June 2, 2012 – We decided to go to one more winery, and picked St Francis Winery & Vineyards. The wine wasn’t bad, but the atmosphere was much closer to Dry Creek Vineyards (obviously focused on selling the wine, very stilted and off-putting). We were so unimpressed that we sought out one last vineyard, this time in Sonoma Valley. Along the way we drove through Sonoma; admittedly it was Saturday morning, but it was still before noon and traffic was already getting very crowded. The town streets are lined with upscale and boutique storefronts, and parking was already at a premium. Overall we were very glad we decided to forgo Napa and Sonoma and instead head towards the lesser-known areas.
Bartholomew Park Winery is located on a hillside, on land which is now a public park. The road in is narrow, winding and shaded, and quite pretty. Picnic tables are scattered in a clearing overlooking the vineyards, and the tasting room is connected to a museum describing the history of the vineyard, as well as an overview of growing grapes. We each went with our own glasses, and are glad we did. The room was a bit crowded, but there was still space at the bar. There was also a bachelorette party in the museum area; they may have been making up songs to go with the different types of wine. The tasting included all of their different varieties, all of which are only sold at the winery. This was the first winery where we both liked all of their wines, and was probably our favorite experience overall. They also had very nice tasting notes to go with the wine, which I found helpful in training my palate to pick out the different flavor components. After enjoying the wine we walked through the museum, learning about different techniques to trim grapes and different soil types along the way.
After the wine stop we headed back through the outskirt of town and stopped for lunch at Sonoma’s Best, a little grocery store/deli. We got some cheese and thin rice crackers as an appetizer; the crackers were good (rosemary) but a little too thin to hold up to the cheese, which was a spreadable, slightly tart white with traces of ash (from smoke) in it. The cheese was interesting, but not necessarily our style. The giant bowl of minestrone soup and meatloaf sandwich, however, were right up our alley.
What trip to CA would be complete without a little bit of technology? We made a quick stop to go check out the TWiT Brick House Studios, appropriately located in a converted brick store front. We weren’t able to get inside, but did unashemedly peer through the window and spot Leo Laporte recording the Tech Guy podcast.
The rest of the afternoon was spent getting back to the coast. Along the way we stopped at the Rouge et Noir Cheese Factory to sample some brie and pick up two snacks for the road: a lemon bar and a a mixed berry bar. Both were excellent, and made perfect dessert treats during the afternoon.
We also passed a really pretty little body of water, the Nicasio Reservoir. Once we got back to the coast we went to Point Reyes National Seashore; the weather inland was pretty, but as soon as we got towards the coast it became foggy, overcast, drizzly and fairly windy. We were originally planning to walk up to a lighthouse, but the 1/2+ mile trip didn’t sound too appealing with the cold wind and rain. Instead we drove back towards Muir Beach, a scenic and quieter area of the coast. It was still fairly chilly there, though (the Bay area seemed to be in the high 60s during the day and mid 40s during the night over the course of the trip). So what else to do? Get dinner. At Fish.
Fish may be one of our favorite restaurants near San Francisco. It’s by the water, fresh, sustainable, and has great food; bonus – they also have parking. We ordered and got seats at the bar overlooking the kitchen, kind of like a chef’s table. We like to split a variety of different items, so we can sample more things. This time we went with the crab roll and regular fries, fresh fish with house made noodles with garlic butter, and a single raw oyster on the half shell. The oyster was for Louisa, since Tony didn’t seem quite as keen on trying it. Surprisingly, she really liked it – the oyster was slightly sweet and very tender (not at all chewy), the bit of ocean water in the shell added a nice bit of salt and the squite of lemon over the time simply helped enhance all the flavors. The crab roll was also very good, with lots of large pieces of crab. The regular fries were pre-frozen; we definitely recommend getting the thick cut steak fries if you want french fries. The fresh fish (sturgeon) and house made pasta are always fantastic. That evening we stayed at Hilton SFO Airport Bayfront; our room was on a high floor, and we had a view of the airport in the distance.
June 3, 2012 – We had an early flight the next morning, and got to the airport and through security before 6am. Our terminal had a little food court, and we enjoyed a breakfast pizza (pizza with cheese, fried egg and bacon) from the Firewood Cafe. The plane was a bit late getting out, but we made decent time to Boston and got in about 30 minutes behind schedule.