Tuesday, October 18, 2011

california dreamin': day 3

Welcome to the third installment of my west coast tour. I'm sure (judging by the number of pictures) it probably seems we spent 4 weeks in California, but alas, it was only 4 days. With our San Francisco stay coming to an end, we got an early start Sunday morning because we had big plans for our day.

With Crystal in the driver's seat (brave girl to navigate the curves and hills of the city), we drove our rental car through one of the swankiest neighborhoods in San Francisco. This area is known as Lyon Street and the homes were breathtaking, especially when coupled with that million-dollar view of the bay. I shudder to think of the dollar value on these properties, but it sure was a feast for the eyes to behold...even if it was just to dream. Can you imagine living in the last house covered in pink bougainvillea?

As we crossed over the Golden Gate Bridge, we bid adieu to a great time in a great city and said hello to the glorious mountains of Northern California and an enchanted forest filled with towering redwoods. This majestic patch of nature is dubbed Muir Woods and I had heard so much about it from Kori (and others) who had previously visited that I knew I didn't want to miss it. It's greatness was highly touted, but rightly so as our brief tour quickly proved. Upon entering the copious canopy of trees, we were transformed to a wonderland reminiscent of a page out of the Chronicles of Narnia. I was mesmerized as I took in my surroundings and while our time was succinct, I am glad we made time to be one with God's nature as we don't see the likes of these trees in our parts.

I think we probably only hiked through .01% of the woods, but alas, we had wineries to tour and vino to taste. It came down to a matter of priorities and the fermented grapes that beckoned our name won. As we drove back down the winding mountain, my excitement began to swell as visions of lush vineyards, ripe grapes and rolling hills danced in my head. I couldn't believe I was headed to wine country and I couldn't believe I was going to experience what had just been a pipe dream for so long. I feel so fortunate that I had two friends who were ready and willing (more like jumping at the chance) to join the adventure.

We did our research prior to the trip, so we had our list of wineries mapped out and headed to Simi straight away. Providence was at work and we made it there in the nick of time to catch their tour. This was a full-fledged, hour and a half tour from start to finish. It was very extensive and included a visit to the barrel room and a private sit-down tasting. We loved our tour guide and he was kind enough to offer us additional tastes in the main tasting room once our schooling had commenced. Aside from the first white we tasted, I really enjoyed all of their wines and would highly recommend a visit should you find yourself in the Healdsburg area.

Once we wrapped up things at Simi, it was back on the road and off to our next destination. Seghesio Vineyards was our next stop and this particular winery is known for their zinfandels (Cryssie's favorite). I sat this one out to as to not overdo it, but Crystal was kind enough to share her special taste of Syrah with me since I have a pension for all things of the syrah/shiraz varietal. I still really enjoyed my experience and loved learning about all the different wines from our expert pourer. The day was winding down, but we still had time to squeeze in one more quick tasting, so we set off for La Crema and tasted some buttery chardonnays (Michelle, you would have been in white wine heaven), along with a couple nice reds. Again, I must mention how generous and friendly everyone was that we met on our trip. The kind folks at La Crema didn't charge us for our tasting and just sent us on our merry way with a smile.

Since La Crema was smack dab in the middle of the cutest little town square you ever saw (Sonoma Square not included), we did a little bit of exploring and found a quaint neighborhood book shop and espresso bar (two of my very favorite things in life). I did some perusing, while Crystal and Christy sampled the gelato. I actually tried a fromage (cheese) flavor and it was very interesting. The jury's still out as to whether or not I would consume a full serving, but it was intriguing all the same.

All that wine tasting really took it out of us, so we checked into our cozy hotel on the Sonoma square, and flopped into our comfy beds for a little pre-dinner siesta. I had built up this dinner in my mind for months, really years, as I heard about this place through the grapevine (pun somewhat intended) and I had my mind set on dining there as soon as I was in the wine country.

The place: The Girl and the Fig
The savory cuisine: specialty goat cheese plate featuring 3 varietals of goat cheese, a smorgasborg of various nuts (pistachios, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, almonds...), fig cakes, fig compote; a rustic open-faced roasted chicken sandwich, steamed mussels
The sweet ending: butter cake, homemade whipped cream, fresh (local) berries
The drink: flight of syrahs in the most awesome glasses ever
The experience: priceless

I wish I could relive each savory bite all over again, but I'm grateful I was able to check this one off the box. I still have one more (more like 1/2) day to document, but we're in the home stretch. In the meantime, I hope these pics have you California dreamin'.

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