A Weekend in Wine Country | Sonoma in Snapshots

Since I was traveling back from Puerto Rico the day before my birthday and we had a wedding to attend my actual birthday weekend, the hubs and I were able to celebrate my gift of another year in the wine country a little early this year. A couple of weekends ago we flew up to San Francisco and drove into Sonoma. While I have done some time in Napa and do enjoy it there, I prefer its less flashy neighbors. My only wish is we could have stayed longer. I love that area of California!

I am hoarding my miles and points for our #EPIC2014SummerRoadTrip, which will require a lot of flying (to pick up bonus daughters and return them to their home state) along with some hotel time, so I gleefully scored plane tickets from militarytravel.com which were a huge savings! Here is our trip to Sonoma (and surrounding areas) in (mostly) snapshots:

And we’re off… on the plane United Airlines made an announcement thanking the hubs for his service to this country and also recognized Milspouse Appreciation Day (which was actually on the day we flew). Thank you, Twitter! I may have Tweeted them about the hubs before the flight… they added on the milspouse part themselves.

Getting to the car rental place in San Francisco requires some effort, but it was worth it since the car was free (I did use points because I have plenty of those). The GPS was acting up, but we made it to the Golden Gate Bridge at which point I felt queasy and my heart began palpitating. I still just do not like bridges. Once we got to the other side, I wanted some photos. It was FREEZING and windy!

I only look like I wasn’t turning into a popsicle:
I may not like going over it, but the Golden Gate Bridge really is so pretty:

 I really liked this shot:
It was so windy the hubs had to hold his cover to keep it on.
 (It has to be worn at all times if you are not under cover).

Once we got back into the car and thawed out, we made our way to one of my favorite properties in all the world, The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn. It was recently renovated and it looks amazing. Disclosure: A job perk of being a corporate event manager is properties will highlight the best of what they have to offer by giving room upgrades, amenities, etc. if available. I never request it, as it is against my own personal and professional code of ethics, however, when considering a location for a future event, it is actually extremely helpful to see how our guests, staff and executives will be accommodated.

We arrived to our gorgeous suite for which the photos do not do justice:

This was waiting for us:

Then had dinner at Santé Restaurant, on property. We were so happy to eat, we have no photos!

We walked back to our room and hung out there for the rest of the night.

The next day, I was lucky enough to get a last-minute site tour to check out the renovations and upkeep of the space. The new color schemes of the rooms are so refreshing.
 I love that they kept the original headboards, though:
The meeting space is still as beautiful as the last time I was there:

Super cool fact: The hallways throughout the property are extra-wide because in the 1800’s the builders constructed the hotel to accommodate hoop skirts, so women wouldn’t bump into each other! Love that!

While it was tempting to spend the day at the spa (one of my favorite anywhere!), the hubs and I headed out for breakfast, but not without some snapshots of the outside of the property first:

I love the water tower and check out the bamboo:
Entrance to property:
Isn’t it just absolutely lovely?
So bright!

After breakfast at The Big 3, also onsite, we headed out to the wineries!

First stop:
The hubs is not a big wine drinker, but he really did awesome on this trip!
I think the woman here liked him, because his pours were double the amount of mine!
For me, this is one of the few wineries that does a Merlot I actually enjoy!
I have always loved the grounds of Matanzas Creek.
Details like the Easter lillies, lilly pads and flowers are so pretty:
After tasting, we walked the grounds. We were about a month too early for the lavender blooms.
Imagine this all in purple. Beautiful!

Our next stop:

The caves here are pretty cool:
The man who served us was so nice!
But while the winery was very interesting, the wines weren’t quite our favorites.
After tasting, we had to make a pit stop. Behold one of the only times you’ll see me in flip-flops in public! Walking on cobblestone at the wineries in heels isn’t really a great idea.
After our pins and poker chips run, it was off to the first winery to which I’ve ever been:
St. Francis Winery. That was almost twelve years ago! I really enjoy their Old Vines Red Zin.

Walking in:

It was great getting back here and sharing it with the hubs. Tasting…
and me trying to be serious but instead laughing into my wine glass:
Clouds started rolling in when we left:

After tasting, it was time to head for dinner! We went to another favorite of mine, The Girl and the Fig – without a reservation – and were lucky enough to get a table with no waiting! It was definitely crowded and quarters were tight. I didn’t take any photos of my dinner, but the hubs did get a couple of his. A woman walked in and spilled his blueberry cocktail all over our table by bumping it with her huge purse. Luckily we didn’t get a drop on us!

The hubs’ appetizer. Those were some serious sardines! I had the carrot soup and it was DELISH!
Sufficed to say, the hubs was FULL after dinner!
My entrée was salmon. I liked it, but it had too much pepper (that could be because I don’t like pepper).

We walked around the square a bit, then headed back to the hotel and enjoyed the rest of our late night in our suite, and definitely took advantage of that big ol’ tub with the bath salts!

The next day, we enjoyed breakfast at Pearl’s Diner near “downtown” Sonoma. This is a bit of a greasy spoon, but our breakfast was great and very reasonably priced.

We, of course, loved the Harley Davidson touches:
After we filled up, it was time to head out! First stop was Benziger Winery.
I hadn’t been before, and loved how pretty this property is! I was also so pleased because we took home a bottle of wine the hubs actually likes! It’s a 2012 Muscat Canelli. While it isn’t quite my cup of tea (I don’t care for sweet wines), it does taste like a Mai Thai! And the hubs drinking wine?
Definite win!!
There are a lot of historic pieces on the grounds:
Hubs being silly. Those are his initials:
Picture-Perfect Day!
Tasting menu
I am still not convinced it goes to nowhere. 😉
Yep…it goes up the hill…
We left with some goodies, and I especially love my new “eye chart”:
Of course on our way out we took time to stop and smell the roses which are all over the grounds…
We made a quick stop at Valley of the Moon, but I really wanted to stop by Arrowood and Gundlach Bundschu so we decided to save it for next time!

I would definitely recommend stopping in, even though we didn’t. Their wines are fabulous and the grounds are spectacular!

Next up was Arrowood. As we walked in we saw a lone quail crossing the road. Adorable! What a beautiful winery. I hadn’t been before, but the concierge at the Fairmont recommended it, and gave us VIP passes. I truly enjoyed talking to the tasting room staff. They were so kind and friendly. This was, by far, my favorite tasting room experience this trip. To top it off, we also had another win! I took home a bottle of the Syrah and hubs got a bottle of the Riesling.

Driving in:

When you walk in, you are greeted by a large open space and beautiful picture window displaying the view – this is just a portion of the window:
And a gorgeous ceiling. The trusses are magnificent!
After our tasting, the hubs got a glass of Riesling and we sat out on the wrap-around porch
taking in the fresh air and peaceful view:
When we left, the quail (or maybe one of his pals) crossed the road again.
Look hard and you can see him by the red arrow haha!

Our last stop before heading back home to San Diego was another favorite of mine, Gundlach Bundschu (gun-lock, bun-shoe). It was a grand time chatting with the tasting room staff and visiting the grounds again. Fun fact: I ate my first “winery” grapes at Gundlach Bundschu! Even though I don’t care for Gewürztraminer wine, I loved the grapes! I even have the photo somewhere around here!

One of the caves on property:
 The pond on property. You can sit outside and order cheese plates and stare:
We are such big fans of foliage.
You can’t tell, but there was a green hummingbird in the upper left photo going crazy on the flowers.

I had to get the hubs a t-shirt and then before we knew it, it was time to pack it up and head to the airport.

I love the explanation here (and thanks to the hubs for modeling for me).
I absolutely love all of the yellow blankets of flowers off of the road and
took a shot on our way out of town from the car:
TMI alert: I really needed to use the restroom (I drink a lot of water with the wine), so we stopped close-by. I was also really hungry, so we went to an In-N-Out because it was the first thing we saw and needed something fast. Full disclosure: I really dislike the place and think it is overrated. I just don’t “get it”. I left pretty disappointed. Half of my bun was left. There wasn’t much meat and what meat there was, was hard. In addition the fries were hard. Get this! I Facebook’d them and somehow they hunted me down, mailed me not one, but TWO letters asking me to call them along with a gift certificate for a free meal! I have NO idea how they found me, but that’s a little scary, huh? I did call them and then they said they were sending me ANOTHER gift certificate!
My sad bun, in all its glory:
Finally, we hit the road and made it back over the bridge. I did a lot better this time!
And now, we have this waiting to be shared.
It was a great start to birthday celebrations, indeed!

What are your favorite wineries? Please do share in the comments!

This entry has been added to the #SundayTraveler lineup. Check out other great travel pieces by clicking here!

Links to all vendors:
MilitaryTravel.com (must be military, retired or Dependent)
United Airlines
Enterprise Car Rental
Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn – be sure to ask your concierge for transportation companies or take the Sonoma Valley Wine Trolley!
Matanzas Creek
Deerfield Ranch Winery
St. Francis Winery
Sonoma Valley Harley-Davidson
The Girl and the Fig – ask to sit outside if it isn’t too cold!
Pearl’s Diner
Valley of the Moon
Gundlach Bundschu

We flew into San Francisco International Airport, but Oakland and Sacramento are just as easy, too. I also found out that Santa Rosa has new direct flights from San Diego flights being serviced by Alaska Airlines! Be sure to check those out, too!

Tip: Ask your hotel concierge (or Bed and Breakfast hosts) for recommendations and whatever VIP passes/tasting discounts he or she may have. This is definitely a great savings!