Wednesday, March 10, 2010
A Day in the Napa-Sonoma Valley
Monday we decided to spend the day in the Napa-Sonoma wine country. We didn’t have a ton of time so we wanted to do everything on our own schedule. We rented a car from San Fran and made our way out there. It was a gorgeous, sunny day. The first thing I noticed as we drove into the valley was that because of the time of year, it wasn’t as beautiful as I had imagined it would be. The vineyards are naked, no greenery. But the view of the rolling hills still made me flutter. Just being there, and of course the wine, was an experience I would love to have again, but maybe next time for a lot longer than one day.
We pulled into the town of Sonoma first for a late breakfast. The Sunflower Café offered delicious pastries as well as omelets and a few other goodies. My husband had the breakfast sandwich on sourdough and I, the smoked salmon with capers, onions and toasted sesame bagel with cream cheese. I’m sure this all would have been enough but while paying, a massive cinnamon roll was staring us right in the face. We caved in and had it to share. It went extremely well with my tazo chai latte. We would have loved to sit outside on their stunning garden patio but it was still a bit too chilly out.
We had a lot of varying recommendations from locals and web sites but it wasn’t until we visited the bike shop around the corner from the café that we finally decided which wineries to visit. A gentleman by the name of Vito became our official tour guide, pointing us in the direction of really good, smaller, less-known wineries, mostly in the Carneros region.
We started off at the charming Homewood Winery. A tiny little spot with a nice selection of wines, including my favourite, port! Originally we had decided we weren’t taking any wine home because of the cost to do so from the US to Canada. After about 3 sips that changed. We left with 2 bottles of their rich petite sirah and one not-too-sweet merlot port. How could we not? They don’t even distribute their wine so how else would we ever get to enjoy it again? Roughly 300 cases a year and 10 separate batches are bottled.
Next was the Robledo Family Winery. This magnificent family-owned winery was bigger than the first but still quite small. We tried some of their award-winning wines, including a tempranillo that we immediately fell in love with. Thank god we decided to bring some home. 2 of those bottles made it out the door with us.
The view here was absolutely breathtaking.
By the third winery we figured it would be it, and it was. The more I drank, the more I wanted to buy – DANGER. Another two bottles of cabernet sauvignon from the Ceja boutique winery brought us to 7. We decided to bring one of them to dinner so we went home with 6, only two over the limit.
The Ceja winery, as was with each one we visited, had such wonderful, passionate staff. Here the woman serving us was the granddaughter of the founders so everything was very near and dear to her heart. They had the smallest selection and all were very yummy. It was her recommendation that brought us to our final stop, a marvelous tapas restaurant in Napa called Zuzu.
The tantalizing choices on the Zuzu menu made it difficult to stick to just a few dishes. I was really happy with our choices though.
We started off with the Boquerones – white anchovies, boiled egg and remoulade on grilled bread, delicious.
Next came the Bacalao Frito – golden, crispy salt cod fritters with lemon-truffle aioli, amazing.
The Harissa Spiked Lamb Burger was my favourite, garlicky and so full of flavour, this plate was served with chickpea hummus, tzatziki and homemade pita bread.
I insisted on getting one more dish even though my husband was full – Gambas al Ajillo. He did enjoy dipping some bread in the piquin chili and smoky pimenton juice that the meaty Gulf shrimp bathed in.
To drink we had a Lagunitas pilsner, something to break us away from all the wine we had during the afternoon.
I couldn’t map out a more perfect day for mouthwatering eats and heavenly wines. I was seriously in my glory and did not want it to end. It’s something I must do again soon, if not in California then in our beautiful offerings here in Canada. The Niagara region is already calling me, I can hear it loud and clear! Maybe by then I will have taken a wine course so that I can properly describe each wine, my knowledge on that end is limited, I just know what I like (which I must say has served me quite well until now).