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The Other Hawkes

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It’s widely agreed that last night’s Super Bowl was perhaps the most boring football event in history. I was rooting for the Denver Broncos because the Seahawks beat out the San Francisco 49ers a couple weeks ago, but in all honesty I didn’t give a damn who won by the end of the first quarter – and it was pretty clear what the outcome was going to be by the end of the third. So congrats to all my Seahawks-loving friends, but today I would like to tell you about another kind of Hawkes.

In the last month a few different people have mentioned this not-so-new winery to me called Hawkes. Eventually, and after much anticipation, I decided to check out their Sonoma tasting room last week (their winery and other tasting room is in Alexander Valley), and I was thoroughly impressed!

I showed up on a Tuesday afternoon, and lucky for me I was the only visitor during my 2-hour stay. Douglas, the tasting room manager and all-round awesome guy, walked me through the tasting and poured me samples of their exclusive 2012 Home Chardonnay, 2009 Alexander Valley Merlot, and 2009 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon – as well as some tastes from the Barrel of their future cabs.


I looooved the Chardonnay. The wine is aged sur lie for about three months in Hungarian oak barrels (my favorite kind of oak). There is a good minerality and a certain brightness to this wine, which is somewhat unconventional for Chardonnay but is becoming more preferred by winemakers and consumers. They produce only 560 cases and sell it for a mere $20, so it’s no wonder they reserve it for club members only to purchase – it’s a good thing I know two members!

Next was the Merlot, another great wine and a perfect example of how to make excellent Merlot. As some of you may know, Merlot sales plummeted after being bashed by Paul Giamatti’s character in Sideways. But it wasn’t entirely the movie’s fault. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s everyone thought Merlot was going to be the next big-selling red wine because of it’s approachable flavor. So thousands of acres were planted, and unfortunately not in the best locations. In order to produce a complex Merlot, it needs to be grown in good, deep soil with the right amount of sun exposure and timely irrigation. The hillsides and bench lands of Napa Valley and Sonoma are ideal for growing and making great Merlot; such is the case with Hawkes 2009 Merlot from Alexander Valley. The vines are grown on their Red Winery Vineyard, originally planted in 1973. The soil is made of up various types, and the section where the Merlot grows is mostly clay. These conditions make the Merlot vines work a little harder, and thus produce an excellent wine with bright cherry fruit and undertones of baking spice. It was my only purchase of the visit, and I plan to hold onto the bottle for quite some time.

fruit fly trap

After I spent a little too much time savoring the Merlot and helping Douglas concoct a fruit fly trap, we moved onto the Cabernet collection. The first I tasted was the 2009 Alexander Valley Cab, a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon made from fruit of all three of the Hawkes estates: Pyramid, Stone and Red Winery. Aromas of dark plums and dust are followed by a slightly sweet palate of blackberries. This wine certainly has aging potential, but is also ready to drink right now. Douglas graciously poured me some Cabernet samples from their three barrels – one for each estate. The Pyramid was probably my favorite of the three, but each of them were quite unique and showed a lot of potential for future bottling.


I have to say, while the wine at Hawkes really stood out, it was my experience with Douglas that really made the visit memorable. His excitement about the wines, combined with his generosity, sense of humor, and general musings on life in the wine industry made him the perfect host. Plus, the convenient location of the tasting room (right off Sonoma Plaza, just next to Girl and the Fig), make the visit all the more seamless. Douglas even drew a little map for me, outlining all the best tasting rooms in the plaza. But because I spent way more time than I planned at Hawkes (no regrets), I will have to reserve his suggestions for another day. Until then, Go Hawkes!

Portland: Pinotinerary, Day 2

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I had initially planned to visit five wineries for Day 2 in Willamette Valley, but after our packed first day and Bobes coming down with a little cold, we decided to cut the day to three wineries and include a nice lunch in the town of Newberg.

Dundee Hills Pinotinerary
10:30am – leave Portland
11:30am – tasting at WHITE ROSE ESTATE
12:30pm – tasting at ARCHERY SUMMIT
2:00pm – lunch at RECIPE
4:00pm – ship wine home via MAIL ROOM
4:15pm – head back to Portland

View from White Rose Estate

View from White Rose Estate

Upon pulling up to White Rose Estate, Bobes and I were in awe of the beautiful landscaping. In fact, we spent about five minutes snapping photos of the views and each other before even entering the tasting room, which was an interesting juxtaposition to the exterior. Inside was much more rustic, with an antique coffee set, leather furniture, and wire-cage lamps. The tasting room was quiet on a Tuesday afternoon, but there were two other couples from Connecticut and North Carolina. We were impressed that the winery attracted people from all over the country, that is until we tasted the wines and understood why! We were served three different Pinot Noirs, including the 2011 Durant Vineyard, 2011 Guillen Vineyard and the 2011 Anderson Family Vineyard. All of the wines were rather pricey ($60-80) but excellent, and Bobes and I each decided to purchase a bottle of the Durant Vineyard Pinot Noir. I liked the wine for its complex balance of ripe fruit and earth tones – a trait that Oregon is known for. We also loved the Anderson Family Vineyard Pinot from White Rose, and we were excited to visit their winery later in the day.

Pinot Noir vines at White Rose Estate

Pinot Noir vines at White Rose Estate


antique coffee set at White Rose

Our next stop was Archery Summit, one of the most well-known and oldest wineries in the Willamette Valley. It’s located at the end of a long unpaved road that starts just down the road from White Rose. The property is beautiful, with an outdoor patio overlooking the vineyards, wine caves, and private tours of their winemaking facilities and vineyards. We enjoyed our tasting outside on the patio and relaxed as we sipped on some of the best Pinot in the Valley, including the 2011 Permier Cuvee, 2011 Renegade Ridge, 2011 Looney Vineyard and 2011 Arcus Estate (their most expensive at $100 a bottle). I very much enjoyed the Renegade Ridge, but once I tasted the Arcus Estate Pinot I was in Wino Heaven. The wine opened with aromas of plum tart and black cherries, and I tasted more spice and dark fruit – like cinnamon and blueberries – that lingered on the palate in the finish. My father had warned me not to buy anything there because the wines are too expensive, but once I found out that they offered a 30% industry discount I caved and bought the Arcus, which is going directly into the vault! I would highly recommend visiting this winery to anyone touring the Willamette Valley. The staff was so friendly and accommodating, and their wines were outstanding and definitely worth tasting even if you don’t plan on buying.

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Bobes and I ran into another friend at the winery! And note our deliberate defiance to “the end of summer” by wearing white after Labor Day.

After Archery Summit we headed North to the town of Newberg to have some lunch. Phillip at Sineann had suggested Recipe to us, and we’re so glad we took his advice. The restaurant is in a converted house with a beautiful garden patio, which is where we sat for lunch. Their lunch menu offers up a selection of appetizers, soup, salads, sandwiches and a burger – everything sourced from local farms and prepared simply (of course, we’re in Portlandia). I ordered the Burrata and the shrimp roll, and Bobes opted for the mushroom soup and flat iron steak sandwich. We split the shrimp roll and the sandwich, and agreed that the shrimp roll was only slightly better. Our service was a little slow, but we were beginning to notice how that was a bit of a trend in Portland. The food was tasty and reasonably priced and the restaurant is centrally located with its own parking lot, making it a convenient lunch destination between wine tastings.

After lunch Bobes and I headed off to our third and final winery of the day, Anderson Family Vineyards; a small operation lead by a husband, wife and tasting room manager. All grapes are estate-grown and they specialize in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The tasting is conducted out of a converted garage space attached to the home of the husband and wife, and they offer two verticals of 08, 09, 10 Chardonnay and 07, 08, 09 Pinot Noir – all from their estate on Dundee Hill. They do this to show the differences and similarities of a wine from year to year, based on weather and other growing factors. For example, 2008 was an excellent year in Oregon for Pinot Noir because of late blooming and a warm October. And their 2008 Pinot Noir happened to be my favorite of the three. I was also impressed by their Chardonnays, in particular the 2009 (I found the 2008 to be slightly passed it’s prime, but still pretty impressive for an older vintage). There wines are very well priced at $24-40, and they have a pretty small production of about 1200 cases, farmed organically and aged slowly in their cool caves. The vibe in the tasting room is very casual and laid-back, and you really sense that it’s a family-run operation. The wines are top-notch and a great representation of the deep roots in the Dundee Hills. It was the perfect place to end our Pinotinerary, and I can’t wait to visit them again and taste new vintages.

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Before heading back to Portland, we stopped at Mail Room in Newberg so we could get our wine packed up for shipping/flying. Bobes decided to pack his wine and check the box for his flight, but I purchased a total of 9 bottles so I had to ship mine back to San Francisco. When we put our wines down on the counter, one of the employees immediately noticed that one of the bottles was leaking a bit. It was one of the White Rose Durant Vineyard Pinot Noirs! However, the bottle was cool to the touch and the cork did not expand, and all the rest of the bottles in our case were fine, including the other bottle of White Rose. We had been very careful about parking in the shade and protecting the bottles from the heat, so it was strange that only one of them would have seemingly heat-related damage.  In any case, we packed up our wines and called White Rose to see if they would exchange the bottle for us. As luck would have it, they said “of course, please come back and bring it in and we’ll make the exchange”. So we headed back down the road towards Dundee and up the hill to White Rose. The 25 minute detour was definitely worth replacing a $60 bottle of Pinot Noir, and it’s a good thing the guy at Mail Room was so perceptive! I would definitely recommend using them to ship any wines purchased on your next Portland Pinotinerary.

I had such a great first visit to Pinot Land, Oregon and I am so excited to go back again (hopefully with my father) and visit new wineries as well as some of my old favorites. I certainly have a new found love for Oregon Pinot – and it’s a good thing because I have 6 bottles to show for it!

Loving Larb

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Yes, it’s true! Not EVERYTHING I cook these days is Italian! In fact, I think I need to take a break from pasta for a while (we’ll see how long that lasts). Last week I was chatting in the kitchen with my roommate, KKD, watching her prepare a huge plate of larb for her and her boyfriend for dinner. She told me that she had pulled the recipe from Cooking Light, but made some changes to make it more spicy and flavorful. KKD and I both agree that while Cooking Light offers great ideas for healthy alternatives, their recipes are somewhat simple and often bland, requiring necessary tweaking to make the tastes more complex. So the recipe that I am about to share with you is KKD’s very own rendition of a Laos classic, which I recreated last night.

Turkey Larb (serves 4)

  • Coconut oil cooking spray (can be found at TJ’s)
  • 1 bunch of scallions, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, finely chopped
  • 1 lb ground turkey breast
  • 1 cup of mint leaves
  • 1 cup of cilantro leaves
  • 2-3 TB of Sriracha (to taste)
  • 2 TB soy sauce
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 2 small English cucumbers, diced
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 8 cabbage leaves

Coat a large nonstick skillet with coconut oil cooking spray and heat over a medium-high flame. Add the scallions and jalapeño and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until softened. Add the turkey to the pan and cook until beginning to brown, breaking it up with the back of a wooden spoon.

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An extra swirl of Sriracha. I like it spicy!

Once the turkey is cooked, transfer the contents of the pan into a large food processor. Add Sriracha, soy sauce and fish sauce then pulse to combine. Taste for seasoning, then transfer the meat back to the pan over a low-medium flame and continue to sauté for a few more minutes.

Meanwhile, chop the mint and cilantro in a mini food processor. In a large serving bowl, combine the turkey, herbs, cucumber and lime juice and toss to combine. Serve with cabbage leaves, lime wedges and more Sriracha!

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I paired this meal with the newly released 2012 JAQK Cellars Charmed Sauvignon Blanc from Russian River Valley. There are notes of grapefruit and lemon grass on the nose, and a crisp yet smooth palate with a long and mellow finish. This wine went well with the dish because it offset the spiciness in the meat. This dish would also pair well with a Viognier or Dry Riesling – anything crisp with hints of citrus and honey. But I just happen to be particular fond of Sauvignon Blanc from Russian River Valley – especially if it’s a Craig MacLean wine!

Braised Chicken with Kale and Cauliflower Puree

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I invited my adorable friend (who shall be known as Smiley from this point forth) over for dinner last night. He is new to the city, and very rarely cooks for himself. In fact, he has yet to purchase any real plates and has been living on paper plates since he moved into his apartment a month ago. So, of course I had to extend my hospitality and give him a long awaited home-cooked meal.

I was perusing the latest issue of Bon Appetit yesterday morning, when I came across a recipe for braised chicken from The Google Cafeteria. It looked healthy enough, and I decided to use breasts instead of thighs and added a little more thyme than called for – but otherwise followed the recipe pretty closely. I also decided to make a cauliflower purée to go with the chicken, which was another first time recipe! All in all, both Smiley and I were very pleased with the results and helped ourselves to second portions.

Braised Chicken with Kale (serves 2-4)

  • 2 chicken drums, bone in and skin on
  • 1 chicken breast, bone in and skin on, halvedchicken with paprika
  • 1 TB smoked paprika
  • pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 4 sprigs thyme
  • 1 large bunch of Tuscan kale, center ribs and stems removed, cut into 1-inch strips

Cauliflower Purée (serves 2-4)

  • 1 head of cauliflower, core removed and cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 2 TB unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp truffle salt
  • 6 saffron threads, crushed
  • freshly cracked black pepper
  • 10 chives, chopped finely

To prepare chicken, evenly coat all sides with paprika, salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a medium pot over a medium-high flame. Add chicken pieces, skin side down and cook for about 10 minutes, turning occasionally until brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate.

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Add garlic and onions and sauté until soft, about 8 minutes. Return chicken to pot and add broth, wine and herbs. Bring to a boil and cover. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue to cook for 35 minutes.

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Add kale to pot and re-cover, cooking for 5 more minutes. Discard herbs and transfer to a serving bowl.

Meanwhile, boil a large pot of water. Add the cauliflower florets and lower heat to medium, cooking for 10-15 minutes or until the florets are soft when you poke a fork through them. Drain the florets, reserving half a cup of the cooking water.

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Transfer cauliflower to a large food processor and briefly process. Add cooking water by the tablespoon until you reach the right consistency (you do not want to add too much water, as it will be too liquidy). Add truffle salt, saffron and black pepper and pulse. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Using a rubber spatula, transfer to a serving dish and top with chopped chives.

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I served this dish with a bottle of one of my favorite whites from South Africa, Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc. This wine has a great, refreshing acidity with grapefruit tones, which is nicely balanced with a smooth spice. We actually drank most of the wine before dinner, but we were able to save a couple glasses to be enjoyed with the meal. The wine paired very well, softening the spice in the dish.

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The cauliflower purée turned out terrifically! My mother suggested adding the saffron and truffle salt, and I loved the combination of flavors – plus, the saffron created a pretty red ribbon through the purée. It was the perfect vegetable side to the juicy chicken and kale, providing a soft texture to soak up the broth. This meal will definitely be a repeat, and Smiley is STILL talking about it.


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In this section you will find various “Vintineraries”, or winery itineraries, based on what type of trip you’re taking. Whether you’re a tourist on a budget, a serious wine collector, or a group of 10 girls on a bachelorette party – I’ve got the right trip planned for you!

For a special customized trip, contact me at vintinerary at gmail dot com. 

Which statement describes you best?

I’m a tourist.

I’m a wine collector.

I’m planning a Bachelorette party.

I’m traveling with my sweetheart.

I’m organizing a business trip.

I’m looking to get out of the city for the day.

I’m just a guy looking for a BROmantic day with my buddies.

For Tourists on a Budget…

SONOMA is a great destination for people who are looking to spend a little less money. It’s more laid back than Napa, but it still offers the quintessential wine tasting experiences that tourists are looking for. 

  • Start off your morning with some bubbly at Gloria Ferrer. They also offer an hour-long tour if you’d like to learn about the making of sparkling wine (don’t call it Champagne unless it’s from Champagne!).
  • As you continue on your way to Sonoma, stop at Carneros Deli to pick up some sandwiches for lunch. Make sure you ask for a kiss (of the Hershey variety) with your sandwich.
  • Drive up Route 12 to Kunde, where you can opt to splurge for a Mountain Top Tasting (reservations must be made in advance), or enjoy your tasting at the long bar in the main tasting room.
  • Head up the road to Chateau St. Jean for a tasting of their delicious Chardonnay and Pinot Noirs. After your tasting, feel free to picnic at one of their tables on the front lawn. You’ll need some more energy for the second half of the day!
  • Reverse the course and hit up B.R. Cohn on the way. The tasting room also serves flavored vinegar and olive oil, and it’s owned by the manager of Doobie Brothers!
  • Swing over to Buena Vista for a tasting of their wines, finishing up with a splash of their delicious Cream Sherry. It’s the oldest winery in Sonoma, so be sure to ask your server about the history.
  • By now you’re probably hungry so you should head on back to Sonoma Square for some dinner at Della Santina’s for some authentic Italian food with big portions.
  • Take the short walk back to the Swiss Hotel, where you can finish off the evening with a nightcap at their historical bar, and stagger on up to your cozy room.

For Serious Winos…

SPRING MOUNTAIN is the ultimate Napa destination for wine collectors. Most wine collectors have been to the staples along Silverado, but Spring Mountain offers a unique palate of flavors because of the terroir of the vineyards. All wineries on the mountain are appointment only, and they book up quickly on the weekends so plan your trip well in advance!

  • Since you’re trying to hit up as many wineries as possible, you don’t want to worry about lunch. So grab some sandwiches to go at Giugni’s on Main Street in St. Helena before you head on up the mountain. They’re famous for their Giugni Juice, so grab some on the side to keep your sandwich from getting soggy. 
  • There is no better place to start than the top of the Mountain. So book yourself the 10am tour at Pride Mountain Vineyards and you will not be disappointed. The tour is the perfect combination of learning and drinking, and you may even get some samples of Syrah from the barrel if you’re lucky! If you’re looking for a more private experience, ask them about their seated tastings in the cave.
  • Head down the winding road about half a mile to Smith-Madrone, a small operation run by two bearded brothers. Take in the views of Cook’s Flat and the olive trees before moving inside the tasting room/barrel room/office to sip on some of their Chardonnay, Cabernet and the delicious Riesling. You may not get to try the Cook’s Flat (their $200+ Cabernet blend), but you’re sure to walk away with some new favorites.
  • A little bit further down Spring Mountain Rd. is the turn off for Schweiger, where you can choose between an intimate balcony tasting, sit down paired tastings or full estate tours including a descent into the barrel room. They also have picnic grounds so this is the perfect spot to enjoy your sandwich, pre or post tasting.
  • Be sure to leave yourself some time to find your way to your next stop, Paloma, because Barbara doesn’t make time for just anybody. You will be in awe as Barbara welcomes you into her home and takes you to her back porch, overlooking her small vineyard of Merlot grapes. She will tell you the history of the winery before letting you sip on her award-winning Merlot. And trust me, you will want to buy several bottles of it. For patient wine enthusiasts only!
  • Time to head back down to St. Helena. And if you can make the time, it’s worth getting an appointment for a Library Tasting at Corison, just south of the the entrance to Spring Mountain Road. Cathy Corison has been making incredible Cabernet for the last 25 years, and you will surely be impressed.
  • You must be hungry after all that wine! And I’m sure you have picked up some great bottles along the way. So head on into Market for some delicious ribs and mac-n-cheese, or if your palate requires something more sophisticated you can pick one of their grilled fish, roast chicken or braised lamb dishes from their scrumptious menu. Did I mention their one of two places in the valley to offer FREE corkage??
  • After dinner you can stop by Cindy’s Backstreet Kitchen for a martini, or just head on back to the Wydown Hotel and tuck yourself into bed. It’s been a long day, but you did well. Pat yourself on the back.

For your Bachelorette Party…

NAPA has a reputation for being a little snooty, but if you know the right places to go then you can have a rockin’ good time! Travel in style and book a stretch limo for your group, and bring plenty of OJ and Barefoot Bubbly (and water!) for the ride. Be sure to call the wineries in advance so they know you have a big group coming. 

  • Kick off the day with some bubbly at Domaine Chandon, one of Napa’s best distilleries. Skip the tour, and head upstairs to the bar to purchase some bottles of your favorite sparklers, then head out onto the patio to enjoy them. I’d recommend starting with a bottle each of Brut Classic, Blanc de Noir, and Chandon Rose. Then pick up a bottle or two of their Sparkling Red to toast with later in the night. 
  • Be prepared to spend a couple of hours at V. Sattui. They have a great deli where you can pick up salads, sandwiches, meats and cheese for lunch. After ordering your food, I would recommend doing a quick tasting first and figuring out which wines you like, then buy a few bottles to drink with your picnic lunch. Be sure to pick up a bottle of their famous Madeira if you like dessert wine.
  • Once you’ve torn yourself away from V. Sattui, have your driver cross over to Silverado Trail and take you to Clos du Val. They offer a variety of experiences for large parties, including customized wine flight. And they even have a girls weekend package (inquire within) with gift bags and tank tops! Or if that’s not your style, you can just relax with your girlfriends by the bocce ball court with a glass of Stags Leap Cabernet in hand.
  • Three wineries is probably enough for a group of 8 or more girls, so head on back to your digs for nap time before dinner. For a large group, I always recommend renting a house or apartment through airbnb or homeaway, somewhere near Downtown Napa. You and your friends will save some money by splitting the cost, and you don’t have to worry about dividing up into hotel rooms.
  • There are tons of great restaurants in Napa, but for large groups who have been drinking wine all day I think Italian food is always best. Head to Uva Tattoria and share some of their delicious salads, pastas, and pizzas. When you’re done with dinner, move on over to the adjoining bar for cocktails and live jazz. Just try not too get too rowdy… you will want to go back someday.

For a Romantic Getaway…

ANDERSON VALLEY is a beautiful destination for couples looking for a romantic getaway. Only a few hours north of San Francisco, Route 128 is lined with some fantastic wineries. Because of the proximity to the ocean and thus a cooler climate, the entire valley is known for producing delicate whites like Riesling and Gewurztraminer, but also for their bold and fruity Pinot Noir. The towns of Philo and Navarro offer plenty of private homes and cabins for rent, as well as some cozy inns, such as The Madrones. There are also plenty of romantic lodges and B&B’s right off of Route 1 in Mendocino, and you don’t have to feel so bad about splurging a little on your accommodations because almost all of the wineries offer free tastings!

  • The wineries are about a 30 minute drive from downtown Mendocino, through the stunning Redwoods. But once you hit that stretch, there is poor cell reception and only a couple of little markets and gas stations. So before you head out for the day, pick up some snacks and tasty sandwiches to go at Mendocino Market. If you’re staying closer to Navarro then swing by Navarro General Store to grab a picnic lunch. 
  • I always like starting off the day with some bubbly, as it’s easier in the morning. So make your first stop Roederer Estate and taste a flight of their delicious sparklers. Ask one of the staff members to take some photos of you and your sweetheart with the beautiful rolling hills in the background. And you might want to pick up a bottle of bubbly for later ♥
  • Drive 30 feet south to Husch for some delicious wines that are only available in their tasting room. They operate out of an old with some tables out back, and they offer a variety of whites and red, including their T-Bud Dry Cuvee Gewurztraminer and Old Vine Zinfandel. They also have a fantastic Chardonnay and a variety of Pinot Noirs.
  • A little further down the road is one of my favorite wineries, Navarro Vineyards. They have a list of nearly 20 wines, and you can taste as many as you want… for free! My favorites are the Rosé of Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Edelzwicker, and all of their Pinot Noirs. The owner’s daughter recently opened Pennyroyal Cheese Farm, and her delicious cheeses are available at the winery (my favorite is Boont Corners). Navarro also has picnic grounds and gardens, so it’s the perfect spot to take out those sandwiches.
  • You can’t make a trip to Anderson Valley without visiting Goldeneye, a member of the Duckhorn family. Sip on some of their delicious Pinot Noir while sitting in one of their many Adirondack chairs, taking in the views of the estate vines; it’s the perfect photo op for your next Christmas card.
  • Last but certainly not least, drive back North to Handley Cellars to sample the best variety of white wines in Anderson Valley (and they’re red’s aren’t too shabby either). Their uniquely decorated tasting room – complete with wood carved elephant chairs – expands onto an adjacent patio that overlooks their estate vineyards. Opt for a tour if you have the time, but either way the welcoming staff will leave you with a lasting impression of the true Anderson Valley.
  • After a great day of wine tasting, you will want to make it back to Mendocino with plenty of time to watch the sunset over the ocean. For dinner, head to one of the more romantic restaurants in Mendocino like Cafe Beaujolais, MacCallum House RestaurantLittle River Inn Restaurant or Ravens Restaurant. You won’t be disappointed with any of those choices!

For a Business Retreat…

RUSSIAN RIVER is the perfect place for your next company retreat because it’s far enough away from San Francisco to be considered a “retreat”, but it’s close enough that you can bail if you get sick of your coworkers – but hopefully that won’t be the case because you’re having so much fun with my trusty itinerary!

  • The last thing you want is a bunch of drunk people on a bus, passing out on each other’s shoulders, or embarrassing themselves in front of the CEO. So be sure to bring PLENTY of food and water for the ride. Call in a catering order for boxed lunches at Oakville Grocery in Healdsburg Square, and add an assortment of chips and snacks to be safe. 
  • Iron Horse is one of my favorite destinations in Russian River. Not only do they have killer sparkling wines (the Wedding Cuvee is my favorite), but the outdoor – and heated – tasting bar has a stunning panoramic view of the vineyard. For big groups, they usually set up a second bar so you can be sure that you and your coworkers will be taken care of!
  • Armida is the perfect place to stop for a picnic lunch and some bocce ball. Their beautiful grounds overlook the vineyards and a lovely pond, and their wines aren’t so bad either! Their whites are particularly enjoyable on warm, sunny days and the “Poizin” Zinfandel is lush and delicious. It will be hard to tear away your coworkers from the Bocce courts, so you may have to bribe them with more wine.
  • Bella is a great spot for large groups, and they also have some really cool wine caves that they offer tours of. They have a great selection of Zinfandel and Syrah, including a late harvest Zinfandel to satisfy your sweet tooth.
  • Three wineries is probably enough for your group; any more and you might be dealing with a really awkward Monday. So head on back to your the square and pop into your hotel to spruce up before dinner. H2hotel is the perfect spot to stay for the night, and they even have meeting rooms in case you want to get some actual work done on this trip.
  • For dinner, book your group at Zin Restaurant & Wine Bar. They have a diverse menu to please any palate, and they can easily accommodate large groups. And it’s walking distance from the hotel, so you don’t need to worry about transportation.
  • Now sit back, relax and enjoy a martini or two at Spoonbar in H2. You deserve it after the great company retreat you planned!

For the Day Trippers…

CARNEROS is the ideal spot for people trying to get out of the city for the afternoon. It’s only about 45 minutes away on 101, and it has some of the best Chardonnay and Pinot Noir around. 

  • Since you’re coming from SF, bring some sandwiches from your favorite deli, or swing by Carneros Deli on your way into wine country. Either way, be sure to bring some sustenance because the wait at Fremont Diner can get pretty long during lunch, and you have no time to waste.
  • Staying true to my motto of “bubbles first”, head straight to Domaine Carneros before the afternoon crowds hit. Pick a table on the patio and order their sparkler flight for each guest while sharing one of their tasty cheese plates (I recommend whichever one includes Midnight Moon). Be sure to bring some sunscreen because that Carneros sun is strong.
  • Bouchaine is just down the street and around the corner, tucked away on a dead end road. If they’re not too busy (or someone in your group is a club member), they will let you sit on the patio while you sample some of their beautiful Chardonnay, Pinot Gris and Pinot Noir. And if one of you splurges for the reserve tasting, be sure to get a sample of their Pinot Meunier.
  • Gundlach Bundschu (aka GunBun) is right off 121, and a great spot to break up the day. They have a bunch of picnic tables on the hill for you to enjoy your lunch before heading into the tasting room. Be sure to get a taste of their Tempranillo and Syrah-Cabernet blend. GunBun certainly offers a wide variety of wines to choose from, and all of them are unique and delicious.
  • Down the road is one of Sonoma’s most beautifully structured tasting rooms, Artesa Winery. Before you even enter the tasting room, which is built into a cave, be sure to snap some photos of the stunning grounds and fountains that adorn the entryway, If it’s a clear day, you can even catch a view of the Golden Gate Bridge from the top of the hill that Artesa lies on. If you’re tasting with some friends, do a mix of reserve and basic tastings so you can try everything.
  • On your way out of the valley, you might as well make one more stop at Ram’s Gate. This winery is open late and just North of Hwy 37, so it’s the perfect place to stop before heading back over the Golden Gate Bridge. Enjoy a quick tasting at the bar, or grab a table by the fireplace. You can also walk around the beautiful grounds, or down to the lake where they teach fly fishing lessons. It’s a sure bet that you’ll finish off the day right!

For the Bros…

SILVERADO TRAIL is the best way to drive Napa, especially if you’re trying to cruise through the valley and avoid the traffic-ridden and left-turn unfriendly roads of Highway 29. And if you’re planning on heading back to The City in time to rage at the bars after a day of wine tasting, it’s best to start further North and work your way down the road. 

  •  You most likely won’t be getting off on too early of a start, so after your morning coffee and light breakfast, try to head out of the city some time between 10 and 11am. And be sure to bring some hearty sandwiches and several bags of chips with you for the car ride. Leave the cheap beers at home.
  • Start off the day with some tasty wines, gardens and Bocce Ball at Frog’s Leap, right off Conn Creek road in Rutherford. You can make an appointment for the tasting room, or try to find a seat in the Garden Bar around back. Either way, be sure to snag a bottle of their tasty (and inexpensive) Zinfandel; a sure bet to impress the ladies.
  • Next stop: Round Pond. This beautiful appointment-only winery features outdoor fireplaces on the patio, leather seats in the tasting room, and small bites prepared by their in-house chef to be paired with your wine tasting. What more can a guy ask for? Oh, a beautiful woman on his arm. Well the ladies tend to flock to this architectural beauty of a winery, so if you’re lucky you might walk away with some digits. Otherwise, you can just continue on your bromantic adventure.
  • Ease on down Silverado and pull into Paraduxx in Oakville. This winery is part of the Duckhorn family and offers some delicious Cabernet and Zinfandel, not to mention incredibly comfy couches and chairs in their outdoor garden-tasting area. This could be the perfect way to end your MaN-apa day trip.
  • But – if you do have time for one more destination before heading back to The City, I would recommend popping into Signorello for a glass of Padrone Cabernet while admiring the view of the sun going down, reflecting on their infinity pool. And in the summer months, they offer a pizza pairing from their wood-burning oven on the pool deck. Major bonus points.
  • Now Gentlemen, be sure to designate the most capable driver and watch for the speed limits. Those Napa Valley cops aren’t too forgiving, and you certainly don’t want to spend a night in jail for a DUI. What a buzzkill to a perfectly bro day!
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