How Wine Country Looks in Fall
The ultimate wine country getaway is the city of Bordeaux. It is the gateway to one of the most exciting wine country destinations in the world. Wine lovers, you must visit this great French city.
In the artsy photo, we see beautiful clusters of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. More than likely these grape clusters will be picked by the end of September. By all accounts, the growing season for all grapes in the Napa Valley has been in the normal category. These Cabernet grapes are in a secluded area of the St. Helena AVA. It is a small vineyard and family-owned. The resulting Cabernet Sauvignon will sell from upwards of $100 a bottle.
I shot this photo on August 30, 2018. I used a Lightroom Plugin to create the artsy look to the picture.
We love this backroad intersection in wine country. It is in the Alexander Valley AVA on Highway 116. It reminds us of how lucky we are to live close to the area where we have two of the greatest wine regions in the world, the Napa Valley and Sonoma. Which road should we take? If we head to Calistoga, we will travel through the beautiful AVA of Knights Valley along Highway 116. The drive leads to the Northern end of the Napa Valley. From there we can go south to the town of Napa along either the Silverado Trail or Highway 29. Both roads parallel the Napa Valley floor.
If we head towards the town of Healdsburg, we travel through small backroads of the Chalkhill AVA. Healdsburg is the gateway to the West Sonoma area. It includes the wine regions of Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley, Russian River Valley and more.
Either choice is excellent. Napa Valley is smaller and denser. West Sonoma is large and more diverse. Napa Valley is famous for Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. West Sonoma is famous for Zinfandel, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc. Because this Sonoma Area is vast, the climate changes are significant from one AVA to the next. Happy Travels!
A wine country getaway to Sonoma County and Healdsburg would not be complete without a stop at the funky Jimtown Store in the Alexander Valley on Highway 128. It is one of the most popular places for stocking up a deli lunch and picnic supplies. Carrie Brown and her late husband John Werner purchased the historic Jimtown Store many years ago and turned it into a landmark destination.
Whenever we are in Healdsburg, we always make a stop at the Jimtown Store for our picnic lunch. We enjoy perusing the store and never mind waiting while the staff prepares our order. One of our greatest life pleasures is to picnic and sip wine among the vineyards. The Alexander Valley is one of the most beautiful settings in any wine country in any part of the world. Traveling along Highway 128 are many options for wine tasting and picnicking. Most of the wineries along this route have picnic facilities. The tasting rooms, for the most part, are low key, casual, and fun.
To get to the JImtown Store from Healdsburg head north on Healdsburg Avenue and make a right turn onto Highway 128. Within a few miles, you will come to the Jimtown Store. Here is a link to the Carrie Brown’s Jimtown Cookbook featuring the delightful concoctions available at the Jimtown Store.
This scene is of Sonoma County’s beautiful Russian River Valley AVA. The vineyards are most likely Pinot Noir grapes. I shot this photo from Westside Road, a few miles to the east where Westside Road ends at River Road. The Russian River (which flows from Mendocino County through Sonoma County), plus the breeze and fog supplied by the Pacific Ocean, provide the perfect climate for growing Pinot Noir grapes and Chardonnay grapes. There are many excellent producers of high-end Pinot Noir in this region. To discover these wineries, take a ride from the town of Healdsburg to Westside Road. It is a dandy wine country backroad drive. Pack a lunch or stop on River Road at the Korbel Winery deli. Even better, head to the resort town of Guerneville. Guerneville has some fantastic and unusual stores and restaurants. It is also the location of Armstrong Grove State Park. Take the lovely nature hike trail, and you will be awed and inspired by the breathtaking Coastal Redwood Trees. Bring home a few bottles of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to open and contemplate this famous wine region of California.
Here we are in an old vine vineyard in the St. Helena AVA. It’s February and temperatures are in the mid 70’s. The wild mustard looks radiant, surrounding the old vine. The vineyard is not marked, but the old vine is either Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon. Although we have little rainfall, the wild mustard in the Napa Valley is one of the best seasons in recent memory. Take a ride to the Napa Valley and experience one of nature’s delights.
The long anticipated wait is over. Napa’s downtown biggest hotel has opened. The Archer Hotel Napa began taking guests at the end of November of 2017. A rooftop restaurant and retail shops will open in early 2018. For current dining, the Archer Hotel Napa has Charlie Palmer Steak on the lobby floor. The Archer Napa is a luxury hotel with a spectacular interior. The months of December and January are the quietest months in the Napa Valley. Check the Archer Hotel Napa room rates, and just maybe the hotel will offer some specials during this time of the year. See additional lodging in the town of Napa.
One of the most popular dining spots in the Napa Valley is the Rutherford Grill. The lunch crowd includes locals, vintners and tourists. Bring a bottle of Napa Valley wine, no corkage. The Rutherford Grill has menu items that have become cult-like. These include the cornbread, the rotisserie chicken and butternut squash enchiladas. We now can add the Rutherford Grill Veggie Burger to the list. We dined at this cozy restaurant last Friday, and we all agreed the veggie burger is delicious. It almost looks like a regular hamburger. In fact, our waitperson told us that very often when she brings the veggie burger to the table, the customer reacts with “I ordered a veggie burger, not a hamburger.” The Hillstone Restaurant Group that owns the Rutherford Grill is very secretive about their recipes. One can Google “Hillstone secret recipes” and likely discover what amounts to a very close match to the real recipe.
The Rutherford Grill is at 1180 Rutherford Road in Rutherford. It is on the corner but easy to miss driving along HIghway 29. If you do not have a reservation, prepare to wait a significant time outside in the lovely garden. Of course, that is a good excuse to order a glass of wine. In Yountville, the Rutherford Gill has a sister restaurant, also very popular, the R & D Kitchen.
The Martin Ray Winery is alive and well despite the Wine Country Fires. This area was far from the main fires. The Martin Ray Winery is one of those “Under the Radar” wineries. It does not have the fame as many of the other wineries, but it is one of the best wineries in this area to visit. Why, the wines are excellent, reasonable in price, and the setting is fantastic. It is one of our favorite picnic spots in all of wine country. It is off the beaten path tucked away among the backroads of the Russian River Valley. The address is 2191 Laguna Road, in Santa Rosa. It is quiet and peaceful and surrounded by vineyards. See the Martin Ray Website for the “Experiences” available for visitors. We like to do a basic tasting and purchase a white or Rosé wine to go with our picnic lunch. It is a very relaxing.