If you would also like a perfect day in Northern California wine country, might we suggest you skip the tourist insanity of Napa and head straight north on the 101 towards Sonoma County? Exit on Dry Creek Road and make your first stop the Dry Creek General Store.
If you were together enough to hit the road early, order yourself a breakfast burrito or Italian scrambler. If, like us, you got going a bit later (but don’t make it too late because that place get’s EXTREMELY crowded after noon) order a delicious pressed sandwich. Might I recommend the tapenade and gruyere? Munch that yumminess on the store’s expansive patio overlooking Dry Creek’s copious vineyards.
Your next stop should be Preston Vineyards. The all-organic winery and farm produces an amazing sauvignon blanc and some gorgeous Rhone varietals. You’ll do a tasting, bien sur, and if it happens to be Sunday, you really should take home a jug of their red? The blend changes weekly, and you can get a refill on any Sunday. If you’re still a little noshy, grab some figs and strawberries from Preston’s farmstore (payment’s on the honor system!), grab a seat at one of their picnic tables and uncork a bottle of your favorite white. Warning: if you also partake in Preston’s wonderful cheese selection, be prepared for a swarm of friendly kitties.
Just up Dry Creek road you’ll find Quivira Winery, which is not only organic but also biodynamic. If you’re wondering what that means you can read all about it here — basically nothing goes to waste. They fertilize with manure from their pigs and the whole nine yards. All of their wine is made with grapes grown on the property. Again and needless to say you will do a tasting here, and you will LOVE their zinfandel. Ask for our favorite wine connoisseur, Ron, who knows more about wine than literally anyone else in the whole world. You’ll likely want to take home several bottles of Quivira, and you should. But keep in mind we have two more stops!
Are you ready for some freaking amazing pinot noir? Good, because next up is Arista, where they make more than a dozen of them. It’s a short drive towards the Russian River to the end of Dry Creek Road, then take a right on Westside road, and you’ll see Arista on the left. They source their grapes from foggy areas in Sonoma and all the way up north to Washington state where pinot grapes grow best. You won’t believe how different one pinot can taste from another. Do you need a bit of a walk to clear your mind and your palate before the next stop? Lucky for you, Arista has a lovely series of paths through a perfectly manicured Japanese garden.
Porter Creek is our last stop. If you can pack more visits into the day, power to you! We discovered that four seems to be when we hit the wall (and we were proud we managed that many). But Porter Creek is certainly not to be missed. Look for the unassuming shed just past the vintner’s house where you’ll participate in a lively tasting, hopefully hosted by a charming Scotsman. Like Arista, Porter Creek is famous for its pinot noir, in particular for the kind that makes delicious food even more delicious. We took home a bottle of the Fiona Hill, which you can admire out the window of the tasting shed.
On your way home, if you happen to be passing by San Rafael, we strongly suggest you stop at Sol Food. Your bellies will be empty save for a bit of wine, and that’s no way to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge. Sol Food is the solution. Don’t be deterred by the line: they are extremely efficient about taking your order and finding you a table. Order yourself some shrimp, some pink beans, and DEFINITELY the sweet plantains. If you’re feeling a bit sleepy after all that, hit the take out window next door before the drive home for some cafe con leche (we prefer it iced on a warm night).
We didn’t drink sangria (but we drank wine) or go to the zoo (but we saw piggies, lambs, cats and chickens!) and we didn’t see a movie, but the countryside passing by the car windows was a film-worthy backdrop. Really, could a day get any more perfect?