Saturday, August 13, 2011

Road Trip: Sonoma Valley


After San Francisco, we headed just a bit north to Sonoma Valley. It was beautiful driving through rolling hills of grapevines, with signs promising wine tastings at nearly every turn. A quick hike got us ready for a tasting that afternoon at the oldest winery in that area: Buena Vista. The place was beautiful. We chose a bottle of chardonnay to go with our dinner later that evening. On our way back from the winery, we discovered a little roadside cart with fresh figs, the kind with a box where you can leave your payment. Love it! The figs were amazing -- so honey sweet and deep-flavored. They were good enough to bring us back the next day for more.


The bed and breakfast we stayed at was Beltane Ranch. The gardens (plural -- they were everywhere) were so full of life and color that I must have taken a hundred photos. The sun was low in the sky and falling on the flowers in an lovely way that made them glow.



We wandered over to the fields where cows were grazing. Cows are such humble, beautiful animals. I have great respect for them and feel sad when I see CAFOs (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). Cows deserve a good life, just like any other human or animal.


Beltane Ranch has a small olive grove, a vineyard that produces grapes to make Sauvignon Blanc, fruit trees, chickens, horses, and a garden from which our breakfast was prepared. The staff was welcoming and delightful, and our accommodations were very pleasing, especially after camping and then staying in a hostel. We had warm oatmeal peach cookies on our arrival.


The trees were pretty gnarly, in a good way, with Spanish moss hanging from them. It was fun to explore the grounds and wander around before dinner. The building itself has a porch and a deck wrapping all the way around, with various outdoor sitting areas.


Our dinner that evening was spectacular. We had gotten a loaf of sourdough from a bakery at the center plaza in Sonoma, and the wine was from Buena Vista, a creamy smooth chardonnay. The fresh figs were the star of the meal, with strawberries, sardines, almonds, sun-dried tomatoes, and Parmesan completing it. Our lazy conversation lingered as the sun set over the many gardens. 


Breakfast the next morning was a first course of fresh fruit, coffee, and sweet grapefruit juice, followed by jalapeno cheddar spoon bread, sauteed garden vegetables, and over-easy eggs. After a morning jog, I was ready for a big meal. The food was thoughtfully prepared and hit the spot.


Later in the day we enjoyed another wine tasting and olive oil tasting, relaxed in the plaza journaling and writing post cards, and stocked up at the farmer's market for our future camping trip in Yosemite. The relaxing pace of Sonoma refreshed us for more hikes to come.

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