The roads stretched out in front of us, winding from one winery to another. There was a winery at every corner as we drove into Sonoma, our first stop on the wine tour.
If you’re a wine aficionado visiting the valley area, you’ll probably be recommended a tour of the Californian wine country. It would be unwise to leave without a customary visit around this wine producing region, responsible for producing 90% of all US wine.
The day actually began on a gloomy note. Our guide for the day, Vlad, a Russian settled in San Francisco, assured us that it would not be long before the weather cleared and the sun shone down on us. And he was right.
As soon as we reached the outskirts of the city across the Golden Gate bridge, the skies cleared and magically the sun was out. We were quite cheerful already. To which Vlad added that we shouldn’t rejoice too early, as we would probably have trouble find our way back by the end of the tour.
We started with the Viansa winery. It was tourist season (and a long weekend) so there were droves of tourists ahead of us. Vlad warned us. He also said he would try and ensure we could avoid the rush by getting there a little earlier than the other tour buses. But then everyone was thinking the same way.
Viansa is lodged on slight incline and before us lay the wide expanse of the vineyard. Rows and rows of grape vines, all neatly trimmed, were quite a sight. We enjoyed the rather warm weather and picked up our first set of wines. I liked a rose, which I decided was going to be my first purchase of the day and it wasn’t a bad choice (it was polished off quickly on my return).
After going through the wine shop and finishing our tasting there, we headed to the Jacuzzi winery. We had now travelled from Sonoma valley, into the adjoining Napa valley. And yes, this turned out to be the same family which patented the jacuzzi. And if that wasn’t a lucrative enough invention, they now run a winery. So you might not be able to afford a jacuzzi in house, but you could probably afford a bottle of their wine!
I liked some of their offerings — though it was quite a fight to get some space at the tasting tables. If the jostling wasn’t enough, you also had to content with a wine glass in your hand and others pushing against you while you tried to take a sip. I survived though, thanks to all the fortification of the different wines and with another bottle in my basket, I went outside to enjoy the beautiful garden of the winery.
We realized that we weren’t having any luck dodging the crowds by now.
Time flies, when you’re sipping wine on a lazy Sunday afternoon enjoying the warm California sun and winery hopping. Soon after, we were transported to a little picture perfect town called “Yountsville”. The only problem was that finding seating at a restaurant as a “single” traveller was quite challenging! I decided to venture out into a bakery instead and after a long queue, managed to get myself a bite, which I enjoyed on one of the many lawns.
After an hour or so, we were headed towards our third stop of the day; this one being a “kosher” winery called Hagafen. By now, I was leaning heavily towards the whites – cabernet, savignon, chenin etc. Vlad kept us entertained with a ongoing commentary about Californian wines and by then, a lot of the conversation was beginning to sound like a pleasant droning in the background.
Our last stop for the day was the Andretti winery. It’s claim to fame – it was started by the formula one race driver Mario Andretti and it was probably one of the most picturesque locations of them all.
By this time, everyone was quite happy (the wine definitely had something to do with it). Our shopping baskets were full. I was contemplating how many bottles I’d have to drink to avoid carting my load back to India.
Vlad packed us into bus for our journey back and announced that he would now leave us to enjoy the after taste. No more commentary from him. We enjoyed some peace and quiet on the return, under a wine induced coma (albeit a pleasant one), passing by expanses of vineyards, trying to enjoy as much of the sun as we could before passing into the fog-laden harbours of San Francisco.
It was a far cry from our morning moods when we had left the city under a pall of clouds and fog.
For one, we were all definitely in high spirits.
Wine tours from SFO: The more reasonable ones cost around 80–100 dollars. Take your time and do a bit of research first. Read the fine tune. Many of them charge for every tasting. Many of them are all inclusive. I personally preferred the latter so it removes the hassles of reaching out for change every time you reach a place. Most of the wine tours will pick you up from your location in SFO.
– Green Dream Tours: I wanted to try this green tour, but it was already booked
– Wine Train: The wine train sounds really interesting and I would definitely do this if I had company!