Rather than sit and admire the view, we decided to start our vacation... and how else but with food?
Some quick Yelping told us that Howard Station Cafe in neighboring Occidental was the best breakfast game in town, and we wouldn't know any better, because it was so good we went there both days we were in the area. They had...
I got a lot of compliments from the waitstaff on my henna, followed by questions about whether it was permanent. I guess they don't get a lot of subcontinental honeymooners in the area!
After packing away that yummy breakfast, we headed to our first winery stop: Iron Horse Vineyards, which had a beautiful outdoor tasting room. Luckily, it was a gorgeous day, perfect for drinking chilled sparkling wines!
We tasted both a still and sparkling flight—the still was good, but the sparkling was better. One of the owners was pouring for us, and once she learned we were newlyweds, she gifted us a bottle of their Wedding Cuvée!
Although I preferred the dryer Blanc de Blancs, in another fit of generosity, I gave in when Mr. Spaniel wanted to buy a bottle of the Russian Cuvée. We don't actually drink enough sparkling wine to justify paying for two bottles at vineyard prices, so this was a pretty big sacrifice. ;)
The cool wine was refreshing, but I wasn't in the mood to drink anymore when we were done, so we decided to skip Dutton and Marimar, neither of which I'd heard of until the night before. Instead, we headed off for lunch at a Mexican restaurant I can't remember the name of (it wasn't that great), walked around town, took a nap (wine tastings are generally bad for that whole "being awake" thing for me), and headed back into Occidental for dinner at Bistro Des Copains (the higher-rated French Garden in Sebastopol was closed on Mondays).
We decided that this would be our "big night out" of the tripan obvious mistake, as we ended up having several more "big nights out" before the end of the weekand so instead of ordering a glass of the house red, as I usually do when I'm feeling frugal, we "splurged" on $13 glasses of Dutton Estate Pinot Noir. And then I died and went to heaven and came back and drank some more wine, so we spent a few minutes regretting not making it to their tasting room during the day before deciding we'd go when they opened the following day before leaving for Road Trip Destination #2. Luckily, it was only a short drive away, so after another yummy breakfast, we headed over to Dutton Estate Winery for a tasting.
They actually offer food and wine pairings as part of their tastings (I think it was $25 or $35 per person, some of which is waived with wine purchase), but we were too full to try it. Next time!
We really, really enjoyed this tasting, not only because we tried three 90+ point pinot noirs, but also because the sommalier was really friendly, telling us all about the town, the families who lived there, who owned what restaurant and which vineyards leased land from whose backyard to grow their grapes, and we got the sense that it was really a community of people who like wine, rather than the huge and mostly impersonal wineries we've seen elsewhere (I'm looking at you, Napa!). But clearly the stories and the wine went a little to our heads, because we ended up joining our first wine club (mostly for the 30% discount on the four bottles of wine we ended up buying, but still). Oops!
After wandering around the vineyard for a little while, we started the short trek westward, stopping at the Armstrong Redwoods State Natural Reserve along the way. This was one of my favorite parts of the trip.
If you've never been by, I highly recommend it if you'll be anywhere near the area. It's so green and quiet that it's actually somewhat alarming (especially, I imagine, if you're from a noisy city like Los Angeles!).
It was a short stop, though, because by then we were starving! Off we went, to the wild(?) Sonoma Coast!
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