Napa Valley and Sonoma Adventure

The best part of my time in the San Francisco area was the day trip to Napa Valley and Sonoma. I took a Gray Line bus tour – this one went off without a hitch and was thoroughly enjoyable – a great tour guide, comfortable seats, and fabulous views. It included visits to three wineries and lunch in Yountville. It was a fabulous day!

Here are some photos:

The first winery was a small Estate / Boutique family run winery called Nicholson Ranch in Sonoma Valley. They specialize in Pinot Noir and it was fantastic! The representatives met us outside – it was a gorgeous day – with some of their white wines to taste. They, then, took us on a walking tour through the vineyard and explained how the grapes are grown and harvested and some history of the area and how it became known for wines. Then, we moved inside to the tasting room and gift shop to taste the Pinot Noir and another red wine. I was totally blown away that I enjoyed every single wine I tasted at all the wineries in Santa Barbara and Napa/Sonoma Valleys….not a single one caused me to think that I didn’t care for it! I had a bottle of the Pinot Noir and a bottle of their Chardonnay shipped home. πŸ™‚

View from the vineyard to the hills and hills of other vineyards as far as you can see!

The next stop was another small family run Estate winery called Madonna Estates in Napa Valley. This was a lovely winery, as well, but very different than the previous one. The representative met us outside to tell us about the winery and what we’ll be experiencing – he was quite a character!!! Once inside, he took us to the barrel room, served us some Chardonnay and demonstrated proper wine etiquette for us. Then we moved to the tasting room for a sampling of several of their signature wines. Again – all were amazing! I had a bottle of their Chardonnay and a bottle of their Cabernet Sauvignon shipped home! πŸ™‚

After two winery stops, we were ready for some lunch! πŸ˜€ So, we drove to Yountville – a wonderfully quaint little town. We had a couple hours to spend time having lunch on our own and enjoying the town. I ate at a very nice restaurant called Pacific Blues and then strolled the street to see what there was to see. I found a bakery that is part of one of four Mitchelin Star restaurants in town – they had an assortment of goodies that made me melt just looking at the showcase! I bought an assortment of French Macaroons to take back to my hotel for later in the evening…..OMG – they were DIVINE!!!

Delicious BLT on toasted sourdough bread with fresh fruit

I loved this LARGE sculpture of a basket of fruit!

The bakery

Next we visited Sutter HomeΒ Winery. I have to admit, I was disappointed when I saw Sutter on the list of wineries on this tour. I had hoped we’d stick with the smaller estate wineries. But, Sutter is one of the biggest and best known wineries in the area, so I understand why it was on the tour. Then, I got there! And I REALLY understood why it was on the tour. They have an amazing story, a wonderful winery, and one of the loveliest Victorian Inns and gardens that I’ve ever seen – I could have wandered around there taking pictures of the flowers forever!!! They also offered the most tastings of any of the other wineries! hehehe

Their story was cool……they started out as a small family run farm vineyard. The current family used all their savings (their last $20,000) to purchase the vineyard and winery from the original owners. They were so broke as they worked to get started that they didn’t even have enough money to pay to have the name legally changed – so they just left it as Sutter Home. Then, they “accidentally” developed the first ever White Zinfandel wine – they were working on a red zinfandel and it came out looking more like a rose’ and had a very unique taste. They decided to market it…..America fell in love with it……and it made them millionaires over night!!! They served us tastings of a higher end version of that White Zinfandel that they only sell at the winery that was really incredible! They also let us taste several other signature wines that can only be purchased at the winery – they aren’t sold commercially – that were excellent!

So…..I was glad we went there! They also had a fabulous gift shop…..I didn’t get anything from there, but there was a lot to look at and consider! πŸ™‚

Check out the huge wine glass one of my fellow tour participants used for a photo prop!

A couple other interesting things we saw along the way:

We drove by the Robert Mondavi Winery, as well as several others — the area was winery after winery after winery!!!

And, vineyards everywhere we looked!

I thought I’ve seen every kind of cow there is…..but, apparently, not……these are Belted Galloway Cattle – a.k.a. Oreo Cows!!! They originate from the west side of southern Scotland. This photo was taken from the bus as we drove by, so not easy to see them…..so……here is a photo of one I found on the web:

Pretty cool, huh?

They are most often used for their quality marbled beef, but also sometimes milked or used to adorn a field because of their striking appearance!

So…..that’s my day in the Napa and Sonoma Valleys. It was a grand day, in deed! It was the main reason I wanted to hang around San Francisco for a few extra days and I’m so glad to have had the opportunity to do so! It was one of three absolute favorite parts of the entire trip!

Next up……posts showing my time on the train through Oregon and Washington state and my days in Seattle!

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