I never used to like wine much. I know, can you imagine? My, how things have changed. Never have I been more grateful for my change in palate than for our visit to Sonoma, San Francisco’s most famous wine region.
San Fran’s famed billowing fog that surrounds the city most of the day. However, this cooling ring of low-level cloud ends as you head north just as you get off the Golden Gate Bridge. With the dissipating fog comes a sudden boost to the mercury.
As we head out through the California countryside, the temperature lifts by 10dC (18dF) at least. We’re with Melissa and Peter, residents of San Francisco but friends from back in Sydney. As we pull into Sonoma town, Melissa hops out of the car to do some recon on the cheese shop.
Peter eventually finds a rare parking spot and it’s so tight it’s like he’s shrunk the car to get it in like that bus in Harry Potter. When we hit the cheese shop, we’re ready for food. This place is perfect. The cheese samples get our taste buds hopping up and down – especially the habanero jack.
We order panini, grab some fudge and head back to the car to find wine and a spot to picnic. Our first winery and lunch destination is Bartholomew Park Winery, which produces organic wine.
Bartholomew Park owns the majority of the land that Bueno Vista Vineyards have found fame from. Surrounded by the rolling hills striped with grape vines, we stroll through the grounds to the tasting room.
At the bar, our hostess, Heidi, is initially curt but soon warms up as we work our way through the whites and rosés. The chardonnay leaves us unimpressed, pinot gris is good; grassy and citrusy, but like the third bowl of porridge, the sauvignon blanc is just right. The reds are pretty good too, but thermostat heading into the 80s, we grab a bottle of the sauv blanc and look for somewhere cool to eat.
We sit and relax at one of the winery’s shaded picnic tables overlooking the beautiful Sonoma countryside and munch on our grilled paninis, chips and some of the best fudge I’ve ever tasted.
Full, we head to the next winery for more tasting and to pick up Melissa and Peter’s regular members’ order. The wines here are even better than the last place and after the tasting we wander around the grounds.
At Cline Winery they’re having a wedding on the lawns. It’s a perfect setting and other than it being a bit hot, it’s the perfect day for it too.
Whether it’s an appropriate venue for weddings is another question, however. The winery is built in one of the old monastic missions that run south all the way down to Mexico. Those poor monks with their dodgy haircuts and vows of celibacy. No wedding for you!
In a nod of recognition to the winery’s history, they’ve set up a little museum you can visit all about the monks and what their lives would have been like in the early settlement days. Unfortunately, we’d sat around lunch too long and the museum was shut. A bitter sacrifice.
As we head south back to the city, we watch the car’s thermometer drop as if to duck under the perma-fog that rings San Fran. It’s back to a chilly 18 degrees (65dF) but the warmth of the weather and the wine keep us glowing for the rest of the night.