My cousin came to town between Christmas and New Years Day, and had one day for sightseeing with us. We hadn’t seen Diego for about 13 years, as he’s from the branch of the family that’s based in Argentina, although he’s currently living in Spain. He was traveling with his girlfriend who, as it turns out, is currently living and teaching English in Spain, but grew up only 30 minutes from us here in the Bay Area. We decided to spend the day up in Sonoma County, eating and drinking and seeing some of the most beautiful countryside in the world, and also seeing our boys and their families.
With that preamble, here’s our agenda for one day in the wine country:
• Wine tasting at Armida Winery
• Lunch at Matteo’s Cocina Latina in Healdsburg
• Wine tasting at Woodenhead
• Hiking in the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve
• Dinner at Hopmonk Tavern in Sebastopol
• Ice cream at Sub Zero in Sebastopol
The Armida Winery estate zinfandel vineyard
The Armida Winery estate petite sirah vineyard
Wine tasting at Armida was an easy choice, because our son Brandon, aka Winemaker B, is the winemaker at Armida. Moreover, the views are great, and so is the wine. Brandon gave us a tour of Armida, which started with a quick taste in the tasting room, and finished there as well. The zinfandels were a hit with our guests, and a bottle of the Reserve PoiZin (with the coffin package) went home to Diego’s girlfriend’s family.
Matteo’s Cocina Latina in Healdsburg serves some of the best Mexican food in the Bay Area.
Lunch at Matteo’s was another easy choice. Great Mexican food, but not the conventional Mexican-American fare. This is a restaurant that has been in the top 100 in the Bay Area according to the San Francisco Chronicle, which is a pretty elite list given the quality of food in the Bay Area.
View of the Russian River Valley from Woodenhead’s tasting room
The deck outside the Woodenhead tasting room
We had time for another winery between lunch and the Armstrong Redwoods, and so wanted something relatively convenient to the drive from Healdsburg to Guerneville. This narrowed down our winery choices to only about 50. Woodenhead was chosen because of their emphasis on Pinot Noir and Zinfandel, because we had recently opened our last bottle of Woodenhead Pinot Noir and needed to buy more, because they have a nice, cozy, comfortable tasting room and because the view from the deck outside the tasting room is quite nice. Certainly our stop there didn’t disappoint anyone.
My cousin Diego and his girlfriend on the left, Lori and I on the right, at the Colonel Armstrong redwood tree
From there we went to the Armstrong Redwoods. Until a visitor stands next to one of those Coastal Redwood trees, the numbers that you read – hundreds of feet in height, tens of feet in diameter, more than 1,000 years old – are just numbers. Then you experience it in person, and realize what those numbers mean. It’s awe inspiring, and spiritual, in a way that can only be felt, and not read about.
Dinner was a family gathering at the Hopmonk Tavern in Sebastopol. While the Russian River Valley and surrounding areas are now known mostly for wine and redwoods, this was once a great area for growing hops and brewing beer. Well, the hop vines are gone, but this area is now one of the great areas for craft beer brewing in California. Hopmonk brews a few of its own, but also has other local craft beers on tap. All the adults at the table had the Hopmonk brews, and we were quite impressed. On top of that, the food was very good, and they were able to easily accommodate and provide good service to a large group, ranging from 2 year olds to their grandparents.
Finally, even though it was the middle of winter, we needed dessert, and Sub Zero beckoned. This is a new ice cream store in the Barlow center, which makes their ice cream to order by combining the raw ingredients in a bowl, mixing them together and then freezing them on the spot using liquid nitrogen. Their claim is that this technique produces a creamier ice cream, and since texture is a big part of taste, this should improve the ice cream. The ice cream was very good, but even better was eating with everyone around the fire pit outside the store, then working off the ice cream by chasing a granddaughter around the area, and being chased by her.
I’m not sure a day could be any better.