Sonoma, my new favorite place

I had never spent much time in Sonoma and it’s been many years since I’d been there so when Brax bought me a 2 night stay at the Best Western Sonoma for my birthday I was really excited.
On our drive into Sonoma on Sunday our first stop was Domaine Carneros for some sparkling wine. They offer several different sparkling wines as well as a Chardonnay and a few Pinot Noirs. I really enjoyed the Blanc de Noir, very fine bubbles, crisp fruit and dry. The tastings are done in flights and served out on the veranda of this beautiful estate.
Directly across from Domaine Carneros is Cuvaison which was our next stop since it was so conveniently located. Unbeknownst to us you’re supposed to make appointments…oopsie! The Pina, Patty, and Paul  were great, more than happy to let us taste even though we didn’t have an appointment. This is a very modern tasting room with a great view overlooking a large pond and vineyards. This was quite a pleasant surprise, as we found some really nice wines. The Sauvignon Blanc Solitaire was wonderful!!! Very crisp with lots of tropical fruit, not sweet. As Paul, the very nice gentleman pouring for us, put it…the Solitaire pairs well with a bikini. The Kite Tail Chardonnay was good too, the nose reminded me a bit of Lucky Charms, slightly marshmallow with a bit of butter. This is a well-balanced wine, not to buttery. The Estate Pinot Noir is rich with lovely dark fruit. The Syrah is a bit smokey, with black fruit and a hint of bacon. Lastly is the Cab, lots of dark fruit with some black tea, moderate tannins. We will definitely be bringing Doc and Troya for a visit!!
Last stop for the day was visiting Patz & Hall in their new home. Gorgeous tasting room with a great patio overlooking the vineyard and staff couldn’t be nicer. Ross, poured for us and was very knowledgeable and friendly. P&H never disappoints, both the Hyde Vineyard and Zio Tony Ranch Chardonnays were nice. I am not a huge Chardonnay fan but Hyde Vineyard is crisp and citrusy with a bit of richness while the Zio Tony Ranch has hints of butter with apple. But oooohhhh how I love the Pinots!!! The Jenkins Ranch has lots of red berries with slightest hint of pepper, soft finish. The Moses-Hall has cherry and big red fruit, almost jammie with rich texture. The Pisoni was just fruity, velvety, yumminess.
We headed for the hotel after Patz & Hall. The Best Western is obviously not a fancy hotel but it was very clean, comfortable, in a great location and allows dogs. We had dinner at The Red Grape, a frequently recommended spot. Very low-key pizza joint with a good menu, not just pizza.
The next morning we walked the dogs to a nice little dog park a few blocks off the square before we started our day of tasting. Around the square is several tasting rooms, boutiques and restaurants all within walking distance from our hotel. We initially were trying to go to Sojourn but it is by appointment only so we called and left a message. It was a Monday so we figured they may have been closed. We then headed to Schug Carneros Estate where we tasted a sparkling wine which I bought, the Chardonnay was fairly well-balanced, a little buttery. The Carneros Pinot Noir was good, fruit forward but light, where as the Schug Estate Pinot had lots of fruit but was a bit smokey with more minerality and tannins. The Cab Franc was a big, dark berried wine with firm tannins. Lastly was the Late Harvest Riesling, not syrupy, hints of honeysuckle, apricot and lemon.
Gloria Ferrer was the next stop since it was down the street from Schug. We ordered from a list of flights, 2 are bubbly flights and one was a Chardonnay and Pinot Noir flight. I, of course, did the bubbly. My flight consisted of 2005 Royal Cuvee, crisp with pear and apple; Blanc de Noir, slight blush, hints of berries, slightly sweet; Va di Vi, very sweet because of the Muscat with hints of lemon. This is a beautiful location with nice patio to relax and overlook the valley.
On our way back into town we stopped at a roadside store called Angelo’s where we bought homemade beef jerky, salami and bacon…the spicy beef jerky was the winner.
We decided to stop at the Walt Winery tasting room in town. So glad we stopped here!! Jerry who was helping us was awesome and the wines were great!! The Blue Jay and Savoy Pinot Noir were my favorite but really all of the wines were very good. We then walked over to Vino Alley on the opposite side of the square to see if we could find Maclaren. Jerry had recommended it but we had also had the wines a few years ago in Healdsburg. It was getting late but we found Steven and his wife in their tasting room getting ready to close up shop when we walked in, much to their dismay I am sure!! But they were very gracious, brought back out the wines and poured us their lovely Syrahs. Our last stop was Sigh, a bubbly bar. They offered lots of choices of sparkling wines as well as Champagne.
For dinner we went with the most recommended restaurant, The Girl and the Fig. Super cute restaurant and bar with nice outdoor tented dining area that was heated. The food was really good and nicely priced.
As we headed out for home the next morning we went to breakfast at Community Café, delish!!! Need I say more?
I really, really enjoyed Sonoma. It is so low-key and easy-going as are the people who live and work there. Everyone was so friendly and not snooty. Next time I definitely want to do more around the square, there is so much to see, shop, eat, drink. As much as I like Napa I love Sonoma!!!

Napa Explored

Hill and I took a trip to Napa with some good friends for a little one nighter getaway. First stop, always a must Patz & Hall. We had our usual sit down with three chards and three pinots. My favorite was the Burnside Pinot. Earthy, mineral-ly with a cherry cola finish.
Second stop and I must admit the most disappointing was Far Niente Winery. Craig our host was friendly, knowledgable and funny. Although we had a pleasant experience, the wine was a let down. I mean hello 150$ for a bottle of wine that really should be around 80$ at the most. They are living off of their name rather than living up to it. The winery itself was beautiful with gorgeous views. We did taste the Dolce and it was good but not for 85$. Paso Ports makes way better dessert wine. Happy that we stopped by but won’t be back.
We ended our day at Mumm. Who doesn’t love a sparkling wine at the end of the day? Nothing out of this world but did the trick. My fav was the Cuvée M slightly sweet with a refreshing taste.
The plan was to stop by Trespass on the way home. Boy am I glad we did. The owner Donny was such a delight. Down to earth and funny. I felt like I was in Paso instead of Napa because he did not have the Napa arrogance…..but he did have some great wine. He does all reds mostly cabs and great blends. My favorite was his 2009 Cab. Very complex and so good you could drink it all by itself or pair it with a nice juicy steak to create a memorable dinner.
On a whim we stopped at Paraduxx Winery. Travis helped us with our tasting. My favorite was their “GSM” more like SMG as Travis put it. So tasty with chocolate covered cherry flavors on the finish. Smooth, light and beautiful in color and taste.
Overall a great time exploring with new found favorites and one big disappointment. Oh well it can’t always be perfect and I guess I’m not too sad because if Far Niente was all that and a bag of chips I would be broke :) I guess it’s all in how you look at it.