If I had known wine was this much fun to drink, I would have started a lot earlier. A little red, a little white and throw in a blush here and there. How patriotic!
Day 2 began with a trip to the Rodney Strong vineyard and included a self-guided tour of the barrel rooms. Very cool stuff. It was so interesting to learn about how they pick the grapes, crush them, age them and then voila! Vino! I had been told by many an expert (i.e., friends that have gone to wine country before me) that a tour of a vineyard is a must to get the "full" experience. Definitely very cool to see the science behind the bottle. We even saw some kind of aeration process (very technical terminology) they use to filter the grape juice in and out of the barrels.
I will admit, that never before in my life have I been drinking alcohol at 10:30 a.m on a Sunday. But, one thing is clear out here, grape growing and wine making is a way of life; not just a vocation, but a profession.
We headed north to the adorable town of Healdsburg for another afternoon of tasting rooms and yummy snacks on the square. We took time out for some coffee and a sticky bun from the Downtown Bakery and Creamery. These sticky buns are the things of legends...buttery, flaky crust rolled in gooey butter and sugar and sprinkled with a hint of cinnamon. Yum (cue eyes rolling back in your head and tongue licking your lips).
My favorite experience of all was finally visiting the Rosenblum tasting room. A dear friend of mine has a family connection to Rosenblum, and their wines are absolutely incredible - they're known for their zinfandel, but let me tell you something...they do not make a bad wine. My personal favorite was the bottle of chocolate port that we brought home. It's like drinking smooth, silky melted chocolate with a kick.
We continued north to visit to the Simi winery to taste more delicious wines. Not only did each winery have its own distinct flavors of wine, but also its own unique ambiance. The quaint buildings and lush gardens at Simi were delightful. Kind of makes you just want to pack a picnic and enjoy a little sauvingnon blanc on a blanket under the trees, doesn't it?
We decided to take the scenic route back to the hotel, driving through the winding roads of the heart of the Russian River Valley. Roads lined with billowing redwoods and rolling vineyards, there must have been at least 120 wineries along the way. The vineyards are just amazingly beautiful. Everywhere you turn, there are hills and rows of beautiful grape vines with the most vibrantly colored leaves of rust, gold, caramel and pumpkin. So very autumnal. There are nearly no words to describe the way the sun peaks through the trees and glistens on the river, or how the hills look like pillows covered with soft amber leaves and deep purple grapes. Absolutely breathtaking scenery.
After all that wine, we needed some meat and a good beer before turning in. For all you Food Network fans, you'll appreciate this one: a burger and fries and Guy Fieri's Johnny Garlic's restaurant in Santa Rosa. Definitely hit the spot.
Only one full day left before it was back to the real world.