California Wine Country: Day 1

Hi everyone! We got to spend a few days last week in Sonoma and Napa, and we thought we’d share our beautiful adventure with you!

Sonoma journey inspired small

It has always been our hope to celebrate our 5 year wedding anniversary by taking a big trip to California wine country, and since this year is the big year (how did that happen so fast!?) we spent three days falling in love with Sonoma and Napa! Admittedly, it was a lot easier to get to wine country than we had originally planned; we had always assumed we would be traveling West from Virginia and need to fly out, but now that we live in California it was just a quick (relatively) drive up the coast! Regardless of how we got there, though, we feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to experience such a beautiful part of our country and take some much needed time to relax and re-focus…and of course to celebrate our happy 5 years together! (And for those of you who might be questioning, our anniversary is actually in June we just took the trip early!)

The Lodge Lobby Journey Inspired

We booked a cottage at The Lodge at Sonoma, which was a beautiful, relaxing, extraordinarily accommodating hotel. The staff was wonderful, and the Navigator, Dominique, was incredible to work with! We usually stay in Marriott hotels when we travel, and we absolutely recommend this one if you’re planning to visit the area. (This is totally our personal opinion- we weren’t paid or perked to say any of this.)

The Lodge Registration Journey Inspired

The Lodge Spa Journey Inspired

The cottage rooms were so adorable- I particularly loved the fireplace and the fabulously large bathtub with lavender bath salts in the bedroom…so relaxing! It was fun to join other guests for the complimentary daily wine tasting and to hang out by the fire on the pool deck at night.

The Lodge Fireplace Journey Inspired

Most of our trip was centered around wine tasting (go figure!) at some of the many wineries in the area. It was hard to decide which wineries to visit since our time was limited and there are SO MANY wonderful wineries in the area. But we got great recommendations from our friends and family (thanks, everyone!) which helped to narrow the list down, and at the end of the week we were happy with our choices! That and we decided we just have to come back again to see the rest 😉

Before we begin our little virtual wine tour, we should let you know that while we both enjoy wine and learning about wine, we don’t claim to be experts, so the notes and preferences we include are simply our own novice opinions! Also, we both prefer red wines, and gravitate toward fuller-bodied wines. That being said, we can appreciate all varietals and this trip really helped us to better enjoy some of the white wine options. Also, we have our own (very complex) grading system that we came up with years ago –

√+  to the wines we really liked and would buy it and serve it

√     to the wines we enjoyed and would drink it again

√-   to the wines we didn’t really care for

Without further ado, here’s our itinerary for Day 1 (Wednesday, May 21, 2014) :

Cakebread Cellars, Napa:

Cakebread Cellars with us journey inspired

(Pardon our mostly closed eyes- it was really bright out and that was the best picture we got with the sign)

Recommended by: my parents

We started our wine touring at Cakebread Cellars, which is one of my parents’ favorite winemakers. Bob welcomed us with a glass of wine while we waited for our tour to begin-a very excellent touch in our book. 😉 Our tasting guide, Brian, led a small group of us through the grounds and into the garden to taste the different varietals. We loved the atmosphere of this tasting- the garden was beautifully planned by the Cakebread founders, and Brian was really knowledgable and easy to talk to. Also, the wines were quite good. We’ve listed our tasting notes (read: these are not the official tasting notes provided by the wineries, just our personal thoughts!) for those of you who might be interested- if you’re not, feel free to skip ahead to the pictures:)

  • 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, Napa : tart and fresh, a little bitter at the finish   |  rating: √
  • 2012 Chardonnay, Napa: crisp start, nutty and slightly woody, butter finish   |  rating: √
  • 2011 Chardonnay Reserve, Carneros: corn and caramel on the nose, creamy mouth feel, tangy finish   |  rating: √+
  • 2012 Pinot Noir, Two Creeks Vineyard: butterscotch on the nose, soft and light mouth feel, herby finish  |   rating: √+
  • 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa: toffee and dark fruit on the nose, earthy and leathery notes, tannins, long and smooth finish   |  rating: √
  • 2011 Syrah, Napa: Orange and potpourri on the nose, lively and spicy, cloves, pepper on the finish, smoother and more buttery as it breathes   |  rating: √+

Our favorites from Cakebread:  Sarah – 2011 Syrah | Ben – 2012 Pinot Noir

Cakebread approach journey inspired

Cakebread patio journey inspired

Cakebread tasting journey inspired

Cakebread house journey inspired

cakebread garden journey inspired

Second Stop:

Pine Ridge, Napa:

Pine Ridge Sign

Recommended by Ben’s parents

After a quick lunch we headed over to Pine Ridge for a tasting with Jeff. Ben’s parents loved this winery when they visited a few years ago and it definitely did not disappoint. The grounds here are beautiful, and there is a very educational demonstration garden that displays different vine training techniques (the horticulturist in me was fascinated!) The wines here were good, though we were too busy chatting with Jeff to write notes- oops! But here’s what we tried:

  • 2012 Dijon Clones Chardonnay
  • 2012 Le Petit Clos Chardonnay
  • 2011 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2010 Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 2011 Stags Leap District Cabernet Sauvignon

Our favorite from Pine Ridge:  The Cabs | We also really love the ‘Fortis’ (not listed) that Ben’s parents gave us after their trip to Pine Ridge; we can’t remember if it was the 2006 or 2009 though.

Pine Ridge Patio journey inspired

Pine Ridge Gazebo journey inspired

Pine Ridge Gazebo Ceiling Journey Inspired

Pine Ridge Gate journey inspired

Pine Ridge Garden journey inspired

Third Stop:

Buena Vista, Sonoma:

Buena Vista Sign 2 Journey Inspired


Our last stop for the day was Buena Vista, one of the oldest wineries in the region! This place had a great history that centered around the colorful life of the founder, Agoston Haraszthy. The gardens were very European, and the buildings were full of period-inpired paraphernalia. I loved the ‘bar’ from which the tastings were served- such a masculine, old-world-meets-modern-design! The wines were good, but we didn’t have anything to write notes on, so we don’t remember much of the specifics. Here’s what we tasted:

  • 2013 Count’s Selection Pinot Gris
  • 2012 Natalia’s Selection Chardonnay
  • 2011 Bela’s Selection Pinot Noir
  • 2012 Attila’s Selection Zinfandel   |  rating: √+
  • 2012 Buena Vista Legendary Badge   |  rating: √+

Our favorites from Buena Vista (Tasting):  Sarah – 2012 Zinfandel | Ben – 2012 Badge

Our favorites from Buena Vista (Not on the Tasting list):  Sarah – 2009 Pinot Noir   |  rating: √++

Buena Vista Bar Journey Inpired

Buena Vista Casks Journey Inspired

Buena Vista Scent Journey Inpired

Buena Vista Square Journey Inspired

Buena Vista Vines Journey Inpired

Buena Vista with Ben Journey Inspired

After winery-hopping we headed back to The Lodge for the evening’s tasting where we met Michael from B.R. Cohn Winery. We talked with Michael for awhile and planned a visit to B. R. Cohn for the next day. Once our glasses were empty we met with Dominique, the French Navigator, to get more recommendations on where to go tomorrow. I had fun practicing a little French with her while she regaled us with stories of all the fabulous wineries to visit! By the end of our conversation she had sent a surprise bottle of the 2009 Buena Vista Pinot Noir to our room in celebration of our 5 year anniversary. Not only was her gesture beyond thoughtful, we thought her choice of vintage  (we got married in 2009) was sweet and sentimental. Just one more reason why we are huge fans of this resort!

The Lodge Wine Journey Inspired

Also, if you noticed when reading through our Buena Vista favorites, we rated this wine a √++  Y’all, it was incredible!

For dinner we headed to Sonoma’s Town Square to Harvest Moon Cafe, one of The Lodge’s recommendations. The food at this restaurant was absolutely delicious! They follow a farm-to-table model (which to be honest, I don’t know much about) and their preparation of the fresh vegetables and meats they serve was on point. Their menu changes daily based on what they can get at the local farmers markets, but here is what we got to taste:

  • Appetizer: Summer squash with jamon serrano & parmesan
  • Ben: lamb medallions with snap peas and fingerling potatoes
  • Sarah: pork confit with garlic mashed potatoes and kale

Everything was spectacular and we walked back to the hotel fat and happy.

Day 1 in Wine Country: Definite Success!

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