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Wine-Tasting in Sonoma, California

Galentine’s Weekend Part III: Wine-Tasting in Sonoma

This post is Part III of a three-part series on Sarah and Mel’s adventures in the San Francisco Bay area the weekend of February 14-17, 2014. You should definitely read Part I and Part II.

Before our day trip to Sonoma, Mel and I were put up for the night in Berkeley by the lovely Delaney, her roommates, and their two adorable cats. We continued the Galentine’s theme by going out for sushi, and then eating Girl Scout cookies while watching YouTube videos.

Bright and early Sunday morning, we set off to the Berkeley Bowl, because no weekend wine-tasting Sonoma trip is complete without a picnic involving cheese, baguettes, hummus, smoked salmon, avocado, and Girl Scout cookies (couldn’t just leave those at home now, could we?).

Before we move on, can we admire, for a moment, the cheese section at the Berkeley Bowl? This is an an establishment that knows its patrons’ priorities.

Galentines Part III - Sonoma, California

Like seriously, they have a whole cheese island that makes my local Safeway look…inadequate.

Right. Back to wine day. Once we picked up Cindy at the BART station, we were off to Sonoma! Even though Cindy didn’t know Mel and Delaney, I think they got along fairly swimmingly, if not for being united by a common love for and goal of consuming a goodly amount of wine. The very start of Sonoma wine country is about an hour’s drive from Berkeley, and there isn’t a whole lot to look at along the way except vineyards, and maybe the random Hunter S. Thompson-esque racing cow on a roadside side.

Fear and Loathing in Sonoma?

Once in Sonoma, our first stop was Cline Cellars. This winery/museum/aviary is known for its its beautiful grounds, its excellent deals, and its collection of model missions (like the type Californian children made for school projects in the 4th grade).

Galentines Part III - Sonoma, California

During our visit, Cline also happened to be one of three wineries participating in an olive-and-wine-pairing festival, so naturally, it was going to be our first stop.

The wine was excellent, the pours were generous, the tasting room (though situated right next to the gift shop) was intimate and friendly, and the prices were good enough for me to consider buying a bottle and somehow sneaking it home in my carry-on. However, since that wasn’t going to be a possibility (geez, thanks TSA), I had to content myself with watching the others buy their bottles (or six), trying the olive oil and tapenade samples paired with wines at kiosks set up around the property, chilling with the aviary birds, and raising a glass to my man Junipero Serra.

Galentines Part III - Sonoma, California

I almost didn’t want to leave Cline. I really didn’t. Thankfully, though, our next stop was only across the street. Since we were told at Cline that we could get a free bottle of olive oil if we visited all three wineries participating in the festival, and the weather was getting too nice to really stay inside too long, we hastened off to Jacuzzi Family Vineyards.

And I am so glad we did, because this, first of all, is where we found the chocolate wine shot.

Jacuzzi’s specialty is a fairly narrow but high-quality range of Italian wines. Full disclosure: I only know enough about wine to know what I like, so I can’t really give a true oenologist/connoisseur’s perspective on the grape varieties, etc. I do know, however, that while Jacuzzi was a bit more expensive and the the tasting room was more crowded and expansive, the wine was worthwhile. And while I don’t normally like ports or dessert wine, I was definitely converted (at least for a few minutes) with the chocolate wine shot. Is it a bit tacky to throw back a shot and eat the Reese’s-style chocolate cup in a tasting room? Possibly. Was it really good chocolate that accentuated an even-bodied, not-too-sweet port? Yes. Were we on a Galentine’s weekend? Hell yes we were. So, chocolate shots.

Galentines Part III - Sonoma, California

By this point, it was sunny and we were tipsy, so it was time to head out into the partially-covered Jacuzzi courtyard to get into the full swing of the olive festival, the bulk of which consisted of more tapenade, oil, olive, bread, and yes, cheese samples.

Maybe it was the wine, maybe it was the weather, but oh my God what an olive festival.
I never knew that I could like cilantro-lime olive oil, or that I could even really eat green olives (they’ve always been something that grossed me out, but when they’re brined right, they’re really salty-tasty).

Galentines Part III - Sonoma, California
Galentines Part III - Sonoma, California

The small-batch cinnamon walnut bread from a local bakery that was being sampled out was great too.

I felt like I’d died and gone to some version of heaven for winos and foodies. I had to get more of the sun that I’d been craving all east-coast-winter long, so we took a little walk down a path between two vineyards. Even the current California residents weren’t too cool to revel in that February sun.

Even the fountain just outside the courtyard unabashedly fit in with the place’s stereotypically “California” vibe.

Meet Broseidon, King of the Brocean.

Galentines Part III - Sonoma, California

We had a picnic waiting in the trunk of Mel’s car, though, and that needed our attention. Since our next scheduled stop, in the Dry Creek area of Sonoma some 45 minutes away, was the closest non-crowded place that allowed picnics. So, we bid goodbye to Jacuzzi and set off for Quivira Vineyards and Winery.

As far as scenic places to picnic, Quivira had everywhere else beat.

The other thing that set Quivira apart was the fact that it is that all of their grapes are biodynamically farmed, which in laywoman’s terms means the place is super eco-friendly, as wineries go. Mel, naturally, geeked out over the technicalities, while the rest of us were more focused on getting our picnic going.

Galentines Part III - Sonoma, California

The tasting cost us $10 each, which we were fine with paying, since it gave us a choice of at
least 6 very tasty wines to pair with our picnic – and instead of waiting at the bar in a crowded tasting room, our samples were brought around to us right at our table in the courtyard.

Our picnic of baguettes, brie, blue cheese, hummus, avocado, smoked salmon, and Girl Scout cookies paired quite well with every single wine on the tasting list…but maybe that was all the wine we’d consumed beforehand talking.

The one downside of off-season (winter) at Sonoma vineyards is the fact that most of them close around 5. Our day’s leisurely pace meant that we had to make Quivira our last stop – but then again, I wouldn’t have traded our day’s pace for anything. Sonoma’s vibe, deals, and the company I experienced shoots it to the top of my “wine country” list (eclipsing Napa and Bordeaux, by the way).

This, friends, is where I end my telling of the Galentine’s saga. If the tone of this three-part post sounds too idyllic and cheesy, it’s because it was. I have no apologies. This is the kind of weekend I would prescribe to anyone who’s suffering from some serious Polar Vortex-induced seasonal affective blues.

With that, here’s a picture of me, Mel, and Cindy after three wineries posing next to a Prius, because we are all “HOSMSTR”s.

Galentines Part III - Sonoma, California

Quivira Vineyard
4900 West Dry Creek Road
Healdsburg, California 95448

(707) 431-8333

Jacuzzi Family Vineyards
24724 Arnold Drive
Sonoma, California 95476

(707) 931-7575

Cline Cellars
24737 Arnold Drive/Highway 121
Sonoma, CA 95476

(707) 940-4030 | Tasting Room

Words by Sarah Flocken, Photography by Melanie Craxton
Follow Sarah on Twitter at @sflocken
Follow Melanie on Instagram at @mcraxton