I’m excited to share a guest post by one of the most clever and funny people I know. I hope you enjoy Esther’s touring and tasting tips for Sonoma. See if you can figure out what all we have in common and why I adore her so much! I hope she’ll be a regular contributor.
When Lola asked me to write a guest post detailing my recent trip to Sonoma, CA my first thought was panic. Me? Really? I do not travel like Lola. I do not write like Lola. I do not take fake moustaches with me wherever I go either. What could I possibly bring to Lola’s fabulousness that hasn’t already been said? Well, I’m pretty sure I got it figured out. It’s the “practically virginal traveler, who is so psyched to be away from kids and have a perfectly legitimate excuse to drink all day” market. Perhaps a small niche, but hopefully you’ll get some Friend of Lola Verified tips.
I should probably start off by admitting that my knowledge of wine starts and ends with red/white/rose. Maybe a teeny bit more, but you get the picture. Before we even embarked on this journey I was given a somewhat nose-upturning reaction when I mentioned Sonoma. “Oh. You’re not going to Napa?” “What’s the difference?” I responded. Note: If you are currently thinking “Who the hell doesn’t know the difference between Sonoma and Napa, then I’m pretty sure this tale is not for you.”
So, there are my big disclaimers. I don’t travel much. And I don’t know much about wine except drinking lots and lots of it. Let’s move on.
By far the smartest decision made on this trip was to hire Jonathan, owner of Healdsburg Tours to be our guide and driver for the day. Jonathan, you had me at Wine-a-Bay-Go! From email exchanges before we left, Jonathan knew that wine knowledge was minimal, but we were a group that wanted to have some serious fun (while we learned a little too.) When I say Wine-a-Bay-Go I am not kidding. He showed up at our rental property with this beautifully well-appointed Mercedes van armed with ideas for how we would spend our day.
He suggested we start “big” and work our way through some of the lesser-known vineyards. “Yep. Sounds good.” Our first stop was Ferrari-Carano.
This place is heavenly. The grounds. The gardens. The beautiful cellar. The formal tasting rooms. The wow factor was immense. And, while you’ve probably tasted or seen this brand in your favorite restaurants or liquor stores, we opted to try the ones mere mortals rarely taste. Since this was our first stop, we were not familiar the “Join our wine club” mentality. (More on this later.) We bought our bottles and decided to worry about how to get them home later.
(Quick aside…Ferrari-Carano also owns a restaurant in Santa Rosa called John Ash where we enjoyed our first sips upon arrival. Really beautiful property and GREAT happy hour deals on wine and food.)
Here’s the deal about wine clubs. Most of the vineyards are pretty small and do not distribute to the public or even restaurants. The schtick to reel you in is that if you really enjoy the wines you taste, the only way to enjoy them again is to become “members” of the club and receive 1-2 cases of wine a year. “Sign right up” they encourage; and sign up we did.
Our next favorite stop was a veritable smorgasbord of wineries. We decided to do what any lushes would do…divide and conquer and report back on our favorites. Top 3: Trattore, Papapietro Perry and Kokomo — with Kokomo earning top honors because 2 out of 3 couples joined the club — translation, drank the Kool-aid. But yes, we were members. Owners. Family. Proud doesn’t begin to describe it.
And just when we thought the day couldn’t get any better, Jonathan suggested one last stop — which of course turned out to be our favorite. (And not because we had been “tasting” for 5 hours.) Two words. Lambert Bridge. (ok three words because I’m going to add Beth in the mix because she was our absolutely outstanding tasting guide.) We three couples left with heads held high that we were part of the Lambert Bridge experience.
Although our time with Jonathan was coming to a close, his suggestions for what else we should do were honored and enjoyed for the following 2 days.
The next day, needing just a short break from the tasting menus, we ventured to the coast to a spot in Jenner, CA where the Russian River meets the Pacific. There just happens to be a great little restaurant called River’s End with breathtaking views, mouth-watering food, and oh yes, the best Bloody Mary I’ve ever had. (I said we needed a break from wine tasting, not alcohol altogether.) From the fresh horseradish to the perfect pickled green bean garnish, this drink hit the spot. It’s worth the drive for the view and this drink alone.
Lest you think the trip was all alcohol fueled, we managed to visit the beautiful Annadel State Park with trails that accommodated all our cardio needs — from quiet walks, to brisk hikes, to 6-10 mile trail runs. Take a break from the vineyards and visit this place!
Our last day, and Jonathan’s suggestions still lingered. We ventured to the oh-so-quaint town of Healdsburg where the girls could shop and the boys could watch a little NFL. With west coast time zone, games start early, and they happily settled in at Bear Republic Brewing Co. while the ladies stumbled upon a great store, Healdsburg Olive Oil Company where we even managed to do a little pre-holiday shopping. And, speaking of stumbling, oh yes, we ended up at another great winery. Even if you don’t need one more taste of fermented grapes ever again, you need to visit Williamson Winery. First of all, the family owners are from Australia and the charming accents alone make this a fun place. They are also really really smart and pair the wines with different cheeses — I’m pretty sure you can join the cheese club too. Accents, great wine, and cheese oh my! Of course we had to join the club!!
And if you think Lola was not with us in spirit, check out these photos. Fabulous cupcakes and an enviable ‘stache. Lola was missed but certainly not forgotten.
It was a great long-weekend getaway. And should memories begin to fade, I’ll have about 48 bottles a year to remind me how fun it was!
Esther, affectionately known as Queen, is one of Lola’s most favorite people. She enjoys reading about Lola’s fabulous journeys and joining in on adventures whenever possible—especially Miami!