Sonoma County Journals

The Unknown Wine Country

A June 2010 trip to Sonoma County by lwrbva

Bella Vineyards  Photo, Healdsburg, California More Photos
Quote: Visit to the Northern Sonoma County Wine Appellations of Alexander Valley, Russian River Valley, Dry Creek Valley, Chalk Hill
Quote:
Before our trip to wine country began, I had business in San Francisco. I tried out a couple of restaurants downtown that were both quite good: North Beach Restaurant and Trademark Grill. The morning we headed north, we stopped by a pastry shop in the North Beach neighborhood called Stella Pastries. No question: the food in SF is very good! I can't stand cities, but oh, the food is good!

Heading Out

Story/Tip

Quote:
I'm sure many of you reading this are wondering why I titled this Journal "The Unknown Wine Country" because Northern Sonoma County wine is no secret. Or, at least that is what I thought. Much to my surprise, while in San Francisco and Sacramento on a business trip, I mentioned to several locals that I was going to wine country for the weekend. The response from everyone was, "oh, Napa?" When I said that I was not going to Napa and instead was visiting the Alexander Valley and Russian River Valleys, all I got was blank looks. Maybe the people I spoke to don't like wine, but I wouldn't have expected wine country this lovely to be unknown to people living a few hours away!Perhaps the pr...Read More

Z. Cioccolato

Attraction | "Fudge!"

Quote:
We never go anywhere without Richard getting some fudge. I picked some up for him at Z Cioccolato. It had some clever name, but the name isn't what is important! This fudge was an amalgamation of dark chocolate, milk chocolate, peanut butter and sea salt caramel. Lucious and gooey.

They also have gelato and candy. They sell candy cigarettes here. I thought those were banned? They also have lots of other candies you may remember from childhood like pixie sticks! A fun candy shop to visit.

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on June 26, 2010

Z. Cioccolato
474 Columbus Ave.
San Francisco, California 94133
(415) 395-9116

Stella Pastry & Cafe

Restaurant | "Divine & Decadent"

Quote:
We stopped in after a full breakfast so Richard could get some breakfast dessert. The choice was difficult...sacripantina, tiramisu, black and white, or chocolate fedora... Well, ok, there was never any real question that Richard would get chocolate, and the chocolate fedora fit the bill. It was scrumptious. (Yes, I had a bite - or two.) The cake is made of two chocolate cake layers soaked in rum, a layer of cream, two layers of chocolate buttercream, a top layer of chocolate frosting, and very fine curls of chocolate on top that melt in your mouth. This is a dessert that, prepared in good-American-style, would sit in...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 26, 2010

Stella Pastry & Cafe
446 Columbus Avenue
San Francisco, California 94133
(415) 986-2914

Sonoma Orchid Inn

Best Of IgoUgo

Hotel | "Good Value for the Area"

Quote:
The Sonoma Orchid Inn is not cheap, but neither is the Best Western. It was a much nicer room and a great breakfast for much less than many of the other B&Bs in the area and not much more than the chain hotels. We were in the Laurel room, which is a 1st floor room with a separate sitting room. The inn is located very near the Korbel winery. The room was very comfortable and clean. The house is obviously older and has that distinctive "old house smell." The weather was on the warm side, and there is no air conditioning; however, the room cooled nicely in the evening with the fan provided in the room. The breakfasts were good. We had a quiche with peppers in it the first morning....Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 27, 2010

Sonoma Orchid Inn
12850 River Road
Guerneville, California 95446
(707) 869-4466

Chalk Hill

Attraction | "Best Wine of the Trip"

Quote:
The Chalk Hill Estate Vineyards & Winery is situated on beautiful acreage near Chalk Hill. The tasting room is large and airy, although the bar for tasting was a bit crowded when we cam e in. We started with a really nice, crisp Sauvignon Blanc (lightly oaked!), followed by a Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Cab, Merlot, Syrah, and Botritysed Semillon (dessert wine). We also tried a new wine -2007 "Estate Red"- that was marvelous. They hadn’t officially released it, although they were tasting it in their tasting room. These wines were ALL magnificent. We highly recommend visiting this winery. These were pricey wines, but oh, they really were exceptional.One thing that was really interest...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 1, 2010

Chalk Hill
10300 Chalk Hill Road
Healdsburg 95448
(800) 838-4306

Lancaster Estate

Attraction | "Great Tour!"

Lancaster Estate Photo, Healdsburg, California
Quote:
This was another up-scale winery. We had scheduled a tour, and -- for Laura, at least -- this was the best winery tour ever. Our guide drove us around the property. He explained the difference between the same types of vines along the hillside, showing us the differences in growth as we moved up the hillside. The vines in the valley were much lusher but produce lower quality juice. The vines at the top had more sparse foliage but were stressed and produce a higher quality of wine. Different grapes were grown in different places with differing amounts of spacing and in differing degrees of slope. He explained everything. The tour afforded views of the winery and the surrounding hillsides. ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 1, 2010

Lancaster Estate
15001 Chalk Hill Road
Healdsburg, California 95448
(707) 433-8178

Restaurant Mirepoix

Restaurant | "Foodies’ Delight"

Quote:
This was a "frou-frou" place, with extremely small portions. Having said that, we both left full (after 5 & 7 courses). Somehow, the food is rich enough -- and slow enough -- to allow you to feel full by the end of the meal.This is not an ordinary dining experience. The menu is prix fixe only, price set by the number of "courses." These are not ordinary courses; it would be more appropriate to call them tastings. And, oh, the tastes! Every dish was prepared to bring out the flavors of the ingredients to their utmost potential. Dishes are organized as vegetables, fish, meat, and dessert. The menu emphasized local vegetables, cheeses, meats, herbs, fish – everything a...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 27, 2010

Restaurant Mirepoix
275 Windsor River Rd.
Windsor, California 95492
(707) 838-0162

Burke's Canoe Trips

Attraction | "Natural Respite in Wine Country"

Burke's Canoe Trips Photo, Forestville, California
Quote:
Burke's offers a great opportunity to see nature in the middle of wine country. They rent canoes and kayaks (although you may have beg for the kayak), unguided, and go 10 miles one-way down the Russian River with a pick-up service and return on a bus at the end of the day (included in base price). Upon arriving, the parking lot was packed, and we had to park across the street. There was an extraordinarily big crowd standing by the check-in area. I asked how the check-in process works and was told to stand in the line. It didn't look like a line, but I went to the back of the crowd. After waiting well over 30 minutes, we found out that there was a different line for people with reservations, whic...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 1, 2010

Burke's Canoe Trips
Mirabel Road At 8600 River Road
Forestville, California 95436
(707) 887-1222

Stephen & Walker Winery

Attraction | "Tasting in town"

Quote:
Unlike most of the wineries we visited, Stephen & Walker is located in downtown Healdsburg. It is also open later than the wineries out in the countryside, which is how we ended up there in the first place. What luck! The tasting room was quite crowded (possibly because all of the other tasting rooms had closed), but they gave the two of us a spot at the end of the bar away from the big, jostling groups. The staff was very knowledgable about the wine and was very friendly. They managed the crowd quite well until we were near the end of the tasting. At that point, the big groups started buying wine, and it seemed that the entire staff was busy ringing up individual purchases. We ended up wai...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on November 6, 2010

Stephen & Walker Winery
243 Healdsburg Avenue
Healdsburg, California
707-431-8749

Mosaic Restaurant & Wine Lounge

Restaurant | "Great Food in a Garden Setting"

Quote:
Mosaic is located in Forestville, a short drive away from the Russian River Valley wineries and the town of Santa Rosa. They had a beautiful indoor dining room and also a nice outdoor dining area. The service was attentive without being intrusive.We sat outside, where the tables are arranged around a large fire pit. The wooden tables are set in a garden area surrounded by plants and herbs. The menu was eclectic with several Cajun options –a reflection of the chef’s prior experience in New Orleans – and several evening specials. They offered prix fixe options with 4-6 courses (appetizer, dessert and the remainder from the main dishes) or a la carte. The prix fixe options were only for...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 27, 2010

Mosaic Restaurant & Wine Lounge
6675 Front St.
Forestville 95436
(707) 887-7503

DeLoach Vineyards

Attraction | "Good Wine, Great Variety"

Quote:
Attention all visitors to Sonoma County! If you have a signature Visa card, you taste for free at participating wineries – and at DeLoach, they took this to a new level. Ordinarily, they taste 8 wines. We tasted in excess of 12 (lost count). They normally charge a tasting fee, which is waived with a purchase.DeLoach suffered, in my opinion, from too high of expectations. We had heard that the wine was some of the best in Northern Sonoma County. This was just too high a standard for them to live up to. The wine was really good; it just didn’t quite rise to THAT level. We would still definitely recommend visiting the winery. The staff was fun to talk to (which Laura doesn’t often sa...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 27, 2010

DeLoach Vineyards
1791 Olivet Rd.
Santa Rosa 95401
(707) 526-9111

Bella Vineyards

Attraction | "Typical Vineyard/Winery in Sonoma County"

Bella Vineyards  Photo, Healdsburg, California
Quote:
We had a reservation for the cave tour. They also do walk-in tastings. When we arrived, we were greeted with a glass of rose – the first Laura has EVER thought was ok enough to drink. The unique feature of their cave tour is that they draw wine from barrels and mix various varietals in your glass so that you can taste how the character of the wine changes as a result of blending.We walked up to their "old vine" vineyard and discussed the differences between the old style of growing vines compared to the new, structured method. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable, and we enjoyed chatting with him throughout the tour and tasting.Bella focuses on Zinfandels and has several d...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on July 27, 2010

Bella Vineyards
9711 West Dry Creek Road
Healdsburg 95448
(707) 473-9171

Emtu Wines

Attraction | "Small, Family-run Winery Makes Good Wine"

Emtu Wines Photo, Forestville, California
Quote:
This was a one-of-a-kind experience. We’ve been to many, many wineries, across the county and around the world. Entu was unlike any others in the U.S., but the level of personalized attention was similar to the experience of wine tasting in Bordeaux. John and Chris met us in their driveway, and we sat down on a picnic bench and talked about their philosophy of wine making. Then we walked down into their small vineyard and saw how they individually prune each plant based on their own working knowledge of how each vine has grown in previous years. I’ll admit that some other very small, family-run wineries that we’ve visited make lousy wine, so my expectations were low. When we tasted the wine, I w...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on July 27, 2010

Emtu Wines
111 Van Keppel Road
Forestville, California 95436
(707) 887-1239