Fall Wine Tour

Tony and Mary’s Fall Wine Tour

AKA “Swillin’ and Chillin’

Mary and I decided to go to her family reunion in Sacramento and decided to make a vacation out of it. We will be spending a couple of days with her family and then going to Napa for a day. After that we are heading to the Western side of the Sierra Nevada’s to cruise the Gold and Wine Country. We will be going through Yosemite and Sequoia National Parks. We are staying in B&B’s except for 2 nights in regular hotels.

Day 1

Last night we drove to L.A. to Mary’s Sister’s house. Today we made the drive to their Brother, John’s, house in Roseville outside of Sacramento. We decided to stop at Harris Ranch in Coalinga for lunch. Imagine 3 vegetarians and 1 meat eater at a premium slaughterhouse for lunch. There was one thing on the menu for us, veggie burgers. It took them forever to get lunch to us. We figured that they forgot where they kept the veggie patties. i must say that it was one of the best veggie burgers that I have had. They probably basted it with meat drippings.. We got back on the Interstate 5 for the boring 3 hour drive to Roseville.

We went to a really nice place for dinner called La Provence – We did the full cocktails, appetizers, entree, dessert, and after-dinner drink thing. I was very impressed with the food and the service.

Day 2

John and his wife Jamie live in a really nice new house. Jamie works for the builder JMC Homes and was able to modify their home as it was being built. They are in the outskirts of Sacramento. Their community, Morgan Greens, is surrounded by wetlands and woodlands. We took a long walk this morning through them. We walked through the country club, Morgan Creek, and toured some other JMC model homes. Along the way we passed over a bridge above the creek and saw about a dozen wild turkeys.

This afternoon their other Brother, Doug, and his partner Fred came in with John’s Daughter, Cassie, came in from the San Francisco Bay Area. We all caught up with each other and then broke into groups. Some went boating on the river, others went to a local casino, some of us stayed and watched football. Tonight will be a big barbeque get-together.

We all had a great time telling lies about how well we are doing. We got munched by mosquitoes and had beer, wine, and
margaritas to ease the pain. We managed to avoid any family fights until the political conversation bright and early on Sunday

Day 3

We drove to Napa in the late morning. It is only a 90 minute trip. A friend of ours,Carlo, who is in the restaurant/wine business set us up with a couple of appointments with wineries. The first was Darioush. The is built by a man from Iran. He built the winery to look like a Persian Temple. The tile was imported from Iran. It is a first-class winery that handcrafts their wine. Our guide, Renee, took us on a tour of the fields and winery. We tasted Cabernet grapes right from the vine. She then sat us at a ‘private’ table and presented their wines to us.

The next stop was Franciscan. Here Carlo had set us up with a complimentary Blending Seminar. This is where you take 5 different varietals of wine and blend them into your own ‘blend’ – Lee was our teacher, he also grows his own grapes and makes his own wines. After the class he poured us glasses of Sauvignon Blanc and took us out to the vineyard to taste the sauvignon blanc grape right off the vine while tasting the finished product. It was a great experience.

We then headed down the Napa Valley to find our B&B. Tonight we are staying at the Beazley House in downtown Napa. This is a 100 year-old house. There is no TV in the room, only wireless Internet. This is great because Mary can read her book and I can wear out the keys on this notebook. I did introduce Mary to YouTube.com

The people here sent us to a local’s restaurant called Ristorante Allegria. What a find! The Beazley House had called ahead and we were treated very well. They gave us a complimentary appetizer of fried polenta with marinara and blue cheese crumbles. They had my favorite pasta, Parpardella, which is very hard to find. The only problem was that they served it with dead animals on it. They said “Have it your way!” and fixed it with a spicy marinara sauce with artichoke hearts, red peppers, tomatoes, and broccoli. unbelievable. Mary had a Mushroom Ravioli with/Shrimp that she said was incredible. If you are ever in Downtown Napa, stop here. After dinner we strolled through the downtown area and headed back to the Beazley House.

Day 4

We woke up to the smell of coffee and Tomato-Herb Frittata wafting through the room. We went down to breakfast and met a nice couple from Houston and talked of all things wine.

We then hit the road to a town called Placerville in El Dorado County. Our first stop was a winery called Boeger. We had been here 10 years ago but they are all grown up. We were served by Matthew who was a local. He knows everybody and choreographed our day for us.

From here Matthew sent us to see Ann at Woffard Wine. This winery is on top of the world. They have a view forever. Ann took very good care of us. She found out where we were staying and gave us a very nice bottle of wine to give to the Innkeepers.

From here we went to Rainbow Orchards, which Matthew is somehow related to. Here we had freshly-cooked apple, cinnamon doughnuts. They were great!

The next stop was Primus Vineyards. Here we got to go in the back and taste some Merlot and Syrah right from the barrel. They were in the middle of their grape crush so it was exciting.

We decided that it was time to put some real food in our belly’s so we headed back to town. We walked through Hangtown and found a locals diner that served black bean veggie patties with freshly sauteed mushrooms with garlic curly fries.. Yes!!

From here we headed out to The Fudge Factory. Here we had some Mint Swirl Fudge and Praline Fudge. This is all in a place called Apple Hill. They are known for their wine and apples.

We finally gave up and went to check into the Shafsky House. We are staying in the Lighthouse Suite. This is an old B&B just across highway 50 from Hangtown. We got settled and Rita and Stephanie poured us some Pinot Gris to drink. We sat, we drank.. In comes John, a psychologist who stays at the Inn during the week. We sat.. We drank.. All 3 of us went through our life stories for FOUR HOURS. Rita realized that we were never going to go to dinner and brought us out some incredible chesses. There was a goat cheese with jalapeno/habanero jelly that was very good. We had a great time getting to know each other. I floored him with my Malcom-X story.. (ask me sometime..) As I write this Mary is dead on the victorian chaise lounge. Her book and the box of Triscuits is on top of her. Too bad that my camera is out in the car… Crap I found the camera but it woke the Queen up and she went to bed…

Tomorrow I promise to post some pictures…

Day 5

We woke up and had Breakfast at Shafsky House. Rita served us some of the freshest fruit and an asparagus frittata. If you are ever in Placerville you have to stay here.

We cruised through Hangtown went to a cheese store that Rita told us to visit and picked up some basil infused Olive oil. After that we started our drive through the foothills. We will be on an off Highway 49 for 3 days. This is the heart of Gold Country. It has been 10 years since we last visited.

Our first stop was a winery that was a tiny place the last time we were here. Perry Creek is now all grown up. We then went to Granite Springs Winery. This is a small winery that produces some great, moderately-priced wines. While we were there we met Jon Latcham the winemaker and had a nice conversation with him. He also owns Latcham Winery so we headed over there next to try some more of his creations. The rear shocks on the Pathfinder are starting to sag a little bit…

We headed into Sutter Creek for lunch and found a nice locals place the Back Roads Coffee House.

We then headed out to the Sutter Gold Mine where we took a buggy ride deep into a gold mine. What a great experience. We walked through the mine and saw how the miners work. Of course I left my camera on the counter of the ticket counter so I could get no shots of it. What a doofus.

We then headed to the B&B where we will spend the next 2 nights, The Wedgewood Inn. Vic and Jeannine are the hosts here. They built this Victorian Inn 20 years ago after Vic retired from IBM. It has the feel of an old home. The location is incredible. Instead of being right in town, they are located 10 minutes east. They are on 10 acres all by themselves. It is very secluded and quiet. We are staying in the Cameo Room.

We went to dinner at a place called Jose’s Mexican Bar and Grill in Jackson. Here we are in the Sierra Nevada foothills and we have one of the best traditional-style Mexican dinners ever. As soon as you sit down they put an open-face, crispy flour quesadilla in front of you. After that we had Chile Rellenos, Cheese Enchiladas, REAL Tacos (although they were bean tacos) made with a semi-crunchy, freshly-fried tortilla. It was great! I felt right at home since they were also very biker-friendly and there were many motorcycles out front. The familiar smell of motor oil and leather.

We made it back from dinner and Mary is reading on the bed moaning about how much she ate and how fat she is. Me, here I sit on the notebook blogging away. I was good today I only worked for a couple of hours. I sure know how to vacation…

Now, on to the photos that I promised.. OK Here are the pictures – Click Here

Day 6

We woke up and had breakfast at the Wedgewood Inn. We met a couple from Australia who are in California for a 3 week holiday and another couple from Santa Rosa. We had a great breakfast and had a fun time talking to our fellow guests.

Today we drove through the towns of Volcano, Fiddletown, Drytown, Amador City,San Andreas, Angels Camp, and Murphy’s.

We started out our wine tasting adventure in Amador County. We first visited Montevina Winery in Plymouth, we had been here 10 years ago and they have grown up. They are now owned by Sutter Home and are a major producer. We are not sure if this was good for the wines that they produce.

Our next stop was Karly Winery in Plymouth. This is a small family-owned winery that has not changed a bit. Their wines are still awesome and they are very friendly.

The people at Karly recommended that we visit Sobon Estate in Plymouth. This is one of the oldest wineries in the state. They have some very old vines and very nice wines.

We then drove South to Calaveras County for lunch and then more tasting. Here we stopped at Stevenot Winery and Ironstone Vineyards in the little town of Murphy’s. This is a great little out-of –the-way hill town. Stevenot is tucked away about 20 minutes from town.

We put in a lot of miles (and wineries) today and headed back to the Wedgewood Inn. We were too pooped to go out to dinner so Jeannine set us up with a goodie tray and we hung out in our room.

Day 7

We are the only guests at the Wedgewoon Inn today so they fixed us breakfast in the sun room – fresh fruit & cheese blintzes. What a great way to start the day.

As the morning went on I realized that my back is screwed.. Must have been caused by hauling cases of wine around. We loaded up and hit the road. We went down highway 49 to Murphys and visited Chatom Vineyards. This was to be the last of the wineries of this trip. It was well worth the visit. A little wine with my Aleve and I forgot that my back hurt.

We went through Sonora, Jamestown, Groveland, on our way to Yosemite National Park. Yosemite was as magnificent as the first time we saw it. Since it is fall there was not much water flowing over the falls. We had lunch in Yosemite Village. After lunch we drove all over the valley and hiked down to the river bed so that Mary could test her theory that the water was cold. Duh! She was right.. On our way to the South Entrance we decided to take the 30 minute drive to Glacier Point. This drive is well worth it because you can look DOWN on Half Dome from there. You are also directly above the valley floor. I am not a fan of heights but the view was magnificent. Glacier Point sits directly above the valley off a sheer rock cliff.

On our way out of the park we saw 3 deer on the golf course at the Wawona Hotel. They were eating fallen apples right at the edge of the road. It was disgusting watching them slobber. They stood just about 10 feet away. A sign was posted warning people to stay on the other side of the fence because a little boy was recently killed by a deer.

We left the park and headed into Oakhurst to the Days Inn in Oakhurst. This was our first stay of this trip in a hotel. It was fine, a bed for each of us, wireless Internet, free breakfast. This was another night that we were too pooped to go out to eat. Good thing that we have been bulking up with potatoes for lunch. We did have our cooler with cheeses and crackers along with an adequate supply of wine to choose from.