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Take me home...California 2001California 2001 Part OneCalifornia 2001 Part TwoCalifornia 2001 Part ThreeCalifornia 2001 Part Four

 California 2001 - Part One

This is a TR for a trip to the Northern California Wine Country I took with my friends Jennifer & John Conger and Kathy & Marc Butler. After imbibing for three days I flew to Orange County to spend the rest of the week with Mom and Dad.

Mondavi Winery - KMB Photo

Thursday, 16 August, 2001 - Philadelphia - San Francisco
I went to work in the morning and got things cleaned up and in some semblance of order before leaving. Luckily at this time of year things are pretty quiet in the office so there shouldn't be too much going on next week. Around 1:00, I grabbed a cab to the airport and checked in for the flight to San Francisco. John Conger was out in San Francisco on business earlier this week; Jennifer, Kathy and Marc were flying out from Philadelphia later in the afternoon.

We landed around 4:45 PDT and I caught a cab into the city. It got a little backed up approaching downtown but I got to the hotel around a quarter to six. We're staying at the Hotel Metropolis which is in the "Tenderloin District" downtown. It is one of the up and coming areas, with a bit of a rough edge about it - two blocks from either the upscale business hotels and trendy restaurants and the Triple XXX Peep Shows. My room is small but clean and modern chic.

The plan was that John, Jennifer and I would have a late dinner after her flight got in, and Marc & Kathy would join us at a bar whenever they arrived. I left John a message at his room, and around 6:15 he called and said that Jennifer's plane was delayed and she wouldn't get in until after midnight, so we went to dinner early. We went to Farallon, a very trendy seafood restaurant with an undersea motif - tres Disney. They gave us a lovely "amuse bouche" - a very small mug of a creamy legume soup. We had tuna carpacchio and foie gras to start and veal and stuffed quail for our entrees along with a nice Merlot. We each had a glass of dessert wine and the waiter gave us little spoons of chocolate mousse. Yum!

We decided to find another bar in which to wait for Kathy and Marc - just up the street was a Morton's of Chicago, so we went there. We ordered 1997 Silver Oak Cabernet and had just about finished it when Marc and Kathy arrived. They hadn't eaten so they ordered scallops and a steak and 1997 Jordan Cabernet. Jennifer called around midnight - she had just arrived at the airport, so we headed back to the hotel and agreed to meet in the lobby at 8:30 in the morning.

Friday, 17 August, 2001 - San Francisco - Napa/Sonoma
I got up early and had a croissant and coffee and packed up my stuff. We all checked out and got our cars - John had a white Jeep Cherokee and Marc & Kathy had a Malibu sedan. We went through the city and crossed the Golden Gate Bridge. Jennifer had made an appointment for us to tour Spottswoode Winery and we were running a bit behind, so we called to let them know we would be a few minutes late.

Spottswoode is a family-owned winery in St Helena (middle of Napa Valley). There were six other people on the tour and they were already there, sampling the Spottswoode Sauvignon Blanc. We joined in and our guide, Paige, showed us their new on-premises wine-making and storage facility. We tried a barrel-sample of their 2000 Cabernet Sauvignon - delicious - and then went back to the veranda where we tried the 1998 Cab. I bought the 1993 Spottswoode Cabernet when I visited the winery in 1996, and John and I agreed to split a case of the 1998.

Pennsylvania is a difficult state for shipping wines - the alcohol imports are controlled by the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and they do not allow direct shipments to consumers from wineries. Some wineries have relationships with third party shippers and will make arrangements for their customers; others require that the buyers take the wine with them and arrange their own shipping. Luckily, Spottswoode is able to ship to Pennsylvania, so we paid for the wine and continued up the valley.

Spottswood Winery - KMB Photo

Spottswood Garden - KMB Photo

Picnic at V. Sattui Winery - KMB Photo

It was 11:30 when we left, so we stopped at Dean & Deluca's gourmet shop to buy lunch. We bought cheeses, pates, bread, olives, fruit, water and an inexpensive (but quite tasty) Estate Baccala Merlot. We crossed the street to V. Sattui winery and had a lovely lunch on their picnic grounds, studiously ignoring the upteen signs telling us not to bring outside food or wine to the picnic grounds.

After lunch we decided to redistribute the driving arrangements: the guys in one car, the girls in the other. We kept wondering who the guys in the pastel shirts were in the car behind us...

Rainbows All Around Us - KLM Photo

Marc, avec Chapeau - KLM Photo

We headed across the valley to the Silverado Trail and visited several wineries:

Duckhorn - Tasted several wines there for a small charge. They had a nice Merlot and a rather interesting wine called "Paraduxx", a play on the Duckhorn name and the fact that it is a blend of Zinfandel and Cabernet grapes.
Frog's Leap - they only offer pre-arranged tours and did not have any availability until Monday, but the woman at the tasting room was kind enough to give us each a glass of their Chardonnay - very tasty. The winery is on the site of an former frog farm that provided frogs' legs to the restaurants in San Francisco. They have a good sense of humor - their motto is, "Time's fun when you're having flies," and their corks are all imprinted with the word, "RIBBIT."

Kathy & Marc at Frog's Leap - KMB Photo

Frog's Leap Grapes - KMB Photo

Fish Pond at Frog's Leap - KLM Photo

John at Frog's Leap - KLM Photo

Plumpjack - a beautiful winery with some nice Cabernets. We all decided to split a case, but they do not ship to Pennsylvania, so we took it with us to ship ourselves. Plumpjack has a new restaurant in San Francisco called Plumpjack Cafe that sounds wonderful - maybe we'll try it next time. We also found some cute license plates in the parking lot:

License Plates with Winos - KLM Photo

Wine Hag - KLM Photo

Silver Oak Tasting Room - KMB Photo

Caymus Patio - KMB Photo

Silver Oak - they only make one kind of wine here - Cabernet Sauvignon. The tasting charge was $10, but they gave us the etched wine glasses. Jennifer talked one of the tour guides into letting go back and see the beautiful tasting room/cave.
Caymus - We stopped in, but they didn't have any tours available and wouldn't let us taste anything, although if we bought a bottle they would give us glasses and let us drink on their lovely patio. We decided to push on.
Pine Ridge - We stopped in here and tasted their wines, but compared to the other wines we had today, these were not in the ballpark. Highlight of the visit: the swingset!

Pine Ridge Barrels - KMB Photo

Kathy at Pine Ridge - KLM Photo

Swingin' at Pine Ridge - KLM Photo

Stag's Leap - Another nice producer of Cabernet, and we split a case of that as well, taking it with us to ship along with the Plumpjack.

Most of the wineries close at 5:00 or 5:30, so we headed west to Sonoma Valley where we are staying. We stopped at Amigo's Mexican Restaurant in Sonoma for a great, filling dinner. We headed up the valley to Santa Rosa and found our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express. A young man was working the front desk and joked with us - we dubbed him "Sparky." As we checked in, Jennifer's friend Vicky drove up. She lives in Sunnyvale, south of San Francisco, so she came over to tour with us for the weekend. John and Marc "rocked the pool" and we brought a bottle of the Stag's Leap Cabernet out for an after-dinner refreshment. In retrospect, after all the wine we had that day, the quality of the Stag's Leap was pretty much lost on us at that point!