Sunshine, Palm trees, and the Pacific Ocean. Ahhhh, California! Being an east coaster all my life (until now!) the elusive west coast seemed so glamorous, such a destination. Well, it still is and recently Mike and I headed to the west coast for some California dreamin’…mixed in with some work.
Just a two hour and forty minute flight and we were there. San Francisco! We hopped in our Jeep (splurged on an upgrade!) and headed North to Sonoma. Through the fog, over the Golden Gate Bridge, into the sunshine of wine country.
Our friends from Downingtown (the town we grew up in) live in a little town just north of Sonoma, in a cute little house with lots of charm. And they are in the business of wine. Kieran makes a beautiful Syrah, crafted over years of studying with the wine masters, living in France for a stint, and genuinely a love of the wine process. Needless to say, we were in good hands!
We arrived, poured delightful red into our goblets and settled in. The night brought us to the Girl and the Fig, a quaint corner pub in Sonoma with gorgeous food in a wonderfully warm atmosphere. Fig & arugula salad, California white fish and a light Pinot. We were in heaven!
The next day, after a hearty breakfast made by our fabulous hostess, Kieran, Mike and I piled in the jeep and headed into the heart of Nappa. Beautiful rolling hills, fields of grape vines basking in the heat, breathtaking villas.
Our journey ended at Jericho Canyon, the winery Kieran works, and it couldn’t have been a more beautiful start. We were given a private tour, and got to sip a 2007 cab under a huge California oak tree. What a way to spend an afternoon!
After our fill of Jericho, we headed into Yountville to Cornerstone Cellars. Ahhhh air conditioning! We had our tasting, coupled with fabulous conversation. We followed our winery tour with a stop to the Nappa Valley museum, where our hostess sat at the Director’s seat. Art, cheese, and of course more wine. The day was quintessential Nappa, anything and everything I ever thought it would be.
That evening we joined our host & hostess and their friends at a recently opened restaurant, Aventine Glen Ellen. Delightful Italian with a heavy reliance on seafood. Orecchiette with clams in a white wine sauce with hot pepper. A beautiful night, with new & old California friends, cool breezes and all the delectables a pallet could want. A perfect California evening.
The next day, we headed to Russian River, where Pliny the Elder flowed. Although we waited in line (a bit pretentious, no?) Mike was in hog heaven…and the beer did taste quite delicious. Afterwards we walked to an amazing Puerto Rican restaurant (El Coqui) to round out the day. Mike and I then bid adieu to wine country and headed to San Francisco, top down, music up.
San Francisco truly is a treat and while most of my time was spent at a work conference, Mike and I did get a fair share of the city. On our second night in the city, we headed to happy hour at the 21st Amendment for some Hell or High watermelon, then met our transient friends at Anchor & Hope, a lovely seafood restaurant in the heart of the city. It’s so nice to have friends scattered across the country, so when you travel you find familiar faces.
The last day of the conference, Belgium & the US played in the World Cup. Unfortunately, we lost the game, but it was a thrill to watch! My conference ended with ten minutes on the clock and the hotel bar howled with disappointment. Our mood wasn’t affected though, so the last few hours in this glorious city were spent down in Fisherman’s Wharf, eating at Scoma’s and taking in the bay.
Our four day California vacation was a whirlwind of gorgeous food, beautiful scenery and lovely people. Traveling is such a wonderful way to enrich your memories, increase your perspective. Use all the opportunities you can to explore your new surroundings…seize every chance to get out there and drink up life. Mike and I sure had our fill of this piece of the west coast, and now know why songs were written about California…