Tuesday, October 8, 2013

San Francisco Part III

This section is mostly Sonoma (which between you and me, was my favorite part) and our drive back to San Francisco down Highway 1. My mom and I, as previously mentioned, ate pretty well on this trip. We over-ordered, to say the least, at Bouchon Bakery and ended up eating salted chocolate tarts and pain au chocolat and giant macaroons for breakfast for more days than I feel comfortable sharing with you. We also had a sensational dinner at Bottega, which we'd been eager to visit since last year when we took a cooking class in San Antonio with Michael Chiarello (!!). That guy is awesome (obviously) but that is a story for another time.

But the wineries! Oh, the wineries. What a dream. (Literally, it is my dream to always be drunk in the California sunshine.) We visited some pretty choice wineries this trip as well. I'm by no means an expert, but I purposefully steer clear of the big names in favor of smaller wineries that are doing really interesting things with that humble grape that we're all so inexplicably fond of. Because we had such a large geographic area to cover, we spent a lot of time figuring out map routes and yelp-ing hotels in the area (we are not usually the ones to fly by the seats of our pants, for the record). A little hectic, but also pretty fun.

When we got to Napa, we had roasted beet salads and chestnut soup at a cute downtown bistro before our first appointment at Honig in Rutherford, and actually got into Sonoma earlier than planned. We drove around for awhile before stopping at Mumm (my favorite champagne besides Andre; why yes, I'm very rich and my library contains many leather-bound books) and ordering several champagne flights. After tasting each of the six glasses, my mother informed me that she didn't care for any of them and pushed them all in front of me. I won't say what happened next.

From there, we spent our first warm afternoon of the trip drinking wine on the patio at Honig and soaking up as much knowledge as our wine-sodden brains would allow. Honig is small but they make my favorite Sauvignon Blanc (you can find it at Whole Foods!) so I couldn't resist making some purchases. We also tried an incredibly sweet dessert wine that was thicker than honey--not something I'd ever order but I'm glad I tried it. I could totally see drizzling it on top of adults-only baklava or something similarly decadent.

From there we went to our hotel in Calistoga for disco naps before our stellar dinner at Bottega. Then we were up bright and early Saturday morning for our appointment at Lancaster Estate in Healdsburg--not a lot of people have heard of them, but they are by far one of my favorite producers. And I should have mentioned by now that my mom is not a wine person--she drinks Riesling. Just Riesling. Which is also the one wine I won't touch. So bearing that in mind, my mom RAVED about Lancaster Estate. We tried only reds there, and she drank all of them and proclaimed them the best she'd ever had. So there's that.

ANYWAY. No one else showed up for our tour, so we ended up getting a private tour of the grounds. And it was so fun!! It's such a small estate that we were able to drive through all the vineyards as we heard stories about the grapes and the family that owns it, etc. Then we had a private tasting in their wine cellar and almost chained ourselves to the walls so we'd never have to leave. I felt like a movie star (maybe it was the wine?). I spent too much money on two bottles that I'm saving for an as-yet undecided occasion, and I can't wait to do it again.

After some great sandwiches and heirloom-seed-purchasing lunch at the Jimtown Store, the last tasting room we visited was Medlock Ames, which I was actually most excited about but most disappointed by. Maybe because we'd been to Lancaster right before, but Medlock just didn't measure up. Our experience there was fine--the people were knowledgeable and they served some great little canapes with the wine. They just didn't have a cellar carved into the mountainside to serve us in :( But they did have some great gardens full of chard and strawberries and all kinds of herbs to keep us company as we sat on the patio.

After that was a splendid five hour drive back down Highway 1 to San Francisco, hanging my camera out the window the whole time. We drove through Point Reyes National Park, marveled at the redwood forests and the sunbathing sea lions, and held our breaths when we ventured to look over those sharp craggy cliffs. We stopped at every scenic outlook and raced the fog rolling in all the way back to Marin County. We even took a short took a detour through dairy country, which brought back memories of my high school FFA days. My mom even told me I did a great job driving, which made my decade. We passed back over the Golden Gate Bridge and ended our journey with dinner at Tyler Florence's Wayfair Tavern, which had some high points and some really amateur low points too. Another story I guess.

The next morning we were up bright and early to fly back to Texas. All in all, a fantastic trip. And I'm really glad I got to share it with my mom; it just wouldn't have been the same without her.

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