Russian River + Turning 50 = Fantastic Day

Last week I took my friend Chris who had just celebrated her 50th birthday up to the Russian River in Sonoma County.  A few days prior we were at her house to celebrate with her family and friends, but I wanted to take her out for a “special day”, something she would remember for a long time.

We left the Dublin area around 11:30 and arrived in Sebastopol for lunch around 1:00.  We were given the suggestion of K & L Bistro on South Main street, downtown.  A very cute place, not too large, but quant with dark woods and art placed around.  It felt very Parisian.  I ordered their “Stimulus Lunch” (the special of the day), which included a cold cucumber gazpacho soup and salmon served with vegetables and red baby potatoes.  Chris ordered their Spring Risotto, which is described as having in it – Meyer lemon, asparagus, tomato confit and goat cheese.  Both of us enjoyed our lunches very much.  Neither of us had wine with lunch as we knew that wine was in our near future.

Next we went to Dutton Goldfield, where Brandon a.k.a. WinemakerB, is the assistant winemaker.  They share their tasting room with Balletto Vineyards.  So you can taste two for the price of one!  We tasted and compared chardonnays, had some D.G. Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Syrah.  Brandon took Chris and I for a quick tour of the winery.  They were cleaning out a lot of the barrels, letting them dry, then sterilizing them and plugging them shut.  After those steps they get racked again and wait for the harvest.  Balletto was getting ready to bottle yet another wine that is ready.  

After Dutton Goldfield we went to Gary Farrell Winery.  They are on Westside Road in Healdsburg, but not very close to town.  Gary Farrell is known for its Pinot Noir.  Their tasting price is $10 for the premier and $15 for the limited release.  We tried their ’07 Sauvignon Blanc, Redwood Ranch*, ’06 Chardonnay, Russian River Selection, ’06 Pinot Noir Russian River Selection, ’07 Chardonnay*, Westside Farms, ’06 Pinot Noir, Ramal Vineyard, ’06 Pinot Noir, Starr Ridge Vineyard* and the ’06 Pinot Noir, Rochioli Vineyards*.  The ones mentioned that have an “ * ” were my favorites.

The views from the tasting room were incredible!  They are up about 1,000 feet or so, nearly the top of tree line.  All you see are trees, blue sky and the hawks swaying in the wind.  

Our next stop was at Porter Creek Vineyards.  They are also on Westside Road but much closer to the town of Healdsburg.  They are a certified organic winery. 

Their tasting room is in what used to be a single car garage and is now a historic structure.  It’s decorated with local artwork.  The winery is up the road a bit, not visible.  But what is visible is some of the many acres of vineyards they have.  Jonathan was there pouring for us and we tried their ’07 Viognier, Timbervine Ranch*, ’06 Pinot Noir, Estate Point, ’06 Pinot Noir, Fiona Hill Vineyard, ’07 Carignane “Old Vines”, Mendocino County, ’06 Syrah, Timbervine Ranch*, ’06 Zinfandel “Old Vine”*.  I really enjoyed my tasting experience there.  We closed them down for the day but didn’t feel any pressure to leave.

We then drove to downtown Healdsburg, (one of my favorite wine towns).  We parked, grabbed our Giants folding chairs, walked to the town square and placed our chairs in a great spot awaiting the upcoming “Jazz on the Square” they have every Tuesday night during summer.  We took a walk all around the square, which was having its Farmers Market.  Chris bought a couple nectarines and I bought last of the season cherries.  We peaked in some of the art boutiques and unique shops around the square.  Luckily most of them were closed.  We had to stop into my favorite candy/gelato shop, Powells Sweet Shoppe.  There we treated ourselves to a kid’s size scoop of chocolate peanut butter gelato.  We also bought some candies for later.  We then made our way to the Oakville Grocery market, which is known for its deli with meats and cheeses, they also have different bread choices, condiments plus much more.  While we were there they had two huge chioppino pans, about 3 feet in  

diameter.  The chef was making two differenty types of chioppino.  One pan had chicken, sausage,vegetables and rice (foreground).  The other pan had seafood with different cut up fish and huge prawns on top with vegetables and rice.  Had I known about this in advance I would have waiting the extra 20 minutes, but we ordered sandwiches instead.  Chris had their curried chicken sandwich with mango chutney mayonnaise, and leaf lettuce on a Dutch crunch roll.  I had (to keep with the French theme) an apple wood smoked ham & brie sandwich with whole grain mustard, leaf lettuce and red onion on a Dutch crunch roll.  We got a bag of chips and drinks.  Just as we got to our chairs we had enough time to take out our sandwiches from the paper wrapping and then the music started.  The band was great and the people watching perfect.  There were people of all ages from babies/toddlers to the very experienced folks.  They had an area set aside for those who wanted to dance, and there were plenty!  We stayed for 1-½ hours and headed back to the car to drive our 1 ½ hour drive home.  

Yes, this was a long day (10 hours), but it couldn’t have been more perfect!   Three wineries, one tour, two meals, good friends having a great time and plenty of beautiful scenery along the way!

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