Friday, November 13, 2009

Just a Little Farm Town

Do you ever have moments when you want to pinch yourself? Just to make sure you are not dreaming? After coming down off the high of visiting the Williams Sonoma flagship store, I had a hard time envisioning what could top that. Clearly, I had not yet grasped what Highway 12 through Sonoma County had in store for us.

The next three days were so incredibly fabulous that I found myself wondering, "is this really happening?" I'm sure Dad wanted to slap me because I probably sounded like a broken record, but I have been dreaming of a trip to California wine country for two years (I even bought the guidebooks!), and now it was happening. Un-freakin-believable.

What can I say? Some girls want Paris or Rome, but just give me a little farm town with good wine and great food.

We headed out early Saturday morning. After crossing the Golden Gate bridge (sadly, it was too foggy to even tell we were on a bridge), we were headed north to the mecca (insert angelic voices and bright, shiny lights). We took a slight detour on the Pacific Coast's famous Highway 1 to visit Muir Woods and have our pictures taken in front of 1,200-year-old redwood trees (absolutely incredible, by the way). By early afternoon, we were finally on our way to the land of wine and honey.

First stop, the quaint square in Sonoma. I had read about the shops, restaurants and tasting rooms and couldn't wait to check it out myself. The weather was perfect for a leisurely day on the square - about 75 degrees, sunny with a slight breeze - and we strolled from tasting room to tasting room soaking in every sight, sound and smell.

And why haven't I ever considered moving out here?

Highway 12 winery was our inaugural watering hole, with its friendly staff and delicious wines, we had hit the jackpot right out of the gate. If this was just the first stop, the next three days were certainly going to be something. We tasted red, white, sweet and dry. It was all incredible.

After a few tastings, it became quite apparent that if we wanted to ensure arrival at our hotel (and actually be confident it was the correct hotel), Dad and I were definitely going to need a little something to munch on. Naturally, I had been scoping food options for weeks, so I knew we had to hit The Girl and the Fig. Definitely the right choice.

The menu was filled with mouth-watering wine country gems like dungeness crab salads, fresh salads with local fruit, magnificent sauces and spreads made of figs and much time do you have? Because I could go on.

Seated on a delightful patio outside, we shared a scrumptious cheese and sausage plate that came with the most divine selection of fresh and local cheeses, fresh fig fruit spread with a crisp apple and the most delectable marinated olives that I just couldn't stop devouring. Of course, I came away with a cookbook to recreate these fabulous creations in my own kitchen.

Our first official winery stop was just north of Sonoma at the Blackstone Winery.

Now, I'm a big fan of just about anything Blackstone, but the tasting menu at this winery was divine. Many of the wines we tasted were reserved for onsite availablity only and/or were in another socioeconomic hemisphere than my usual purchases. The $8.99 merlot I buy at Kroger is "what pays the bills" according to our host. Yep, I'm just that classy.

Seriously though, if I learned one thing on this trip, it's that the wine you like is the wine you like. There is no right, wrong, good or bad. Screwtop, box or cork, it's all about how a wine entices your tastebuds and the sweet dreams it leaves on your tongue.

After a hard first day on the job (hey, someone's gotta do it), we headed to the hotel and called it a day. If I were a betting woman, I'd have bet my favorite spatula that it just doesn't get any better than this. Good thing I don't gamble.

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