Monday, October 24, 2011

cheers, chin-chin, salud: Cali day four

I began the last day of my whirlwind tour the only proper way a day of vacation should begin: with a dainty mug artfully filled to the brim with piping hot shots of the most delicious espresso ever to grace my thankful tastebuds. Being that we were staying in one of the most charming little town squares (Sonoma square to be precise), there was obviously the most charming little cafe at which we procurred said espresso. If only every day could begin in the same sublime fashion...I might actually pop out of bed after only 3 snoozes (instead of the standard 6-7).

After my caffeine jolt was properly savored, I took a little jaunt across the square to the boulangerie which was packed with every type of indulgent pastry, cookie, cake and bread that you could fathom. I was overwhelmed by my selections, as could be observed by the dozens of questions I asked the counter clerk. It took my upwards of five minutes to finally settle on a chocolate croissant and cinnamon shortbread cookie. Sadly, I have no pics of these sugary, buttery delights, but I did take a couple shots of the street as viewed from our hotel.

With pastries in hand, we said a reluctant goodbye to Sonoma and hello to Napa. Our drive through Napa could not possibly have been more dreamy (with the exception of poor navigation on my part and the close call we had with the gas gauge). I felt as though I had been transported to the sweeping, lush landscapes of the Tuscan countryside. It was tough for me to contain my excitement or keep my exclamations of enthusiasm to a minimum. With each vineyard we passed, I became more and more transixed on my surroundings and increasingly more convinced that I must take up residence in this glorious region. It was hard to believe this was part of the continental United States and I began to understand my mom's ardent adoration for all things California. If only the cost of living wasn't a 500% increase over and above my current expenses...

I literally could have driven back and forth across this stretch of greenery for hours, but time was of the essence, so we headed straight to Sterling Vineyards and I'm so glad we included this spot on our agenda because it was definitely an experience from start to finish. The winery grounds were perched on top of a "mountain" and we purchased our tickets at the base and rode the enclosed gondola (otherwise known as a ski lift) up to the actual building. The views were nothing short of spectacular. Even the cloudy skies coupled with the light mist couldn't dampen my spirits. At Sterling, we took the self-guided tour which walked us around the different buildings and had tasting stations set up at each point. The wine wasn't necessarily my ultimate in terms of taste, but the experience was like no other and I definitely recommend it based on that alone.

Sadly, it was after Sterling Vineyards that the harsh realization began to sink in - my trip was coming to a close and I only had time for one more stop. Knowing it was my last winery and wanting to end on a bang, we put the pedal to the metal and reached our destination with plenty of time to spare. My last hurrah was none other than Chandon Winery. How could I go to wine country and not sample champagne (sparkling wine technically), my signature drink? We wouldn't hear of it, so my traveling companions indulged my taste for the bubbly and we raised our glasses five times over and tasted all the fruits they had to offer. Our "pourer" was so incredibly friendly and chatted with us extensively. She even let us sample a sparkling red (not rose, red) which was surprisingly delightful. If my trip had to come to a close, I can't think of a more perfect way than by sipping on golden glasses of bubbly champagne and toasting to a wonderful trip, overflowing with God's beauty and love.

After Chandon, the girls dropped me off at the Napa bus station and I hopped on a bus headed to the airport. I slept most of the way and dreamt of lush vineyards, ripe grapes and flavorful wine. Here's to a wonderful inaugural tour of wine country: Cheers, chin-chin and salud!

No comments: