Napa-Sonoma Trip (June 2006)

Jane had business in San Francisco in June with Katherine Halpin of The Halpin Company for whom she does coaching engagements. We decided to extend her trip and take an excursion to the Wine Country. We had not been in the land of the grape for twelve years, when we got engaged at the Monticello Winery in Napa after a balloon ride. This was also the first trip for my new ultra-compact Canon SD600 camera and I wanted to see how the pictures would turn out.

While Jane had her meeting at the Embarcadero Center, I did a bit of wandering in SF. Since we had just been to the city in November, I decided to walk along Columbus Avenue through North Beach and down to Pier 39. It's always fun to take in the sights and smells of all the Italian restaurants along Columbus Ave. The walk also gives you a peek into Chinatown, but I didn't have time to explore there.

At Pier 39, I went out on the pier to try and get some more pictures and short movies of the sea lions that reside there. In November they were right at the pier itself so that you could easily photograph them and watch their antics. Now they have moved off of the closest platforms and are somewhat less visible though still noisy.

After getting a few pictures and clips, Jane called to say that her meeting had finished. I caught a streetcar back to the Ferry Terminal to meet Jane and Katherine for lunch. Then we headed for the Caltrain station and the ride back to San Jose where we were staying.

The next day (Friday) we headed up the Skyline Drive between San Jose and SF. There were low clouds and fog along the route so the vistas weren't good for pictures. We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and headed up the coast on Hwy 1. We ate lunch in Bodega Bay and stopped at several beach parks to look at the Pacific and try to spot some seals or sea lions. We read that Goat Rock Park had a colony of seals. However, when we got down to the beach, the seals were pretty far away and there were signs and a rope that prevented us from getting closer.

At Jenner, we turned east across the River Road which follows the Russian River into Healdsburg. From Healdsburg we headed up US 101 to Cloverdale and on to our bed and breakfast retreat at the Old Crocker Inn. The Old Crocker Inn turned out to be one of the nicest bed and breakfasts that we have stayed in. The proprietors, Marcia and Tony, were welcoming and full of information about the area. Tony had many recommedations on small local vintners like the Fritz Winery. They served a three-course gourmet breakfast every morning. We also met two other couples who had come by motorcycle and a couple from Breckenridge who were also very helpful in telling us about local wineries.

On Saturday we drove over the hills and into the Napa Valley. We wanted to relive a bit of the trip we had taken there twelve years ago when we got engaged. We bought bread and cheese and headed up to the Rutherford Hill Winery. There we bought a bottle of wine and had a picnic lunch just like the last time. We then made our way to the Monticello Winery where I had proposed to Jane. We took their tour and tasted some wine. We hit several other wineries that day with Chateau Montelena being a favorite for its beautiful gardens. We returned to the Old Crocker Inn after eleven hours of driving and tasting and were exhausted.

On Sunday, we headed out to do wineries in Sonoma. The Ferrari-Carano Winery had beautiful gardens. We also stopped at Fritz Winery where we sampled (and bought) some excellent Cabernets. We also stopped at Hop Kiln and Arista. We had tasted an Arista Pinot Noir in an Austin restaurant and were so impressed that we bought a bottle at Central Market. When we entered their tasting room, we learned that their director of sales had gone to UT and his wife went to Baylor. That explained why we were able to find wines from this small operation in Austin.

Even after three days of traveling through Wine Country, we still couldn't help but marvel at the miles and miles of vineyards. Every available field and hillside is planted. Every winery and vineyard was full of beautiful flowers. All too soon our vacation was over and it was time to return to San Jose for the flight home. We brought home a couple of bottles to enjoy and remember our vacation by.

Click a picture to see a larger view.