa County Petite Sirah for the first wine shipment. Paul also buys a pair of logo wine glasses. Ken says to call ahead on the next trip out and we’ll get a Reserve tasting, complimentary, of course.
- Lunch is at V. Sattui, which is one of the few wineries that are allowed to serve food. They have an awesome deli. Purchase bread, turkey, pastrami, cheese and a couple pops. Eat lunch outside on picnic tables with dozens of other folks.
- Second winery is Vincent Arroyo in Calistoga. Start with the normal wine tasting, then a busload of ladies arrived, so they took us to the back and did some barrel tasting. Met the owner, Vincent Arroyo. Played with J.J., the black lab. Paul buys a 2002 Winemaker’s Reserve Petite Sirah, 2002 Napa Valley Sangiovese, 2001 Napa Valley Merlot, 2003 Napa Valley Petite Sirah Port and a pair of logo wine glasses. Jim also buys a 2003 Napa Valley Petite Sirah Port. Port is described as an L.P.R.(Liquid Panty Remover). Paul gets a free waiter’s corkscrew. Ladies buy cooking oil. Vincent Arroyo is having a free BBQ on Saturday. Might be a winner.
- Getting late, so we decide the best course of action is to go north to Fieldstone, which is open later (5 pm) than most. Enjoy a good tasting, but the first two were hard to match. Paul buys two bottles of 2005 Staten Family Reserve Viognier and a 2001 North Coast Sangiovese.
- Dinner consists of the leftovers from V. Sattui and a couple sodas.
Friday, May 5
- Breakfast at Starbucks.
- Drove up north into Alexander Valley to Geyser Peak. Excellent Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc. Unusual lineup of wines includes Malbec, Petite Verdot and Tannat. Jim tries a couple ports, but one is too syrupy and the other too much of caramel. Paul and Jim both buy a bottle of 2003 Trione Ranch Cabernet Franc and get free waiter’s corkscrews. Get recommendation from Linda to go to Foppiano for Petite Sirah, which is on the way to Korbel, our lunchtime plan.
- Luckily stumble directly to Foppiano. Navigator struggling. Suspect too much ‘fun’ at Geyser Peak. Have a great, long tasting and lots of conversation with the pourer and her girl friend. Meet the cellar master, an older Mexican gentleman who apparently began Cinco de Mayo when he woke up that morning. Get recommendation for lunch in Mendocino at the Little River Café. Also suggested is have a brandy at Heritage House, which has a spectacular view of the Pacific Ocean. Winery recommendations include Roederer for sparkling wine, Navarro and Greenwood Ridge. Paul buys a bottle of 2001 Russian River Valley Petite Sirah.
- Get to Korbel, not so directly, for lunch. Jim had a turkey sandwich and a black cherry soda. Paul has an Italian sandwich and a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon. Eat outside in the, finally, beautiful sunshine. After lunch, go have a champagne tasting. John, the pourer, is a hoot. Paul likes the basic Korbel Natural above the others, which is available in Ohio. Jim has high hopes for the sweeter champagnes, but they turn out to be very good, but not very sweet. Port is also not sweet enough. Jim and Paul buy several toppers to reseal champagne and four 99 cent airplane bottles of brandy.
- On the drive back towards Healdsburg, we take a flyer on a winery we’ve never heard of called Porter Creek. Way in the boonies, but has a small crowd after we arrive. Nice wines, nothing spectacular. Paul buys a bottle of 2004 Old Vine Reserve Zinfandel.
- Work our way back up to Healdsburg and to Clos du Bois winery, the final stop of the day. Sauvignon Blanc was a winner, but available at home. Also a very good meritage called Marlstone. Paul buys a 2003 Sonoma Valley Merlot split for the evening.
- Dinner is at Taco Bell. Jim and Paul both have spicy chicken soft tacos and a soda. Paul is rapidly digesting the food and turning into a toxic gas. Jim vows never to take Paul to Taco Bell ever again, unless the country is attacked by terrorists, the situation is grim and the risk of total annihilation is acceptable.
- Sit outside in the hot tub. Fresh air seems to take the green tinge out of Jim.
Saturday, May 6
- Out early to take the long trip up the coast on Highway 1. Stop at La Dolce V in Sebastopol for a quick cappuccino and pastry.
- Take Highway 12 to Highway 116 to Highway 1 and up the coast to Mendocino. Takes about four hours total. Lots of winding roads and great sights of the Pacific Ocean and redwood forests. Stop and take a lot of pictures.
- Can’t find the Little River Café, so we stop in Mendocino at the Mendocino Café. Jim has a Vietnamese chicken salad and a Ginseng cola. Paul has a cup of New England clam chowder, a Crab Cake sandwich and a Vanilla Crème.
- Head back down the coast towards Highway 128, which goes inland and has most of the Anderson Valley wineries. Stop at a beach and take pictures of the ocean and scuba divers in their wet suits.
- First winery of the day is Greenwood Ridge, only because we passed Roederer without seeing it. Building is done Frank Lloyd Wright style; very gorgeous. Find out that the nearby town of Booneville is having a beer festival and that’s helping keep the normally busy Saturday afternoon crowd down to a minimum. Paul buys a bottle of 2002 Scherrer Vineyard Zinfandel.
- Backtrack less than a mile to Roederer for a sparkling wine tasting. They’re pouring six sparklers and one still wine. Learn some history of Anderson Valley, including that the climate is somewhat cooler at the lower elevations and very good for Pinot Noirs and Chardonnay. The highest elevations are good for the grapes like Zinfandel. Get recommendations for Goldeneye and Maple Creek. Paul buys a bottle of non-vintage Anderson Valley Brut sparkling wine, the cheapest and best of the group.
- Back down Highway 128 again, and just past Greenwood Ridge is Navarro, the last of the recommendations we had from Friday. Beautiful redwood building, picnic tables with grape wines trellised overhead and a wide selection of wines, including a couple of late harvest Rieslings. Jim tries the sweet wines and finds one good, but not quite right for the misses. Paul buys a bottle of 1997 Anderson Valley Reserve Pinot Noir.
- Continue down Highway 128 to Goldeneye, which is owned by the Duckhorn Wine Company, Jim’s favorite wine producer, and specializes in Pinot Noir. The tasting is the most upscale we have had and consists of two Pinot Noirs served which a little tray of cheese, almonds and raisons. The first Pinot Noir is called Migration, the sister label of Goldeneye. Wow, wow, frickin wow! Only question now is how much to buy. Their first wine is called Goldeneye, and very, very good, but both Jim and Paul like the Migration a little better. Order four bottles of 2004 Migration Anderson Valley Pinot Noir, shipped home, which includes one for Richard, one for Jim and two for Paul. We now have a real race for ‘wine of the trip’ between the Ledson Bellisimo and the Migration Pinot Noir. Pending field trials, the Vincent Arroyo Port might get Jim’s vote.
- Have time for one more winery, but the Pinot Noir is still on the tongue and we decide to savor it. Drive down Highway 128 to Highway 101 and back to Rohnert Park. Beat after 9 and ½ hours on the road. Too late to make the Vincent Arroyo BBQ.
- Dinner is at a Chinese restaurant. Jim has Chicken Teriyaki and Paul has Mongolian Prawns. Both have green tea. Stuffed and tired. Bed time.
Sunday, May 7
- Breakfast at the Sonoma Valley Bagel Company. Jim has a bagel with jam. Paul has an egg/sausage/cheese/onion/green peppers bagel. Both have a small fresh-squeezed orange juice.
- Drive south to Carmel. Make a short stop in downtown San Francisco to drive down Lombard Street.
- Park in Carmel and walk down Ocean Avenue to the beach. Walk the beach towards the Pebble Beach golf course. Play with a Pembrooke Welsh Corgi named Jester. Find three golf balls on the beach. While cool to us, it doesn’t stop a few people from lying out and working on their tans.
- Head up to Monterey and park at Cannery Row. Watch some of the live entertainment and walk around. Have lunch at Bullwackers. Jim has a salmon burger, Paul a regular beef burger. Both have salads and sodas.
- Do the 17-mile drive and take lots of pictures. Stop at the The Lodge at Pebble Beach and have Guinness’s at The Tap Room. Walk out to the 18th green and watch a couple groups finish.
- Drive back up to Rohnert Park. Long day in the car. Grab a little food at a gas station for dinner.
Monday, May 8, 2006
- Repeated breakfast at the Sonoma Valley Bagel Company. We both have sesame bagels. Paul has cream cheese; Jim has salmon spread.
- First stop of the day is at Hanna in the Alexander Valley. Beautiful circular doomed building with massive wooden struts. Paul buys a 2002 Zinfandel, Bismark Mountain Vineyard for himself and a 2001 Noir (Bordeaux blend) for Richard.
- Just up the road is Sausal, which is Spanish for willow, which is a native tree to the area. Paul buys a 2003 Century Vines Zinfandel.
- Make a return trip to Vincent Arroyo. Do another tasting, including barrel tasting of their Petite Sirah and Port that will be released later this year. Jim buys two more bottles of 2003 Napa Valley Petite Sirah Port. Paul buys a 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon for Richard and orders on pre-release, to be delivered in September, one 2004 Petite Sirah, two 2004 Merlot, two 2004 Greenwood Ranch Petite Sirah and one 2004 Port.
- Continue down the Silverado Trail and stop at Casa Nuestra. Paul buys a 2004 St. Helena Tinto.
- Drive down to Napa and stop at Stagecoach Express and Company to have two cases of wine delivered home.
- Have lunch at the Genova Delicatessen. Jim has a turkey sandwich on a seeded bun and Paul has a prosciutto, mozzarella, tomato and anchovy on a soft roll. Both have ginger ales.
- Final stop is at Domaine Carneros. Take the 15 minute tour on the making of champagne. Sit outside in the warm sunshine and enjoy some Carneros Brut.
Tuesday, May 9
- Time to head back to Dayton. Sorrow.
- Drive down to the San Francisco Airport. Major delay around the San Raphael area for no apparent reason.
- Gas up just before the airport. Another $50 tank. Gas has been around $3.50 a gallon.
- Return the car, check-in, clear security and have 20 minutes before boarding. Perfect timing. Flight is on time. Plenty of room. Nice tailwind. Movie is the latest version of King Kong. Eat dry sandwiches bought in airport.
- Flight from Pittsburgh to Columbus is also uneventful.
- Have fun finding car. Can’t remember exactly where we left it. Thought is was 13D. Turns out 13D does not exist. It’s actually in 11G. Only takes a few minutes to find.
- Only a few sprinkles on the ride home. Drop Jim off at 11:20pm. Paul goes to Cub Foods to buy NyQuil for an annoying cough.
So ends the first Jim and Paul Sideways vacation. Twenty-two wineries are explored over five days. Well over 1,000 miles logged in the car. Many delicious lunches are eaten. Many wineries desired are left to explore in the future.
The best wine is decided to be the Migration Pinot Noir. Best winery is decided to be Ledson. Biggest surprise is finding Anderson Valley.
- Casa Nuestra 2004 St. Helena Tinto
- Chateau St. Jean 2002 Sonoma County Reserve Chardonnay
- Chateau St. Jean 2004 St. Jean Estate Vineyard Viognier
- Clos du Bois 2003 Sonoma Valley Merlot (375ml)
- Fieldstone 2001 North Coast Sangiovese
- Fieldstone 2005 Staten Family Reserve Viognier (2)
- Foppiano 2001 Russian River Valley Petite Sirah
- Geyser Peak 2003 Trione Ranch Cabernet Franc (2)
- Goosecross 2005 Napa Valley Viognier
- Greenwood Ridge 2002 Scherrer Vineyard Zinfandel
- Hanna 2001 Noir
- Hanna 2002 Bismark Mountain Vineyard Zinfandel
- Kunde 2002 Bob’s Red
- Ledson 2003 Knight’s Valley Bellisimo
- Ledson 2003 Contra Costa County Petite Sirah
- Migration 2004 Migration Anderson Valley Pinot Noir (4)
- Navarro 1997 Anderson Valley Reserve Pinot Noir.
- Porter Creek 2004 Old Vine Reserve Zinfandel
- Ravenswood 2003 Sonoma County Petite
- Ravenswood 2005 Muscato Leggero
- Roederer NV Anderson Valley Brut
- Sausal 2003 Century Vines Zinfandel
- Trefethen 2002 Oak Knoll Cabernet Franc
- Vincent Arroyo 2001 Napa Valley Merlot
- Vincent Arroyo 2002 Napa Valley Sangiovese
- Vincent Arroyo 2003 Napa Valley Petite Sirah Port (4)
- Vincent Arroyo 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon
- Vincent Arroyo 2002 Winemaker’s Reserve Petite Sirah
- Vincent Arroyo 2004 Greenwood Ranch Petite Sirah (2)
- Vincent Arroyo 2004 Merlot (2)
- Vincent Arroyo 2004 Petite Sirah
- Vincent Arroyo 2004 Port