As cliched as it sounds, I like to say, “Never coming home” when I vacation somewhere excellent. But there’s always a little part of me that misses my everyday familiar surroundings, my comfortable bed and not living out of a suitcase. Even at the end of our two-week honeymoon to Greece, I was missing my friends and family a bit.
But I can’t remember the last time I was so thoroughly disappointed to get on a flight home.
I believe people connect emotionally with travel destinations, and California wine country is one of my favorites for a reason. Our first trip in December 2010 was a relaxed, stress-free meander through the region, and though I didn’t think it possible, our second visit this month was even better.
Thursday: After landing in San Francisco around 2:45, we picked up our cherry-red Dodge Avenger rental and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. (We may or may not have sang the ‘Full House’ theme song along the way. We’re 80s kids.)
You’re kidding yourself if you think our first stop wasn’t In-n-Out Burger, down the street from our Rohnert Park hotel:
Friday dawned beautiful and bright, and we were some of the first tasters at Rodney Strong that morning, where we picked up a bottle of the luscious Rockaway (though not the 1.5L bottle the enterprising employee tried to convince us we needed….)
Down the road a little ways, we were greeted by winery cats lolling on the grounds of Preston Vineyards:
Preston’s Dry Creek Valley wines were among the most unusual we tasted, and we ended up taking a bottle of 2010 Cinsault home with us. On the way out, we sampled the farm’s hearth-baked sourdough:
Our contact at Rodney Strong also recommended Zichichi, Preston’s neighbor, known for its Zinfandels. We arrived at the same time as a big, boisterous group of middle-aged couples.
Winery owner: “So! Where are you all from?”
Group, almost in unison, “DALLAS!”
Dallas man: “We call that Texas East.”
Zinfandel has never been my go-to red, but Zichichi’s first-rate selections made me a believer. We tasted a Zin and a Cab, and then headed to the basement area to taste two more Zins directly from the barrel. (Turns out fellow wine lover Meghan of Travel, Wine and Dine is a Zichichi fan; small world.) I think we’ll regret not taking home a bottle. Sigh.
And then we stopped for what might be one of the best lunches of our lifetime: Barndiva in downtown Healdsburg. I thought we’d experienced farm-to-table in Connecticut (and no disrespect, we do incredible things here) but the freshness of Barndiva’s ingredients is nothing short of dazzling.
Behold, the most tremendous BLT I’ve ever tasted, with heirloom tomatoes, avocado, basil sherry vinegar and aioli on the softest bread imaginable.
Ditto for this salad, with bacon, bleu cheese, avocado, apple and creamy cabernet vinaigrette.
And the cocktails. What I wouldn’t do for a Tuscan bellini every weekend morning, with Roederer sparkling wine, Tuscan melon and garden lavender:
The afternoon was all about bubbles, as we made our way south to beautiful champagne houses Gloria Ferrer and Domaine Carneros. It’s hard to beat the view at either, especially on perfectly dry 82-degree Friday afternoons.
Dinner: French-inspired The Girl & The Fig, with an emphasis on cheese. Sold!
That, my friends, was just Day One. Stay tuned.