For Part 1, make the clicking to here.
Saturday started bright and early with the arrival of Sissy. She had driven into SFO from whatever God-forsaken wilderness camp she teaches at. Apparently it was snowing there that morning, while the weather in SFO was around 60°. We packed up, since we’d be staying overnight, and headed down the street to Sissy’s Honda CR-V.
I was the chauffeur for the day, with the agreement that I wasn’t going to be the driver for beer day. We headed out of the city (SERIOUSLY, gigantic hills) an across some silly bridge that people make a fuss over. The plan was to grab the 101 (in NH it’s called 101, in CA it’s THE 101) north-ish to Sonoma County where we’d be spending the day winery hopping. JJ took over camera duties while I drove (Sissy neglected to tell me until we got there that her left rear tire was practically flat. 12psi isn’t going to cut it) and about an hour later we arrived at destination number one, Rochioli Vineyards & Winery.
My buddy Bybee was working at this place as a harvest intern (grape slave), and it was by coincidence that the Lady Friend chose it as our first stop. However, he was actually down in SFO for the weekend, so we didn’t get to catch up. We went into the tasting room and the girls dove right in. During the chit chat, it was discovered that our server was actually from Marblehead, MA. Interesting. After the tasting, we went outside for some photo ops, and a fluffy cat came ambling up the walkway. Though we all crouched down to pet him, he wasn’t really interested in any of the attention, and proceeded to push his way through the group. Later on, we found him sitting on a table watching us, and he croaked out a few weak grumbles as we walked by. The others thought he was growling, but he just had a gravelly voice, and this time seemed to appreciate the patting I gave him.
The next stop was Arista Winery, which was a reccomendation from the woman at Rochioli. There was a fire burning in the fireplace, which certainly took the chill off, since it was rather dreary and damp outside. The server here was very friendly and joked around quite a bit making the experience generally more fun. Even though I wasn’t tasting, I enjoyed this place, since they didn’t take themselves quite as seriously as most wineries. Breweries are usually somewhat easy-going but something about wine makes people think it’s deadly important.
Next up, John Tyler Wines. This place had a German Shepard (I think) that JJ wanted to bring home. I munched on the breadsticks they had just sitting there in wine glasses waiting to be nibbled. It was here that Sissy decided to tell me about the nearly-flat tire. Not tasting the wines really doesn’t give me much to say about these places. This one had more tourist crap for sale than some, but having a pet around is usually good for some points in my book.
Armida Winery was our lunch destination, but the tasting was first. I really liked the packaging/label design of these wines… a bit more bold and graphic than the other places, with wax-dipped bottlenecks and skull-and-crossbone logos. The bottles, labeled as “poizin,” come packaged in coffins. Cool. Apparently the name was no joke, as JJ took a sip of the chardonnay, made a face, and declared “This tastes like my ______.” …well, it was a term for a bodily orifice, and not the girly happy one. The other one. The one in the back. I stared at her, unable to speak, as about 37 horribly inappropriate comebacks instantly flashed through my mind, and all jammed trying to get out of my head at the same time. All I managed was “Oh?” She went on to clarify “Not that I KNOW what my *orifice* tastes like. But this wine tastes like my *orifice*” The tastings started catching up with the group at this point, as the Lady Friend and Sissy were talking very animatedly, with hands flailing about, just what you want around glasses of wine. Neither seemed to hear JJ’s revelation, though I found it endlessly amusing. Quote of the day. We ventured outside to a deck overlooking a winery vista, and had a picnic lunch of french bread, cheese, and fruit. It would have been lovely on a nicer day, but the stiff breeze really made it not-so-pleasant.
It started to pour, and we made our way to J Vineyards & Winery. The gps told us to turn left, when it really meant turn right, so we went about three miles in the wrong direction. Lovely. We banged a U-ee and found the place. J is known for their sparkling wines, so I was actually going to join in on the tasting for this one. JJ, however, wasn’t feeling great, (maybe it was the *orifice* wine) and took a time-out in the back seat while the Lady Friend, Sissy, and I dashed from the car to the entrance. Unfortunately, when we got there, a gaggle of screeching harpy women (some sort of bachelorette party) was clustered under the overhang staying dry, while effectively blocking the door from us. These hags were all in their mid-30s and older, but dressed like they were going to the prom. Look missy, your prom was in 1984, it’s time to let it go. I’m guessing they were already a couple wine tastings deep, as their banshee howls pierced my eardrums whenever one of them made an apparently amusing remark and the others showed their amusement with shrieks that woke up every dog in a seven mile radius.
We finally got in and managed to sneak ahead of the spinster brigade. The tasting started upstairs with some sort of, um, white, wine, then proceeded down the hall and over a walkway flanked by rows upon rows of enormous fermenting tanks. There was a… red… wine… at the end there, and we tasted until the seagull screeching women started heading our way. We made a hasty retreat and went downstairs to the main lobby/ giftshop/ tasting area. This is where the sparkling wines were poured, and had a very glitzy looking wall behind the bar with sparkly stones embedded in it. There were three sparklings, though they sold for like $90 per bottle, so we didn’t purchase any. Apparently it’s so expensive because they are aged for like 10 years, and that’s pricey real estate; sitting around taking up space for years and years is a rather large investment for the winery, so they pass the markup onto YOU. I honestly couldn’t tell the difference between their $90 bottles and a decent $30 bottle, so I wasn’t too impressed with their setup. It was more showy and touristy than the smaller places we had been visiting that morning. We snuck back to the car and got a pic of a surprised JJ waking up from her nap. She’d do horrible things to me if I published it here, so below is a pretty picture of some grape vines.
The final (thankfully) stop of the day was Mauritson Wines, where another buddy of mine, Murs, is also a grape slave. We didn’t discover this until Murs met us later on for dinner. Mauritson was pretty uneventful, as the group started falling apart. I wasn’t tasting, and JJ had thrown in the towel. We amused ourselves by watching the two yellow labs constantly beg for cheese and breadsticks at the bar. They were relentless. The Lady Friend and Sissy did their tasting, and were even considering swinging by ANOTHER winery, but I was kind of done by this point. Six is more than enough, thanks.
So, it was back to “downtown” Healdsburg to check into our motel. JJ was cold and damp, and insisted on cranking the heat up, while I felt like my innards were being slow-roasted, and stripped off as much clothing as was possible in mixed company. We bounced around on the beds a bit, and snacked on some cookies (because being a grownup is AWESOME) before grabbing a cab into the center of town. The original plan was for us to simply walk there, since it was MAYBE a mile away, but the pouring rain made that decision unlikely. The cab came to about $5, and dropped us off at our dinner location, BEAR. REPUBLIC. BREWHOUSE.
Now it’s time for some fun.