There is nothing more rewarding than hosting family and friends and seeing them experience California’s Wine Country for the first time.
When one thinks of California’s Wine Country, they are likely referring to Napa Valley and Sonoma Wine Country. They lie parallel to each other, tucked away about an hour’s drive by car from San Francisco proper.
9:00 AM PST: With my tea in hand and a pastry from La Boulange, I’m ready to head off to wine country with some out of town friends. We’ve rented a driver for the day (Million Services Limousine) and like clockwork, they show up on time. I’ve been with Reese and his team of awesome drivers for 5 years now. No matter the group size, their service and hospitality are always grade A. I like to typically start off in Sonoma and work my way to Napa. I find the flow of that route, especially for first timers, works out beautifully.
We take the Golden Gate Bridge and are automatically rewarded with breathtaking views of the city behind us. It’s still early enough where Karl the Fog (@karlthefog) is still happily blanketing some of the city but it’s quickly losing its fight as we break through the clouds and into clear blue skies.
11:00 AM PST: The drive up consists of an endless span of rolling, grassy hills transitioning into tidy vineyard lines as we get closer to our destination. My first stop is always at Jacuzzi Vineyards (24724 Arnold Drive, Sonoma CA 95476). The tastings are free, courtesy of the generous family whose namesake is one and the same as those bubbly hot tubs. Relaxation and wine, who would have thought?
The vitners are extremely knowledgeable and they’ll concoct a nice symphony of wine flights, often starting with their crisp prosecco and ending with a deeper port, served in a chocolate cup. Take a glass and walk around to the cavernous back patio. Soak in views of the fountain and endless rows of grapevines. Welcome to Wine Country!
12:30 PM PST: Somehow an hour and a half flies by and we’re all rocking a slight wine buzz. While we loaded up a few bottles of their homemade olive oil and vinegar, my friends and I head out to lunch. I’ve made us a reservation at my favorite lunch spot in downtown Sonoma.
1:00 PM PST: Downtown Sonoma is a charming little square that houses vineyards, restaurants and shops. We head to The Girl and the Fig, a restaurant paying tribute to my obsession with all things French. To describe this place as anything less than delightful would be an unfair injustice. Once you arrive, you’ll see what I mean. My favorite is the back patio, a true oasis of floral, earthy decor and greenery. The server brings us a bottle of my favorite bubbly and we proceed to order a feast of steak tartare, duck confit, fig salad and cheese and charcuterie. Sondra Bernstein and John Toulze opened the restaurant back in 1997 and their dedication to serving 95% of their fresh food from locally grown sources has kept them ahead of the game. Absolument délicieux!
2:30 PM PST: Our skin glowing from the sun and champagne, we head back towards our final two vineyards. Wanting to continue on the train of bubbly and slowly transition to Napa, we head to another cult favorite, Domaine Chandon. Located at the meeting point between Sonoma and Napa, Domaine Chandon looks like the enchanted castle at the top of the fruit-laden vineyard hills. It is majestic and awe-inspiring. There are sparkling wine flights to be enjoyed on the expansive balcony (also private tastings upstairs). Warm caramel, baked apple, honey soaked berry notes can be found throughout the tastings and one can’t go wrong with their huge selection.
4:00 PM PST: We head north to our final vineyard of the day. In this case, we save the best for last. Say hello to Peju. The first word that comes to my mind when arriving at Peju is “magical”. It looks like something out of a modern fairy tale. There are no Prince Charming’s but lots of delicious wine to be found at the final destination. Peju hits high marks on both red and white but its most well-known is probably the Fifty/Fifty- silky and fruity.
As another day in wine country winds down to an end, pure bliss is on everyone’s faces. I feel happy to share the wine country experience with them. Some things never get old and this is by far the best I’ve experienced. It truly brings new meaning to a timeless classic. Cheers!
Author: Lianne Zhang
Featured Photo: Mike Pucci
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