One of our favorite adventures every year is our road trip north to wine country. Over the years, our experiences while visiting Napa and Sonoma have really contributed to our increased appreciation for wine from this area. We have always talked about expanding our trip to explore other California wine regions, and just haven’t…until this year. This year’s road trip was a great mix of old favorites and new discoveries ~ 12 days, 6 wine regions, 30 wineries, historical sites, and beautiful coastal views ~ one incredible adventure!
We frequently have themes associated with our wine trips, either chosen beforehand or they naturally emerge along the way. This trip was no exception. Making stops in Solvang, Paso Robles, Mendocino, Sonoma, Napa, and Lodi, we started seeing a theme about the barrel. In speaking with winemakers and tasting directly from barrels, we learned just how much impact the toasting level, region of origin, and winemaker’s use of the barrel has on the grape. While in Mendocino we were also reminded the impact environmental conditions can have as well. In 2008, a large wild fire ripped across Mendocino County. Unfortunately, the grapes absorbed smoke generated from the fire, which still lingers on the nose of many wines we tasted.
A few years ago, we started taking notes while tasting wines. It’s hard to recall exactly, but I think this habit started more as a way to signal to each other which wines were potential buys, and which ones, well, let’s just say weren’t to our liking. With the number of wineries on the agenda for this trip, it was a necessity. What we didn’t expect was just how rewarding taking notes can be. At several of our stops, taking notes led to ‘off the list’ pours, and discoveries of some terrific wines!
With so many wineries, it was important to take breaks and let the palate recover. We stopped for a tour of Hearst Castle, exploring the grounds and getting an inside look at guest rooms – including the personal bedroom of William Randolph Hearst. The mansion is really a museum for his incredible collections of art and imported furnishings.
We spent several days at one of our favorite spots, Albion. We relaxed by taking in the views from our porch at Albion River Inn, walking along the beach in Elk, and taking a ride through the redwoods on the Skunk Train in Fort Bragg.
An incredibly enjoyable adventure!