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post #517
bio: rich
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9/26/2005
07:41

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Music of Teens: K Tel's The Beat
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Hello California - Then there was wine

Post-Yurt
We had our waffles (California seems to be in love with waffles) for breakfast and motored up to Big Sur proper.

Did I mention that Big Sur is "big" on pretty sights? Holy cow man.
The postcard I sent my moms+pops described Big Sur as a the dramatic meeting of land and sea - and as slightly corny as that sounds... well, it was true.
It's miles of winding roads with the ocean on one side and steep mountains on the other. There are seals.

Want to do Big Sur? Once again, bring some warm clothes, a full tank of gas, some snacks, and a convertible of some sort (you'll have the heat on).




Sonoma
After about 5 or 6 hours of driving (toodling) we arrived in the town of Sonoma in Sonoma county. It's odd that there is a town named Sonoma in Sonoma county. Odder still that there is a Napa in Napa.
Is that a California thing? Or just a fluke?


Power to the chickens no delay
The center of the town of Sonoma is the square where the courthouse is. Some years ago, chickens roamed the square. Little packs of chickens hanging out in the park, smoking, cursing, hassling squares for change.
Apparently, the idiot children of weekend visitors/tourists had a run in or two with the chickens and the town decided that the liability was too great (apparently city/suburb SUV children don't realize that chickens aren't some sort of feathered puppy that loves to be touched and held).
The chickens were booted from the square.

I told Mrs. Robot this whole story as we walked through the town-square. "No more chickens", I said.
We then saw a whole gaggle of geese and ducks near the little pond. Within their ranks was a lone red/copper-colored chicken.
"Chicken!!"

Sonoma chickens are fighting the power.





Wineries & North Carolina
Mrs. Robot and I both hailed from the under-rated state of North Carolina. Not South Carolina (the state that for a while couldn't afford toilet facilities at their highway reststops).
North Cackalacky.
OK. So, knowing that fact, here are some of the wineries we visited with the number of NC folks we met in each.

Robert Sinskey
We got in a last minute tour at this place. They were harvesting some grapes. We munched grapes and then munched vegetables right off the vine in their little organic garden area. They have a nice cave system which we got to check out.
I bought a bottle of their Vineyard Reserve (they also do a really delicious Pinot Blanc)
North Carolina Connection: It was us and another couple on the tour. They were from NC. The husband was born in the town next to the town Mrs. Robot was born in.



Gundlach Bundschu Winery
This was a winery that was high up on my brain's list of places to checkout - but it was more due to the fun stories about one of their former winemakers. There are great stories about Lance Cutler and his 'guerilla marketing' techniques back in the day. Hijacking the Napa Wine Train to serve Sonoma wines. Sneaking into Napa restaurants and filling empty glasses with Sonoma wines. Brilliant.
We loved their Gewürztraminer and bought some bottles - although I should of bought a few of their reds as well.

Check out their bio's on their website...
"Whatever you do, read my bio first. I've been around longer, and I'm much prettier."

North Carolina Connection: None that I know of, but the older gentleman working the counter kept flirting with Mrs. Robot because he had a thing for red-heads.



Domaine Chandon
This place is huge. We got to go on a very swanky "Trade Tour" and it was a fine time. Our guide was super knowledgeable and was chock full of information. After going to all these small wineries, this place is a monster. They probably produce more cases a month than the other places on our trip combined produce a year (actually, I guess if I was so inclined, I could back that up with numbers).

There was one other couple with us on the tour, and at the end we were led to a pretty garden area where they had set a table for us with samples of everything they produce - maybe... 10 or 12 glasses. It was all good.
North Carolina Connection: The other couple was from North Carolina. They owned a number of restaurants in the RDU and Chapel-Hill area.



Newton
We had an 11am appointment there. It's in Napa. You drive through a little neighborhood and find a very, somewhat, unmarked sign. You then drive for what seems like a good mile or two up the mountain on a very narrow road that is flanked by signs saying "No tour buses" or "By Appointment Only" or "No Trespassing".
You arrive at the top of the hill and find yourself in this idyllic English gardens / Asian inspired architecture / terraced vineyard place. Yow.
The landscaping is breathtaking - especially with the view of Napa Valley in the background.
We had a pretty quick tour (terraced vineyards probably aren't nearly as fun to climb through as we might think) and then retired to their tasting room for an assortment of their wines - including their unfiltered chardonnay which got some sort of 96-esque rating from that wine monkey Robert Parker.

North Carolina Connection: There was another couple from NC. The tour guide was from NC (she had lived for a while in Wiltmington).

Cougar Connection: There is apparently a mountain lion that wanders through their land from time to time.




Non-Wine Drinking Activites
Um. Oh yea.
We went to Calistoga for a mud-bath, massage, spa thing. We had done this in 2000 on our honeymoon and I haven't shut up about it since. We went to the same place and I got in the same mud-bath bathtub thing as the last time (I assume they have cleaned it since).
I heartidly recommend it - especially the mud bath because of the weird out-of-body sensation in the mud. You aren't sinking and you aren't floating up... you are just surrounded by heat.

Old Faithful
Did you know there was a geyser in Napa? Specifically in Calistoga? I didn't. We went by and saw it.
It's cool I suppose.
Not as cool as the fainting goats they have there.
As the geyser erupted, a man stood in front of it to have his photo taken.



Then there was food...


Fish Taco!
In St. Helena (below Newton) is the fine lunch spot "Taylor's Refresher" that was been there since 1949. Many thumbs up. It's a great setting with picnic tables out back, milkshakes, fish tacos, burgers, tasty fries.



Girl. Fig.
The first night in Sonoma, we had dinner at the Girl and the Fig because it was recommend by a pal at work. They do the fun wine flights (why have one glass of wine when you can five at once!). Their food was good, but some of their ideas seemed a little too "weird for the sake of being weird" - I'm thinking of the calamari salad thing I had with lemon rind in it. (I like lemon, not sure about rind. Not sure about a whole ton of rind.) They were all very nice though.


Getty'yup
Oh, and one night I wanted steak. I think that was after a whole day of sipping big zinfandels (which would have been every day I suppose). We went to Saddles Steakhouse which is a about four blocks south of Sonoma Square. It was very good food - I had a warm spinach salad and this little filet that was from a former cow that apparently had been grass-fed and wore a sun-hat and was all chemical free. It was tasty. The waitstaff were great.
The restaurant itself was kind of big, gaudy, and goofy.


Cosmo with your steak?
There was a guy at the table next to us who had about four of these fruity looking cosmo-esque drinks while eating his steak.
Call me some sort of food jerk, but that pairing seems kind of wonky.
Wine? Sure. Beer? OK. Scotch or whiskey? I've done that.
A drink that is colored blue? Hmmm.

It looked like he was on a date with this woman and I kept wondering if she was thinking the same thing.



Our Room
While in Sonoma, we stayed at the Thistle Dew Inn. It was a block from the square, so it was ideal if you had just had 20 glasses of wine at dinner and had to walk home.
In hindsight, I am a really irked by it though. The place was nice enough, but our room was tiny. Smaller than our bedroom here in NYC. Granted, the website said it was small - I don't think we thought it would be crazy small.
The mattress was also ancient (permanent indentations from where people had slept side by side for the past century).
The bathroom, oddly, was large.
The breakfasts were good.

But, damn. Our room was tiny. The bed was crappy. And we paid way way way way too much for it.
I'm kicking myself right now.




SF!
After Sonoma, we visited Muir Woods and those big redwood trees. The whole time I pretended to be a star-wars freak who would correct Mrs. Robot everytime she would make some comment about these woods and Return of the Jedi.
"No, they did not have land speeders on Endor. Duh!"

Then we spent about 24 hours in San Francisco. We stayed in Nob Hill at the Nob Hill Lambourne - which was uber-fancy. Somehow, we had reserved a suite. Now this place was about 5 times larger than our apartment. We had a little porch. Huge bath. Huge living room. Handwritten note welcoming us. It was swank and oddly cheap (the irksome B&B was a good bit more).

We spent a lot of time wandering around Chinatown and then back up and around the Nob Hill area.
SF is such a lovely place.

Carry on
BTW, it's hard to carry 13 bottles of wine onto a plane.
Also, I find it super annoying that people are rolling on full cases of luggage these days - why the flight crew doesn't make them check it, I don't know.







You live in New York.

Which is in New York. In New York county, I think.
»stu ||  9/26/2005 ||  2:06:59 AM
i live in brooklyn. which is in Kings County... right? I should know this.
(NYC is a bad example of course.. it's all screwy)
»:r ||  9/26/2005 ||  10:07:58 AM
i am so jealous i couldn't even read the whole post .... i wish i was drinking wine in sonoma right now

great photos!
»k ||  9/26/2005 ||  10:29:10 AM
Rich, you are one fine photographer. And I am real envious of your trip!
»pony ||  9/26/2005 ||  12:22:16 PM
this makes me want to drink wine more and travel more and photograph more and live more and love more and work a whole lot less.
»elanamatic ||  9/26/2005 ||  3:06:53 PM
Los Angeles is in Los Angeles county, and San Diego is in San Diego County, but Anaheim is in Orange County.
»jen ||  9/26/2005 ||  3:18:44 PM
What a fantastic trip. Well planned!
»eve ||  9/26/2005 ||  4:41:18 PM
I also like Gewurtzraminer. Have you seen Mondovino?
»pony ||  9/26/2005 ||  5:23:20 PM
Mondovino was horrid. It's only the 2nd movie that I have stopped watching.
»mrs. robot ||  9/26/2005 ||  6:13:34 PM



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