October 16, 2015

Wine Tasting in Sonoma: Day 2

In case you missed it, read about our first day in Sonoma here.

Adam and I woke up super early on Saturday morning in Sonoma. Even though we woke up at 6:30am, we had actually gone to bed around 9pm, so it was a ton of sleep. I was so tired after a long week at work, and it was great to finally catch up on sleep! Yay vacation 🙂

We spent a little while in bed “gaming” (me playing Cubistry and Adam playing a new Tetris game he downloaded), but after that, we weren’t entirely sure what to do with ourselves. Most of the wineries didn’t open until 10am or 11am… ughhhhhhhhhhhh. But on the other hand, neither of us was much in the mood for wine anyway – we had plenty the day before. So we lazed around the tasting room for a little while, and then headed off in search of breakfast.

Our destination, the Dry Creek General Store, had originally been our plan for lunch. But a look at their menu online proved that they served breakfast, too, so we headed over there and picked up two chorizo breakfast burritos. When we got home and chowed down, we couldn’t believe it – they were outstanding! Probably the best breakfast burrito I’ve ever eaten. I will add, though, that I owe much of that rating to the fact that it was absolutely stuffed with sausage – we each found just one bite of potato and only a little bit of egg in it. #HeartAttackInATortilla But the sausage was so smoky and so delicious… my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

After we showered and got dressed, we found that we had actually frittered away most of the extra time, and it was now 11am. That morning went by quickly! We headed to the car, but on our way, finally got to meet our gracious host, Mary Beth. She told us that she unfortunately wouldn’t be in town on Sunday (our last day), and asked if we could do our tasting with her at 12:30pm. That worked fine for us – we’d go to one winery close to home in the meantime.

Choosing purely by proximity and what was open at that hour, we decided to stop at Rued Vineyards – and I am so glad that we did. It’s a very small vineyard, and they didn’t have either the production or the traffic of other places, but they had a chardonnay that was among the best I’ve had in my life – the 2013 Mt Olivet. I could not get over the incredible buttery flavor and strong oakiness, and I decided to buy a bottle to take home. Again, my mouth is watering in recollection!

After all my gushing at Rued, it was already nearly 12:30pm, so we headed back to our AirBnB tasting room… this time to actually do some tasting! However, since it was such a beautiful day, I suggested we sit at the picnic table on the patio rather than inside, and I don’t regret it at all. There are few greater pleasures in life than sipping wine just fifty feet from the vines where it grew, and not having anywhere you have to be 🙂


After our tasting at MoniClaire, we then headed back out to Dry Creek Road. We didn’t have any specific destination, and mostly just wanted to play things by ear. However, the day before we had passed a winery that had a sign bragging that voters had chosen their tasting room as the best in town – so we thought that would be a good starting point. As it turns out, we weren’t that impressed by either Chateau Diana’s tasting room (too kitschy) or their wine (ditto)… but since tasting fees were waived with purchase, we decided to pick up a bottle of their zinfandel to have with dinner that night. Why not!

The best thing to come out of Chateau Diana, though, were the coupons that a friendly server passed along. Turns out that just about all the wineries have a little file of coupons giving you discounts at other places – sometimes discounts, sometimes two-for-one, and sometimes entirely free tastings! This was the best kept secret about Sonoma, and for most of the rest of the trip, we were able to “ask for recommendations” and then get coupons that made future tasting free or at least very cheap 🙂

Our next stop was one where we didn’t have a free tasting coupon, but Adam had been dying to visit based on the name: Talty Vineyards. Adam liked to pronounce it in a funny drawn-out voice, something like, “Taltayyyyyyyyyy”. Even after going there and meeting the owner, we still call it that. What can I say, this trip was less elegant and more the two of us just having a blast!

Silly selfies for the win!

The building was incredibly elegant (and the exact color I want to paint my house, except my HOA just rejected that application… :P), and when we stepped inside, we found ourselves right amidst the aging barrels. Cool! A lot of the other tasting rooms were fancy and touristy, but Talty let you be right in the middle of things while still being beautiful. For example, instead of having a bar where everyone was pressed up against each other, Talty had individual tables for each party that were upturned wine barrels topped with gorgeous green granite. I want one of those for my home!

Adam geeked out over getting to chat with the winemaker, Michael, while I loved getting to read the printed articles around the tasting room. It seems that Talty has gotten a lot of attention in the press as a newer winery that is making great stuff, and I loved getting to read what the experts thought – which was all great things. We tried a lot of different zinfandels here, which are typically not my favorite, but Adam loved them and decided to buy a bottle. I wouldn’t be surprised if he joins the wine club too!

After a while chatting at Talty, we headed down the road to a winery where we had a coupon for a free tasting – Comstock Wines. They were a much newer facility, and it was really gorgeous and modern. One thing I loved about this trip was that no two wineries were alike – all the tasting rooms had very different styles, and so were quite memorable. Comstock had huge sliding doors running along almost the entire back wall of their tasting room, so it felt like you were outside while you were tasting. And what a view! We of course stepped out for a few pictures.

I loved any of the views where you had the hills rising behind… guess who missed the mountains!

From Comstock, we headed into the town of Healdsburg to try a tasting room that our server at Gustafson had raved about the day before: Cartograph Wines. They had a pretty neat setup, and were all about the science, displaying the process of fermentation in a few beakers on the counter. Unfortunately, neither of us loved the wines – they were good, but not quite great. However, we had a great time chatting with a couple next to us at the bar, who were each running the Healdsburg Half Marathon the next morning!

When I was piecing together my schedule for running a marathon in each of the 50 states, I basically spent two years memorizing the race calendars of every marathon in the country. With that knowledge, I was always a little bit amused when I’d be running and come across residents of that place who hadn’t known about the race ahead of time, and were surprised to find runners trekking down the street. I never thought there would come a day where I’d be surprised by a distance race, so I thought it was funny that there was literally a half marathon happening right where we were and I hadn’t known about it ahead of time! We found out at Kendall-Jackson, when we first got to Sonoma, but still…. it’s been a very long time since I traveled without seeing if there was a marathon or half marathon where I was going. However, I really haven’t been running lately, and I’m not sure if/when I’ll do a distance race again. There are just too many things I love to do and not enough time to do them all!

After wishing the couple good luck in the race, we headed to one more spot before dinner – J Vineyards and Winery. We chose it because it looked like a pretty lively scene inside, and it was perfect on that front – light and airy, but filled with plenty of people that made fun people watching. Adam and I both enjoyed tasting a flight of champagnes – very different than what we had tried everywhere else! After that bit of bubbly, though, it was off to dinner.

Our AirBnB host had recommended Catelli’s in Geyserville, and I have to admit, I was a little bit skeptical. The town of Geyserville was fairly unassuming and small-town-ish as we pulled up, and I wondered if this was going to be the equivalent of a local dive bar. But when we walked in and gave our name, we walked through the fairly normal restaurant and into what I can only describe as an enchanted garden. Seriously, it reminded me so much of Alice in Wonderland! The patio was made of beautiful polished black and white tile, and guests were spread throughout the garden at fairly wide distances, so it felt incredibly intimate even though it was big and open. There were steps up to a bathroom on one side, with some statues on display, and I just loved the atmosphere so much! And while it was fairly warm out the night we were there, they brought out heat lamps as the night cooled off, so it was perfectly comfortable.

But it wasn’t just the atmosphere that was perfect; it was the food as well. We started with the truffle fries, and they were outstanding – crispy, hand cut, and with an amazing sauce on the side. For my entree, I got “Michael’s Pasta: penne with our spicy house made sausage, mushrooms, Domenica’s sauce and mascarpone.” It was to die for! But then I reached across the table and swiped a bite of Adam’s ravioli, and I was torn… both were just amazing.

The best surprise, though, was getting the check. We brought our bottle of zinfandel from Chateau Diana with us, and not only did that help us save a lot on wine with dinner, but Catelli’s didn’t even charge a corkage fee! Our whole dinner came to just $50 (plus a generous tip) for the two of us, which was probably the most affordable dinner you could find in all of Sonoma. I cannot recommend Catelli’s enough!

And after that, we headed home and to bed, early again. We still had one more day of Sonoma to enjoy, and we were going to make the most of it!


2 thoughts on “Wine Tasting in Sonoma: Day 2”

  1. It is 5:20pm and I could go for one of those breakfast burritos RIGHT now. SO GOOD.

    I think day 2 was probably the best for me. I loved stumbling (not literally) upon random vineyards that always had a story to offer. I feel like day 2 we sort of knew what was going on… we were able to get some deals, actually started to figure out the economics of tasting…. oh, and were having some AMAZING wine.

    When can we go back?

    1. I really really really want to go back ASAP. Maybe we can do another trip in the spring? There were so many wonderful wineries that I feel like we could stay in the same place and still have a completely different experience.

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