We flew out as we do by habit. We woke up at 4am. Both Aaron and I had worked the night before and liked to pretend we were still young enough to get by on three hours of sleep. I drove our car to a friends house where we parked it in case of a snow emergency. Aaron met me there driving a Car2Go, which we took to the airport. At that time of morning there was no traffic, only the clean expanse of pavement. We parked and paid and checked our bag, because even though it was only four days how would we bring back wine in our carry ons? A six AM flight, layover in Denver, delay, boarding, unboarding, boarding, fitful naps, and one nerve wracking landing later, we had arrived in San Fransisco.
We were there for two purposes- to hang out with Abby and her boyfriend Joe, who had recently moved to Oakland, and to drink a lot of wine. My parents, who had gotten in an hour before, picked us up. We drove around San Francisco and stopped at Tartine for lunch to have enormous, cheese stuffed sandwiches. I ordered a mocha, needing the caffeine, and finished it all. This was a coup for me as a non-coffee drinker. I then proceeded to spend forty dollars on pastries and later on the trip bought Tartine No. 3. I didn’t regret a cent.
The trip was a Christmas present from my parents to Aaron, Abby, Joe, and I. And when I say a, I mean the. It was an enormous blessing for me. I will always prioritize experiences over things, and what an experience. We stayed in Windsor, in an airbnb that my newly technologically-savvy parents found. On the drive from San Fransisco to Windsor we drove across the Golden Gate bridge, through Saulsulido, and into the hills. It seemed like California was showing off a bit. It didn’t seem fair that one place should have such impossible beauty. In Windsor that night we stopped into a local bar, where we sat outside around a fire pit and drank out of jam jars. At one point my dad remarked that just this, sitting around and talking with all of us, would have been enough. It was hard not to agree.
But there was more to the trip than sitting and talking for one night, and for that I’m grateful. We hit Sonoma one day, Napa the next. Dad wore shorts. I shed my sweaters. We sipped and swirled and smelled our glasses of wine. In some places we did so standing at the counter while a friendly tasting manager talked us through the nuances of what we were drinking. In other places we took our tastings outside to escape the crowds of people drinking the same way we were. Unsurprisingly, in almost every instance the wines we liked best were poured by the nicest people.
At one tasting the woman pouring a Sauvignon Blanc (tropical, crisp, brightly refreshing) mentioned that she couldn’t wait until it got warm and she could drink this wine outside. It was in the sixties with an impossibly blue sky, and it was the middle of February. I was wearing flats! Without socks! No coat! Us Midwesterners had no idea what she meant, until it got warm.
My cousin and his girlfriend, who also live in the Bay area, drove up to meet us. Without them we wouldn’t have found some of the excellent wineries we tried in Napa. We also all went to Francis Ford Coppola winery together, where we saw Coppola’s Oscars and Godfather relics. After we had paid homage to his films we settled onto the patio, where we drank a full glass and watched the wild turkeys roam the by the grapes.
We bought five bottles of wine that caused our suitcase to exceed the allocated luggage limit. Those bottles are now sitting on our bookshelf, waiting for good company. The last night of our trip we ended up at Russian River brewing, engaging in a beer tasting to balance the scales at bit. We sampled three different sours, a gauntlet of Belgians, and some seriously hoppy IPAs. And then we ordered pizzas, because nothing goes better with beer than pizza. We all ended the night full, tipsy, and so very happy.
It was a whirlwind of drinking wine and soaking in the sunshine and smiling so hard that my cheeks hurt. It was both Aaron and my first time in California, and I’m sure it won’t be the last. I’m looking forward to returning and hanging with Abby again- and eating my way through San Fransisco, of course.
Places we went to eat:
–Tartine in San Fransisco (for caffeine, sandwiches, pastry inspiration, and the best lemon tarts I’ve ever had)
–Bouchon Bakery in Yonteville (for macarons and homage)
–Dry Creek General Store in Healdsburg (for a gorgeous assortment of salads and souvenir honey)
-Cafe Noto in Windsor (for locally sourced caffeine)
Places we went to drink:
–West Wines (one of our favorites, and a place we just happened to stumble across)
–Peterson Winery (the wonderful Danny gave us a primer on wine tasting techniques)
–Family Wineries (6 wineries in one tasting room, all making interesting wines)
–Francis Ford Coppola Winery (or as we heard it referred to, Disneyland)
–Tank Garage Winery (a cool, modern space that felt markedly different than the other tasting rooms we visited)
–Twomey Cellars (Aaron loved the three pinot noirs included in the tasting)
–Frank Family Vineyards (pricey, but delicious)
–Russian River Brewing (for a break from the wine, and Pliny the Elder)
inspired by the drink at Cafe Noto
Cafe Noto was a bright, happy coffee shop a two minute stroll from our airbnb. I ordered the Cup of Love, because I’m always interested in expanding my repetoire of non-coffee warm beverages. I was a bit worried that the drink would be too sweet, but it was perfect- warmly comforting and still light. It tasted like a hug in a cup. I used a lovely robust honey I bought out in California, and needed 4 teaspoons. You should taste as you add the honey and adjust to your own sweetness level.
Makes 2 small or 1 generous serving
2 cups unsweetened soymilk
4 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
In a small saucepan warm the soymilk. Whisk in the honey and cinnamon. Bring to a simmer. Drink in the sunlight.