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Sonoma and Napa Trip Report! LONG!

p
PHXeater Jan 29, 2013 10:33 AM

Are you all ready for this? I'm doubting few will read this whole thing but hopefully will help others in the future. I had to leave many details out so this wasn't a complete novel but am open to answering any questions.

Our main goal on this trip was wine, not as much food (was the +1's birthday and I'm more of the foodie).

Friday

• Breakfast/Lunch at Taqueria las Palmas – nothing to write home about but we wanted something quick and easy after a 5am wakeup call. I got the Huevos Rancheros but were tasty but 2 of the 4 eggs were completely cooked through. Nice people though and easy stop off the freeway

• Wineries:
-Siduri & Novy – true warehouse winery with grapes sourced from all over, mostly California. Free tasting and really nice guy pouring, generous pours.. All pinot’s are under Siduri label, everything else under Novy. We picked up a Syrah that should be good in a few years but far too young right now for around $35.
-Mazzocco – Known for their Zin’s it was a polished tasting room but another small distributor. Actually had a decent cab for $54 but we went with a tasty, inexpensive zin at $26.
-*Zichichi* They only do barrel tastings as they only do futures. They only offer a zin, old vine zin, and a petite sirah (at least for 2012 vintage) and we ended up ordering a half case to be delivered next March, two old vine, 4 petite sirah. Super friendly little tasting room off Dry Creek Rd. but was impressed by this small operation and how developed the wines already were a few months after barreling.
- Papapietro Perry – Really tasty pinot noir’s here and in a complex with about 15 other small producers. Pinot’s were pricey (of course!) but we picked up one bottle for around $55.

• Dinner – Willi’s Seafood and Raw bar – at this point starving after our 10:30am breakfast we headed here around 5:30 pm and sat right at the raw bar to eat. Overall here I wasn’t blown away for $130 but enjoyed the meal – I thought some of the dishes we got were heavy handed with saucing when the fish should have been able to shine.
- In particular I was disappointed with the Ahi with cucumber, avocado (more of a guacamole) and truffled soy. I love all those ingredients but the Ahi was basically drowned in soy and the guacamole was very heavily seasoned.
- Lobster roll and crab cakes were simple, fresh, and delicious. Oysters I got a variety of but can’t recall which, were very good though.
-Caramelized brussel sprouts, linguica, apples, blue cheese, sage brown butter – most disappointing dish of the night. I specifically asked the server how strong of a blue cheese it was, how much was on it, etc. He reassured me it was very subtle. It was the opposite of subtle – tons of very pungent blue cheese, to the point where the other flavors were drowned out.
-Uni “mac and cheese” with bay scallops – really great, I’m loving the pasta/uni combination trend that has been happening recently.
- Caramelized butterfish with miso vinaigrette & exotic mushrooms – butterfish was perfectly cooked and tasy. Miso broth was overly seasoned however – again the issue of overwhelming great seafood with unnecessary sauces.

Saturday:

• Best Western breakfast – enough said.

• Wineries. This day was crazy – there was nobody at any wineries so we were in and out of a ton of wineries within 20-30 minutes:
-Littorai – had a tour here that was very informative but the group with us was a little high brow. We purchased a pinot from here but none of their single vineyards as they were all $65 and up and a little too delicate for us. Fee was $30/each from the tour and not waived with purchase of a bottle
-Merry Edwards – quick tasting here, love her stuff and we left with 2 different single vineyard pinot’s, both in the low $50’s. Free tasting
-Dutton goldfield – rec from our driver. We picked up a drinkable syrah from here because fee was waived with purchase but nothing exciting. We did eat lunch here and enjoy sunny weather.
*Harvest Moon* – another rec from our driver and a really fun little zin place. We picked up their “Randy” zin in the mid 20’s after splitting a tasting here (was getting tipsy already). Loved the vibe here after getting a taste from probably every employee working. Would definitely come back to try more
*Joseph Swan* - laidback place with only a few thousand cases a year and 2 total employees other than summertime field workers. Tasting right with the barrels, no frills. Had a variety of varietals here all of which were very reasonably priced. Wines weren’t the best but for the prices they were an amazing value. We picked up a bottle of pinot in the high 20’s that was definitely very drinkable.
Porter Creek – another no frills place with one worker behind the bar. Didn’t learn a lot about the winery here because there were 4 other couples in there at the same time so the worker was busy. The +1 picked up a $65 bottle of single vineyard pinot here that I thought was good but was worried about our wine bill at this point!
Matrix – another rec from our driver. We and the two tasting room employees were the only people here and this was another small producer. Honestly at this point things were getting fuzzy but we purchased a pinot and the grounds were beautiful. Matrix and Mazzocco were somehow related along with a few other small wineries but I’m not sure exactly how.
-Seghesio – Last stop of the day by the hotel. Completely unnecessary but we had to pay the driver for 6 hours regardless so he suggested this place. We picked up a bottle of their 2009 Venom (sangiovese). Hopefully it’s good because my palate was totally shot at this point.

• Lunch: Willow Wood: great little lunch spot in the Russian River area. Perfect to pick up sandwiches from. My turkey + swiss with mustard and apples was surprisingly good. As was the +1’s hanger steak sandwich

• Dinner: Round Table Pizza. Yup, we’re glamorous like that and after an 8 winery day we didn’t want to make fools of ourselves somewhere nice.

Sunday:
• Somehow we felt ok waking up in the morning – our 7pm bedtime probably helped :D
• Best Western breakfast again. Just as mediocre as Saturday

• Wineries:
-Unti – one last stop in Sonoma County. They were really friendly as we were first of the day. I still had major palate fatigue but we picked up a Montepulciano and a Grenache. Both priced in the 20’s. Another reasonably priced spot for those who can’t afford a ton of Napa cabs.
-Lava Wine – somewhere right outside of Calistoga our driver from Saturday had recommended. Wasn’t super impressed with the cabs but the two guys working were great, had bread, in house made olive oil, little snacks, etc. to try. We got a great red blend for $26 or so and an awesome Petite Verdot for $60ish.
-Von Strasser - favorite of the trip! At the base of Diamond Mountain right outside Calistoga in Napa this was a favorite. We called in the morning and scheduled a 1pm appointment. Tasting fee was $20/each and waived with purchase of 3 bottles but ours got waived with purchase of 2 bottles. This was probably the best tasting of the trip. When we pulled up the owner/winemaker Rudy Von Strasser pulled up too and let us into the tasting room since the girl who did our tasting was still finishing up another in the caves. It was cool to chat with him briefly and he was super modest when starting us with our tasting since, as he said, it’s not really his main job . The tasting otherwise was done in the caves, just the two of us and our guide. She was really cool, again laidback, and for wines of this caliber I was super impressed by the vibe of our guide but the quality of the wines. We left with the $80 Spaulding Cab which my boyfriend threatened he would basically kill someone if they drank out of our wine fridge and a multi-vineyard Cab for $45. Joining the wine club is being seriously considered.
Jessup Cellars – near our B&B in Yountville. I’d pass on it, nice guy in tasting room though, not pretentious.

• Lunch: Brennan’s BBQ: Just a little hole in the wall we stopped at. Tasty tri-tip.

• Dinner: The French Laundry
- Tons of reviews out there already....

Monday:
Not much to add here except we were completely exhausted. Made one stop at Karl Lawrence which is basically in a tiny house in St. Helena and they are solely producers. They are dissolving this year and 2010 was their last release but we still enjoyed our tasting. We got a 2004 Cab from their library at $54 that we’re hoping will be great as well as two 350 ml’s of their 2008

  1. Melanie Wong Jan 29, 2013 10:55 AM

    Thanks for a great report . . . and I read the whole thing!

    Could you please tell us about the driver you arranged? This is a common question and not one that locals easily answer.

    For your next visit and for the benefit of others staying at the Best Western on Dry Creek Road, a couple suggestions right nearby that would erase the lowpoints of your visit. Across the street, Wild Sage Deli, spend a couple bucks for something you can enjoy for breakfast.
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/820563

    For pizza, same side of the street and up a block from BW, diVine Pizza, http://www.healdsburgdivine.com/
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/760239

    And Big John's Market across the street from diVine has many premium baked goods from the county's best as well as a solid deli counter for sandwiches and other fixings to put a picnic together.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong
      p
      PHXeater Jan 29, 2013 11:04 AM

      We actually hired a "designated driver" to drive our rental car from winecountrydrivers.com. I made sure to pick one who was insured with good reviews. It was way cheaper than hiring a car and he had some good winery suggestions and lunch suggestions. He was able to call Enterprise as soon as he picked us up and add himself to the contract because he was on file.

      We actually thought about going off site for breakfast but instead just stuck to fruit, cereal, and yogurt - definitely avoid the odd looking pancake machine. Nothing exciting but with TFL and over two cases of wine purchased we had to skimp somewhere!

      1. re: PHXeater
        Melanie Wong Jan 29, 2013 11:30 AM

        What a great service, wasn't aware of that idea before. I'm sure this info will benefit many others.

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