My friend wanted to celebrate a “big” birthday in Sonoma, Cali, so that’s what we did. We left the east coast and went to California to participate in the festivities.
I rented a car at the SFO, drove over the majestic Golden Gate Bridge and traveled up to Sonoma County. It was about an hour and a half away so I stopped at a shopping plaza and had one of the best hamburgers I have eaten in a long time. The joint was called Super Duper and they are only on the West Coast. I am not exactly the vegetarian type and the first question the waiter asked was do I want a veggie burger, which I politely declined– but I love this place. It had an industrial vibe, with reclaimed wooden tables and cool hippy dippy items on the menu but real meat items too for us unhealthy chicks. The food was delicious, especially the homemade pickles. Definitely will return next time I’m on the left coast.
Sonoma has lots activities for everyone but growing grapes and producing wine seems to be at the epicenter of all commerce in the region. Everywhere you look there are wine tasting venues & events. If you are a wine novice like me, you might feel intimidated by all the expert wine knowledge, both workers and drinkers possess. Every person you talk to seem to know more about the grapes than a sommelier. I just kept quiet once the wine talk started because I don’t know a Porto from a white zinfandel. I could tell from everyone’s reaction that my choice of Chardonnay, was considered low on the wine hierarchy status bar.
The first winery we visited was called “Benzinger Family Winery“. I have included some photos and as you can it is a beautiful property with lots of areas to wander around. We did the wine tasting, which cost $20. person but is refundable if you buy $100 worth of wine. Our wine server was friendly and very knowledgeable about the process and the grapes. I have no idea which types of wine we sampled, but they all tasted good to me. Be forewarned ladies – this place is on a steep hill so no high heels or you will regret it.
Driving around the vineyard on a beautiful spring day was glorious. We spent a lot of time in Santa Rosa and I have expertly determined why they named it Santa Rosa. Roses are everywhere. Every yard, business plaza, winery or hiking area is exploding with rose and other flower blooms. The scent of these beauties is everywhere. Such a special place. I spent a lot of time taking photos of all the roses and other flowers and couldn’t wait to go home and get into my garden. Not sure if its always like this or everything was just blooming the week I was there but it was amazing.
We also visited the Francis Ford Copula Winery in Geyserville, CA. This place was enormous and reminded me a little of Disney World. The establishment had wonderful views of mountains and vineyards, There is a large swimming pool with cabanas, many bars, restaurant and a 2-story gift shop that has a lot of the memorabilia from Coppola’s Hollywood directorial days, including Oscar statues from The Godfather movies, cool photos & items form Apocolypse Now and the vehicle from the Tucker movie. Most tough guys will love this place just to see desk used by Michael Corleone in Part 2. It’s a very manly establishment, though it was too commercialized for my taste. I prefer smaller, family operations with quirky elements to explore. This place was also packed with wedding parties, proms and tourist everywhere, but it definitely is a cool place to see at least once. I did buy several tee shirts because I love the Godfather 1 & 2.The one restaurant I want to mention was a super expensive steakhouse that was worth every penny. It’s called Cole’s Chop House in Napa, CA. The thing I appreciate about Northern California is you don’t have to get too dressed up for anything. This place had all the bells and whistles of a fine establishment but many folks were wearing jeans. It is located right on a pretty canal with a picturesque bridge to wander over, but it is also in the middle of town so it’s not too isolated from the action. Our group consisted of 5 adults and we were all red-blooded carnivores. One of the guys in our party was excited to sample the Amuse Bouche. I had never heard of. I’ve been to some of the nicest restaurants in NY and they too offer free samples to taste prior to your dinner, we just don’t call it Amuse Bouche, but they do here and it was delicious.Anyway, we were served our amuse bouche which consisted of smoked salmon on a bed of greens brushed with a vinaigrette dressing. So good I wanted more but didn’t see it on the menu. The waiter told our party that the restaurant served aged steaks ala carte, which I am used to from NYC eateries, but I guess the server thought we couldn’t afford this place so he wanted to warn us. You spend $65 and you get a small steak and nothing else. That’s the way it is. The sides were typical steakhouse grub, creamed spinach, potatoes, asparagus, etc. We ordered the Cesar salad and I loved that they put a whole anchovy on top of the salad. Anyway, this place is perfect for a special occasion. The only thing I didn’t like is that they have shared gender bathrooms, which I despise, but that’s how they roll in Cali. Happy Birthday, Debbie!!
Once its your turn to soak you are brought into a semi- private room, step out of your rob and get into the mud. I’m not comfortable being naked so I hope she wasn’t checking me out or she would have been disappointed. Anyway, to enter the tub you are told to sit down on the side and go in bottom first. You never actually stand up just lay down and then sink. The mud is heated by the geo-thermal water and the lower you sink down the warmer it is. Apparently, the mud is comprised of local minerals and peat moss, so its much thicker than expected. The lady then gives you ice water, puts a cold towel on your forehead and tell you that she hopes you can last 10 minutes, which I did with flying colors. You then take a shower and clean off. I blasted the cold water during my shower because I though I was boiling to death. The highlight for me came next when you enter a luxurious warm bath with your choice of bath salts ( highly recommend the peppermint) and you just soak. Loved this part and wish I could do it everyday. Last phase included wrapping you in a massive soft sheet, and being placed on a private bed in a darkened room while you are suppose to slowly cool down. This part was boring for me but only because I am so hyper that I can’t relax like normal folks. I suspect most ladies would love to relax in there and chill. This place is unique, fun and definitely something you should try at least once.
Russian River & Sonoma Coast State Park
We drove about 45 minutes west to the rugged coast of the Pacific Coast Highway and drove around the Bodega Bay, Jenner and Gualala areas. The drive is 55 miles long and spectacular. Although we were still in Sonoma County you wouldn’t be able to tell unless the road sign told you so. No vineyards, no flowers, no red wood tress just beaches, water views and seafood houses galore.
The day we were there the sea and wind appeared angry. The water was extremely rough and there was a sign saying it was the most deadly beach in California . At no time did we see anyone in the surf only picnickers and hikers enjoying the sunshine and hills surrounding the Pacific.
We stopped and marveled at the Goat Rock Beach, which is near the mouth of the mighty Russian River. White caps were everywhere and the wind was fierce. Apparently there are thousands of baby seal pups with their mothers in the area but we did not see any. If someone in your party likes to drive, and you are a beach girl/guy than this is something you should see.
We are hikers and there are lots of hiking trails in Sonoma. We spent a morning in the Armstrong Redwood State Natural Reserve, which was super cool for me since I have never seen a redwood tree before. The trees grow in clusters and once one dies several others spring up in the same area as the dead stump. There are many trails to try from beginners to more advanced. There are sweet creeks flowing through the area and cool, pixie/ gnome like forest areas. The main tree everyone wants to see is called Colonel Armstrong and it is 308 feel tall with a 14′ diameter and is estimated to be 1,400 years old. The park and tree were named after Colonel Armstrong who was Union Colonel during the Civil War and who ended up purchasing the old growth redwood groves after he moved to CA. This is a definite place to visit and I will bring my daughter back here.
I loved this trip but once I returned home I was so exhausted from all the activities and a little bit hung over that I now need to rest.