During our stay in Santa Rosa, we took a few side trips – a day trip to Calistoga, a quick trip to Sonoma, we met friends for dinner in Sausalito, and took a tour through Anderson Valley with an overnighter in Mendocino.
Our trip to Calistoga was kind of spur of the moment. We were driving down Mark West Springs Road, following the path that the fire decimated, and ended up going all the way to Calistoga. It’s really not that far, it just takes time because the road has a lot of twists and turns. We tried two places in town – Maldonado (nice Chardonnay), and Romeo Vineyards & Cellars, home of Sempre Vive Wines (the Petit Verdot Rosé is worth a try). Outside of town, we stopped at Laura Michael and bought a bottle of their 2013 Oat Hill Estate Zinfandel.
We wanted to do more exploring in Napa, but ran out of time. But, after tasting in Calistoga, I talked Jim into going to Rutherford Grill. Hillstone Restaurant Group owns several eateries across the country and we have tried a few, namely Houston’s, Los Altos Grill, Honor Bar, and Rutherford Grill. RG is always packed, but if you are lucky, you can snag a seat at the bar and still order from the full menu. Both RG and Houston’s have the best Spinach & Artichoke Dip!
Downtown Sonoma is a square, much like Healdsburg (and lots of other cities), with shops, tasting rooms, and restaurants. We tried a few of the tasting rooms on our first visit years ago. This time we tried Jeff Cohn Cellars. For a late lunch/early dinner we dined at one of our go-to places – The Girl & the Fig. It’s a fantastic little French restaurant with tasty food and a nice wine list. Try the cheese platter, it is divine!
Sausalito is a quaint little town north of San Francisco that is full of charm. We met our friends there for dinner at an Italian place called Osteria Divino. The food is Florentine inspired and made with local, seasonal produce. Be sure to try the burrata – yum! Before dinner, we stopped in to Madrigal Family Winery. The winery is located in Calistoga, where they also have a tasting room. All the wines we tasted were very good; we especially liked the Sauvignon Blanc, Fume Blanc, and the Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon. Next time we are in Napa, we will definitely go to the winery.
Anderson Valley has been on our list of wine regions to explore for quite a while, so we were excited to make our way up there. From Santa Rosa, we went north on 101 to 128 west and drove on another winding mountain road full of beautiful vistas. Our first stop was Goldeneye, which is part of the Duckhorn family of wineries. We enjoyed their single vineyard Pinot Noirs while sitting outside in their spectacular garden that overlooks the vineyard.
For lunch, we stopped in Philo at Stone and Embers and shared a delicious salad and pizza. It is part of The Madrones, which is a Mediterranean style complex that includes the restaurant, guest accommodations, and a couple of tasting rooms. Smith Story is one of those tasting rooms and we were delighted to meet Ali Smith, a fellow Texan. She and her husband Eric Story are the collaborators in all aspects of their wine production. We enjoyed all of the wines we tasted, especially the Cabernet Sauvignon, which is made in a lighter style that I found refreshingly unique. Check out their dog’s instagram page, which is part of their charity socksforsandwich.org.
The other tasting room in The Madrones is Drew Family Cellars. They concentrate on Pinot Noir and Syrah from coastal vineyards, but we also tasted a nice Rosé and an Albariño. Long Meadow Ranch is slated to open their tasting room soon, next door to Drew.
At Baxter, we tried several single vineyard Pinot Noirs and had a hard time not buying every single one! Father and son make these lovely wines and the quality is evident. This year we have tasted a lot of Pinot Noir and it really was a treat discovering what Anderson Valley has to offer.
Across the street from Baxter is Witching Stick. Claire, at Baxter, recommended that we go there because the winemaker was pouring that day. Van, the winemaker, was very gracious and poured several of his wines for us to taste. We even got to compare a bottle (2011 Cerise Vineyard Pinot Noir) that had been open for several days to a bottle that he opened while we were there. It’s not often that you get a glimpse of how a wine will age right there in the tasting room. Although we could have bought more, we went home with a Chardonnay, a Pinot Noir, and a Zinfandel.
The last winery we visited was Foursite, which is located in Boonville. They were pouring a Semillon, which is a varietal you don’t often find in California. We tried it in a standard white wine glass (which has a smaller bowl) and in a pinot glass (which has a larger bowl). The difference was surprising, mainly how much it opened up in the bigger glass. Of course, we bought a bottle of the Semillon and also the Paraboll Pinot Noir.
The views heading north from Anderson Valley wine country are about as picturesque as you can find. The hillside vineyards lead into the redwood forest that is dense with the most majestic trees. Once you come out the other side, the Navarro River comes into view and leads to the sea. Making our way towards Mendocino, we were in awe, once again, of the beauty of the California Coast. And Mendocino is such an idyllic town with Victorian homes, several B&Bs and inns, with the main street hosting art galleries, funky shops, and a few cafes.
But the best part has to be Mendocino Headlands State Park. We followed the trails down to the edge of the water and it was stunning. The only way to describe all of the vegetation is with the word lush. Fun fact: I knew that the movie “Dying Young” was filmed there, but I didn’t know that there have been numerous films and TV shows set there. “Murder, She Wrote”, “Summer of 42”, “Overboard”, “Forever Young”, and “The Majestic”, to name a few.