Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Putting the Prius Through its Paces - A California Story

The other weekend we were in Sonoma for a family wedding. I have my reservations about California in general (being a stuck-up New Yorker), but am not immune to the charms of beautiful countryside and delicious wine. Spending time with pseudo-in-laws was the price to be paid, but I figured the bounteous goodness of Northern California would ameliorate that nicely.

Oooh, there's just one thing: I know nothing about California wines.

I wanted a day of wine tasting and I hadn't done any research. The Man of the House just wanted to keep everyone happy and out of his hair. So I sat down with ye olde trusty laptop and went to work albeit belatedly. I decided to cheat, figuring if some of the best sommeliers in New York were selecting Sonoma County wines for their restaurants, they'd be good enough for me to do some casual tasting.

This was a mistake. The best sommeliers selected a great number of, no doubt, wonderful wines from wonderful wineries that...didn't have tastings. Only one stood out from the list of thousands and that was Martinelli. Helen Turley, of the can't be missed Turley vineyards, has now devoted her ample talent to this single vineyard.

I regret to say I didn't taste a single wine I would buy - not even the one the woman pouring suggested I pick up for pizza (are there people who buy cases of $25 wine for pizza night?). Dejected we toured around the towns and stopped for hard cider (in the midst of wine country this must be some sort of blasphemy) before taking our scenic drive.

Which, surprisingly, involved four loaves of bread. Nearly causing some sort of accident, we veered onto a road delineated by a sign that said Organic Brick Oven French Bread and ended up at the ohmygodunbelievable Wild Flour Bread. The smell was overpowering and as a self-avowed bread addict I was in a little bit of nirvana. I'm surprised me managed to only buy four loaves (more on that later). We bought basic wheat and white, a goat cheese and herb bread that became lunch, and a walnut cinnamon raising sticky bun concoction that was maybe a million times better than Cinnabon and was still warm hours later.

We made it to the coast literally each day we were there for no particular reason save if was so frickin' beautiful.

The food I ate (as it was all planned for me) was not so good. I resisted the urge to see if the French Laundry had a last minute cancellation as I am well aware it is bad form to skip a wedding for even Thomas Keller.

The morning of the wedding, seeing as within ten minutes of our house there were only fifty or so wineries, I dragged all the pseudo-in-laws to Mendocino County to visit a winery from which I had enjoyed an amazing Sauvignon Blanc two years earlier and could not find anywhere in New York.

Yorkville Cellars is an organic winery up a beautiful, but fraught with switchbacks Americans hardly ever encounter, road and for me, at least did not disappoint. They had yet to finish their harvest which I found unusual (it being October), but afforded us the chance to see grapes on vines whose colors were already turning.

The Sauvignon Blanc was as I remembered it and I eagerly tasted the rest of the offerings. Surprisingly, I was bowled over by two of the red wines on offer. It has been my limited experience that if a vineyard makes a white I adore, I generally think less of its reds and vice versa. The Cabernet Sauvignon was excellent and, in the mid 20-s, a terrific value. But the crown jewel had to be a wine they call Richard the Lion-Hearted, a cab-blend that uses a but from their other red plantings. It was rich and complex and even had the Man of the House, a notorious sticker-up-of-his-nose at things like "rich and complex" wines pulling out his wallet. I was so enthused I signed up for their thrice-annual shipments. My first one arrives next week!

Grossly misjudging actual distances between points, and traveling without aid of a map, we managed to see Point Reyes

but got back to change for the wedding 34 minutes before the wedding started.

Our rental, a lovely earth-friendly Prius was not speaking to us at this point. We had pushed her a little much around the single-lane backroads we navigated to and from, seemingly, everything.

The following day it was off to San Francisco for some quality time with cousins from the other side of the family - need I mention we took the scenic route?

And that's a story for tomorrow. We ate at a just-opened restaurant and took many pictures.

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