Sunday, July 6, 2014

California Wine Country (Spit) Bucket List

18 Preston was never meant to be a travel blog.  We’d like it to be a place where we can share our lifestyle which is heavily focused on home improvement and cooking great food.  Lately though, where we’ve traveled has been on our minds.  So we bring you Our California Wine Country (Spit) Bucket List.  (See what we did there?)
We packed a lunch just about every day.
  1. Enjoy a picnic lunch in a vineyard – This can really be done just about anywhere.  Either make your own or pick up a boxed lunch.  About halfway through your wine tasting day enjoy a picnic at one of your stops.  Be sure to ask permission first. We found most vineyards were happy to have you and will sell either a glass or bottle of wine for you to enjoy.  Gundlach Bundschu was just one of the vineyards we’re picnicked at.
    View at Sequoia Grove Vineyard.
  2. Try a really expensive cabernet – Although all the wine is good, California Northern Wine Country is known for two varietals.  Cabernet Sauvignon is one of them.  Tasting fees can add up, but try plan one splurge and taste something in one of those crazy price points for a comparison.  We checked this off our list at Sequoia Grove Vineyard.
    This chardonnay was from Tricycle winery.
  3. Find a Chardonnay that tastes like butter – Chardonnay is the other grape Sonoma and Napa grow a lot of, especially in the Carneros region at the bottom of the two valleys.  We never order Chardonnay because it has such a large range of flavor.  The spectrum starts off very light and can end up where you feel like you just licked an oak tree.  The trick is finding that perfect taste when the oak tastes just like butter. We found it at Bouchaine, tasting their Bouche D’Or.
    Enjoying champagne during our honeymoon in 2009.
  4. Tour a Champagne Cellar – Yes, Champagne is not just made in France!  Take some time to learn what Champagne really is.  It’s a region of France, but it’s also a very specific method of making sparkling wine.  We recommend the tour at Gloria Ferrer in Sonoma.  (We’re even club members!)
    Another must stop restaurant is the Fremont Diner.
  5. Dine at an amazing restaurant – And it doesn’t have to be The French Laundry, unless you’re rich.  In that case please dine there and report back on how it is.  We’ll likely post again since we found so many awesome spots!  But since this post is very Sonoma inspired why don’t you start at El Dorado Kitchen.
    #nofilter #unedited #Napaisbeautiful
  6. Drive the Silverado Trail – we happened upon this by accident while killing some time before a dinner reservation in Yountville.  The lighting ended up being magical.  I could have just watched forever from the spot we pulled over to take in the view.
    We rented bikes on our own and rode to a vineyard for lunch.
  7. Visit the wineries by bike – we’ve logged three vineyard trips by bike in our visits to wine country and wouldn’t hesitate to do it again.  Napa Valley and Sonoma Valley bike tours offers perfect group excursions which all include the most amazing picnic lunch.
    Our snacks enjoyed at the farmer's market.
  8. Experience the Sonoma Farmer’s Market – Sonoma square is kind of like Vegas, you’re allowed to drink in public! Ok, other than that, it's nothing like Vegas.  The locals know how to do it right.  If you’re visiting grab a blanket from  your hotel (we won’t tell!) a bottle of wine (glasses optional) and head to the square to gather dinner during the farmer’s market.
    These grapes are just about ready for harvest in August.
  9. Bring home some wine – Depending on where you live this will either be super easy or a bit more of a project.  Being from Massachusetts it is very expensive to have wine shipped home.  Instead, we collected 12 bottles and purchased a shipping box and checked it as luggage on the flight home.  We’ve done this twice without incident.
    Matt loved the tour at Lagunitas.
  10. Drink beer in wine country – Do you know what makes good wine?  Great beer! Take a day (or two!) to scope out the craft breweries in the California wine region.  Or just hop on the bus and they will find them for you!  Can’t say enough good things about North Bay Brewery Tours.  We’ll follow up with another post more specific to #drinkingbeerinwinecountry
    Another #nofilter #unedited #Napaisbeautiful
  11. Spend a lazy day on the river – If you have some time during your wine country trip and love the outdoors, make a point to boat down the Russian River.  It’s very lazy and a fun way to relax. Don’t forget your picnic lunch and beer!  These guys have great boats for those new to boating. Russian River Adventures.
    The massive wine cellar at Robert Mondavi
  12. Meet a wine maker – Either make a point to attend a special dinner hosted at a vineyard or stop by a very small place and meet the people who make the magic happen.  One of our bike tours brought us to McKenzie-Mueller where we met Samantha Mueller.  She hosts the tastings, bottles the wine, drives the tractor, and of course helps with quality control!

Number 13 and 14 are two things that are still on our California Wine Country (spit) bucket list.  Next time we visit (after saving lots and lots of pennies) we really hope to take the iconic hot air balloon ride and actually spend our time staying in a room on a vineyard. 
13. Take a hot air balloon ride
14. Stay on a vineyard

Have you even been to Napa or Sonoma? or another reigion's wine country?  Anything we missed?

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