When in wine country

It grows. It ages. I drink it. I am by no means an expert about wine or the places it comes from. My husband and I have been fortunate to visit the holy grail of American wine-making, Napa and Sonoma Valleys, and there is just something about that area. The smell. The view. The feeling. It’s inexplicable. Roll your eyes like I did before we went, but wine country isn’t a place you can see, it’s a place you have to experience in the first person.

We were there months before the 2017 wildfires, then several months after, and my heart aches for the families and farmers whose blood, sweat and tears went into that soil. Decades’ worth of work burned away in mere hours. Thank God, as we saw, time is healing the scorched ground and those same vintners are hard at work just like they’ve always been, rebuilding their lives and planting what will become the next generation of wine.

When I think of some of my favorite things, my mind always goes back to Sonoma Plaza, and a few of the tasting rooms and restaurants along the square. Pangloss Cellars, Roche Winery & Vineyards, Rancho Maria, The Girl and the Fig, The Red Grape. The area is rich with history (it’s the historic seat of the state) and people are so nice. We stayed at the quaint Inn 2 Remember, where the proprietors treated us like family, and spent our days enjoying the gorgeous spring weather.

I would be remiss if I did not mention the seasonal Tuesday Market our stay overlapped, where food trucks and vendors from all around the area come to sell their wares. Folks lay out their blankets and baskets to lounge under the massive trees in the plaza and enjoy each other’s company. You can almost feel the collective sigh as everyone relaxes and dusk falls.

When we took a day trip to downtown Napa (because, I insisted, we had to) and climbed aboard the Wine Train, I discovered for myself why visionary winemaker/trendsetter Robert Mondavi has been one of the preeminent names in the valley since the 1960s. His incredible property is the first stop on the tour, and what a way to set the tone. His property is simply stunning and the cellars are expansive (and tasty). IMHO, his wife had the best taste and we I bought a couple of bottles of her favorite Moscato D’Oro wine, for which there is even a dedicated fan club. ☺ Farther down the line in St. Helena, V. Sattui and Charles Krug offered more beautiful properties and passionate winemakers as evidence of the love that brings wine to life. Our legendary day was capped off by a ri-di-cu-lous meal at Michelin-rated La Toque in the Napa Westin. Needless to say, this was a once-in-a-lifetime day that we will never forget.

After spending just a little time there, it is obvious to me that those who have built legacies in Sonoma and Napa did so because their veins run red with wine, not blood. Whether or not you’re a “wino” is irrelevant–if life ever permits for even just a few hours in wine country, please take the time. I promise you will not regret it.