As we wrapped our stay in Sonoma and headed towards the Russian River Valley and Healdsburg, we found all kinds of backroads and wineries to explore:
We ventured through the section of the county called “Chalk Hill Road”. It’s really unique because this tiny area contains it’s own appellation of wine and grapes.
We stopped at the Chalk Hill Estates along this route and sampled some really excellent wine. In fact, we bought three bottles and got a nice discount from the tasting room manager – he was very knowledgeable and helpful. I wish the overcast sky did this winery and the grounds justice, but you can check out the website and see for yourself!
Sure enough, as we drove up over Chalk Hill and landed in Alexander Valley, we found sunshine at the Hanna Winery. Very nice folks and because it was a slow Monday, the tasting was on the house!
We stopped for lunch at a quaint little place called the Jimtown Country Store that served gourmet sandwiches and ice cold beer – we dined in the adorable patio adjoining the store!
After a relaxing day we headed to the Grape Leaf Inn in Healdsburg. It was a really nice place with more food than I could ever possibly eat at breakfast, and a really cool speakeasy in the basement where they served wine every night. I’m not sure how the managers of this Inn remain svelte, but they do. Very hospitable and all around great service!
One of the many interesting things we found out about Healdsburg is that you don’t have to drive very far to see tons of great scenery, and yes, more wineries.
We headed out to West Creek Road and managed to do all of the following in one relaxing afternoon:
The Twomey tasting room was another nice one we liked, they had a great Merlot which we uncorked that night, and since they were crushing grapes, they gave us a peek the the barrel room:
I wish you could have smelled the combination of the grapes and the French oak in this room. I swear I would wear it as perfume if I could, it was that fragrant!
The next fun place we stopped was called Arista. Arista has a gorgeous picnic area and a stunning oriental water garden. They sent us out with a glass of wine to tour the grounds and enjoy the day. They don’t have a wine club but you can add your name to the “A” list which gives you an opportunity to buy wine twice a year – no catches, just the chance to buy great wine. Yes, I’m signed up, quelle surprise!
We then took a little break from wineries and headed to the Armstrong Redwoods Reserve:
The redwood trees are amazing. Thankfully, someone in the early 20th century thought they they should be preserved, and thus this refuge was born.
My camera could do not justice to the height and width of the trees, but here you go:
On our way back, we hit the wineries we didn’t get to on our Redwoods adventure:
Porter Creek wineries take pride in their organic farming and have a quaint tasting room where you are greeted by Diego, the official mascot:
Believe it or not, we had another equally beautiful drive along the Dry Creek roads a few days later:
Lambert Bridge definitely had the most tastefully landscaped picnic grounds in the area. They have a huge pizza oven they fire up on the weekends, and we stopped and chilled out there for awhile, soaking in some rays.
One of my very favorite places was Bella, where they built a man-made wine cave for their tastings and wine dinners:
It was nice to cool off inside their cave, and even better to taste the dessert wine they called “chocolate in a glass”!
We had some comfy Adirondack chairs to sit and kick back on!
If the wine and view weren’t enough, Bella also had some entertainment on hand in case you were bored:
Just down the road from Bella, we saw a sign for Raymond Burr, and thought, is it possible Perry Mason owned a vineyard? Answer: YES.
Apparently Perry and his partner bought land many years ago and started a small winery. It was kind of poignant that he passed away just as the first crop was harvested and bottled. There was a lot of memorabilia in the tasting room, including his Emmy awards. The manager told me to on on ahead and grab that Emmy and take a photo. How could I resist?
Our favorite wine we tasted was from a place called Zichichi:
A small family winery, this was our favorite wine, hands down. We went into the barrel room and tasted wine straight from the source. This wine was being aged in oak until March, when a batch of it will be bottled and winging it’s way to our house!
The Ferrari-Carano winery was beautiful, in a kind of over the top way. There were fountains, terraces, and ornate gardens. Very much like a piece of Italy:
Our final stop of the day was at a place we like to refer to as the Disneyland of wineries; Coppola.
Francis Ford Coppola like to dabble in wine and in fact, has several large wineries in Napa and Healdsburg. Wine is so-so, but all the movie memorabilia is pretty wild:
The original cast list of the Godfather. OK, now I’m gonna make you an offer you can’t refuse. I’m going to stop boring you with my vacation photos!
Well, except for a few from San Francisco, because you need to see the Chinese cultural event we got invited to while strolling through Chinatown…