For my 31st birthday, I couldn't decide what I wanted to do. Gathering all my friends at a loud bar doesn't have the same ring as it did when I was 21. People told me I would slow down at some point, but I think I've just figured out better use of my time. ;-) So Josh and I decided to explore wine country!
Getting to Wine Country from Los Angeles
We just did a weekend getaway leaving late Friday night and coming back late Sunday afternoon. Since it was a such a quick trip, we decided to stay in Santa Rosa and Napa instead of San Francisco.
Oakland had cheaper and more desirable flights times on Southwest, so of course we used points and our companion pass that we earned with points. We got a decent rate on a rental car from Alamo and by 9:30p on Friday night, we were on the crazy rainy road to Santa Rosa.
There was a toll bridge for $5 which was well worth not driving the extra hour or so that google maps suggested to avoid toll roads. It took us about an hour to get to Santa Rosa from Oakland (not bad)!
Third Street Ale Works
610 3rd St, Santa Rosa, CA 95404
We drove straight to the Third Street Aleworks for a bite to eat (and a maybe beer). It reminded me of a grungier BJ's, with a bigger selection of their own brews made in-house. For a little over $20 they brought out their taster collection of 18 beers in 4-ounce glasses. I, of course, liked the IPA's and made Josh drink everything else, especially the sours.
Where to Stay in Santa Rosa
Hyatt Vineyard Creek
170 Railroad Street, Santa Rosa, California, USA, 95401
We checked into our hotel for the night, the Hyatt Vineyard Creek. Seemed like it had been renovated recently and the lobby had a lodge feel with a beautiful Christmas tree in the center of the room. The hotel rooms were merlot colored (the couch, the drapes) and beds were pretty comfortable. Had a perfect night sleep for a full day of drinking.
Russian River Brewery
725 4th St, Santa Rosa, CA 95404
The next day, we were contemplating on going to breakfast or getting in line for the Russian River Brewery. We went RRB! Business opens at 11a and there was already a line for people to run in and get their Pliny the Elder supply for the weekend. We couldn't decide what beers to get so we decided to taste them all (it was cheapest that way, at least that's how we looked at it). It's 5 o'clock somewhere.
We consumed Pliny the Elder, Belgian Sours, IPAs, all before noon!
After some tasters, some pizza bites (they were so good), and a purchase of 12 bottles or so, we left satisfied and happy.
NOTE: we brought bubble wrap and a wine travel case to bring back on the flight, which meant we had to check our carry-on but it was worth it!
Santa Rosa Wineries
See our full post of our favorite Sonoma County Wineries here: Best Wineries to Visit in Sonoma
Paradise Ridge Winery
4545 Thomas Lake Harris Dr, Santa Rosa, CA 95403
Update March 2018: The Kenwood location is open as the estate rebuilds from the Tubbs 2017 fire.
I wanted to try a place in Santa Rosa I had never heard of before and it seemed Paradise Ridge was not only close but picturesque and had great wines! I enjoyed their Sauvignon Blanc (fresh, fruity, crisp) and Zinfandel (earthy red), the most. The grounds were beautiful and had funky statues everywhere.
I was obsessed with their fireplaces especially the burning love. OH, I GET IT!
It was a grey day and the vines were starting to turn their fall colors, but still a lovely view!
KORBEL Champagne Cellars
13250 River Rd, Guerneville, CA 95446
Afterwards, we went to my favorite place in the land of a trillion bubbles, Korbel Champagne Cellars. Apparently, their Natural champagne has been served at the celebratory presidential inaugurations since 1981 and the actual winery has been in existence for over 132 years.
Korbel offers 4 complimentary champagne tastings. Beware of their red Rouge champagne. It's different. They even have an organic champagne!
In their large tasting room, I enjoyed my champers by the fireplace and Christmas tree, of course!
They also offer tours but we didn't really care to walk around the grounds for hours, we had other places to explore and it was getting dark fast.
5007 Fulton Road, Fulton, CA 95439
Our next stop was the Kendall-Jackson Winery. We almost skipped it but it's one of my Dad's favorite wines, we had to get him a bottle or something for Christmas. We stepped up to start tasting and looked at all their different options. We explained to our host how we'd like to get a special bottle and he recommended the Stature Chardonnay which was $100 a bottle and probably the best Chardonnay I've ever had. Compared to their everyday Chardonnay the Stature was smooth, fruity and had a rich taste. We ended up buying a bottle for my Dad and signed him up for their wine club for the year!
Josh and I are a bigger fan of red wine, especially Cabernet Sauvignon, so we asked what was the best of the 8 or so that they offered. Of course their Stature version was the best, but we were looking for a more affordable price point. We ended up loving the Hawkeye Cabernet which had a deep cherry taste with some Earth taste to give it full body. We ended up liking it so much and because we signed up for the wine club, we bought 6 bottles and 2 of the Stature!
It was getting dark and late, so we drove to our hotel in Napa to take a nap-a. Haha ;-)
Where to Stay in Downtown Napa Valley:
River Terrace Inn - A Noble House Hotel
1600 Soscol Ave Napa, California, 94559
The location of the River Terrace Inn was perfect. Located in downtown Napa valley, we were walking distance from restaurants and shopping, and also along the river. The only problem was the walls of the room were a little thin, but if you have enough wine, you won't notice. Also, the hotel lobby was under major construction, renovations should be completed by early 2017. They had a great outdoor area with wine and fire pits!
Restaurants in Napa, California
Since we were in Napa for less than 24 hours we didn't have a chance to try too many places, but really enjoyed these 2 spots:
1140 Main St, Napa, CA 94559
We had some time to kill and decided to have some pre-dinner drinks and appetizers. Their wine selection was full of great choices including many from the local wineries and their food was very farm to table from local farmers prepared in an open kitchen that is part of the restaurant. We sat at the bar and enjoyed some cocktails, jamon (cured ham) and cheese.
COLE'S CHOP HOUSE
1122 Main St, Napa, CA 94559
Ribeye steaks topped with sides of a delicious Red Wine Veal Reduction sauce and the Peppercorn Sauce along with a side of Yukon Gold Mashed potatoes, were the ticket here.
Not to mention a very sweet Birthday dessert - brownie sundae with caramel gelato. Mmmmm.
1122 1st St, Napa, CA 94559
For brunch, we went somewhere to get a big breakfast and we were successful. Jax had amazing beignets covered with powdered sugar as well as free tater tots if you showed the coupon on Yelp. So we got both of course on top of their special of the day on the chalkboard: Bacon Eggs Benedict (which you would think you couldn't have enough bacon, this was a little over the top, delicious but filling).
We also got the French toast bites but they were more of a crouton consistency instead of bread like.
You're probably thinking, how many people came to breakfast? Oh, just the two of us. Smart thing we did was take some of the food to go to eat after wineries. ;-)
Driving Through Napa
Castello di Amorosa
4045 Helena Highway, Calistoga, CA 94515
Castello di Amorosa was our first Napa Winery and it looked like a castle from a fairy tale. There were chickens and goats everywhere. We wanted to walk around the grounds, but unfortunately, you have to pay an admission ticket even if you are the designated driver. The price to get in to not drink was the same price as if you were drinking. Since I was the only one that would do a tasting it didn't seem like it was worth $70+ that day.
The tour seemed worth it if we had more time: Reserve a tour with a guide through the Castello, including the lower levels which feature our Torture Chamber, Armory, and Grand Barrel Room, followed by a tasting flight. Of course the torture chamber and armory semi appealed to us, we will definitely come back to this one.
Del Dotto Venetian Estate Winery
1445 St Helena Hwy, St Helena, CA 94574
Had to make a reservation for this one, but since it was December and not too crowded I called a coupe of hours before and was able to get a reservation. The tasting was more expensive than other vineyards, it was $45 per person, at least it included cheese, bread and olive oil! To get into their gorgeous Venetian caves the tour with barrel tasting is $75.
The wines were good, but I think they were overpriced. The tasting room is beautiful decked out with venetian paintings, tiling, marble pillars and expensive wines.
1 California Dr, Yountville, CA 94599
This was our last stop of the day and I love my bubbles! I felt like I had tasted most of the champagnes Chandon had to offer, but our bartender had a special drink he makes that tastes like apple cider.
I also loved their wall of Champagne bottles.
After this the trip was over and it was time to head to Oakland airport for our 7p flight. I was sad that it was over but had a wonderful birthday weekend! Thanks, Josh! :)
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