Pinot noir and opera stars

This weekend was such a blast! One of Jonathan’s bffs from college lives in San Francisco, so Jonny spent a long weekend here. Seeing him was so great – I haven’t spent much time with him at all lately, as he’s living in Detroit and I’m (duh) here.

He and Tyler took the Caltrain down to Palo Alto on Friday in nearly 100-degree heat, with plans to go on a mini campus tour of Stanford courtesy of yours truly. Instead, we decided to scrap the tour in the face of the heat, and headed back to my place for ice-cold Chardonnay and a little chill time before dinner at my personal favorite restaurant in Redwood City, Vesta. While their wood-fired pizzas and wine selection are out-of-this-world good, we definitely made a mistake in selecting a restaurant with no AC with the temps as high as they were. By the end of the meal, we were all…dewy, to put it gracefully. Didn’t stop Dave and me from heading downtown with Jonny and Tyler to go out!

Or so we thought. We ended up heading back to Tyler’s gorgeous Nob Hill apartment to play drinking games…with a bunch of 23-year olds. I felt REALLY old, campers. Old like, one-foot-in-the-grave ancient next to these fresh-out-of-college children.

Jonathan, on the other hand, continued to live his best life by refusing to drink beer (as always) and instead enjoying a “healthy pour” of his two-for-one white wine. Always classy, Jonny D. Proud of you, boo.


After enjoying the insane view of downtown for a while, Dave and I departed around 11pm...but not before we kicked serious state-school kids’ ass at both flip cup and XL beer pong. (I may be old, but I’ve still got it.)

Saturday dawned bright, sunny, and hot for our planned trip to Sonoma! I picked up two moderately hungover boys early, and we made the quick 1.5-hour shot straight north to the Alexander Valley.

Our first stop? Hanna, a favorite from our family’s trip last Christmas. Perched high above Alexander Valley, I think the Hanna tasting room boasts some of the best views in Napa. Another claim to fame? Their delightful tasting staff, Ted and Carol, who took advantage of a fairly slow day to spend over an hour with us, pouring off-menu tastes, chatting about microclimates and local favorites, and ultimately convincing me I needed to be in the wine club. I walked out with a half case, utterly charmed by their personal attention and pride in the Hanna product.

The boys, meanwhile, made sure to keep me humble by reminding me that I was mostly a glorified chauffeur and that, obviously, Saturdays are for the boys. (I kid, I kid…)

After enjoying quite a bit of wine on very empty stomachs, we needed a quick pit stop, so we hit the Healdsburg Grill for salads. And Captain Morgan poses on empty wine barrels. It’s Sonoma, after all. We also swung over to Noble Folk Ice Cream and Pie, where Jonathan slaughtered an Oreo cone and I fell hard for the vegan passionfruit sorbet.

Thoroughly refreshed, we made stop #2 at Iron Horse! Another perennial Schwegfam fave, I think their summer tasting setup overlooking the vineyards is among the most picturesque in the entire area.

We scored prime spots right at the front of the overlook, under the shade of the giant umbrellas with champagne soaking in ice baths close by. Absolutely idyllic!

The boys agreed.

The primary reason we headed to Iron Horse was so that Jonathan could make a purchase he’s been low-key obsessing over since the holidays…the Iron Horse champagne saber. Long story short: he and Tyler borrowed my penthouse apartment at Eitel on the New Year’s Eve when I went to the Fiesta Bowl. Jonathan, being a smart and thoughtful houseguest, decided to use one of my Wusthof kitchen knives to saber a bottle of champagne in my living room. That Wusthof knife is now missing a quarter of an inch off the tip…yes, laugh with me at the plethora of “just the tip” and circumcision jokes we could all make (and have made) here. Jonathan’s been into sabering champagne ever since, and the Iron Horse saber is the perfect excuse for him to do it all the time.

Let it be known, I was against the saber purchase. Direct conversation was, I believe, as follows:

Lizzie: Think about how infrequently you’ll use it, Jonathan.

Tyler: Whateverrrrr. He’s gonna be sabering open like…bottles of ranch dressing. You know it.

Needless to say, I lost this particular battle, and we spent the rest of the afternoon yelling at Jonathan to put the saber back in the box while the car was in motion. He is SUCH an adult, you guys.

Stop 3: La Crema, where we totally scored with our sweet tasting host, Hannah! As I joined the club (yes, if you’re counting, I’m now in FOUR wine clubs, omg help I have a problem), the two Select Reserve tastings we purchased quickly spiraled into ten glasses on the counter, with wine flowing insanely liberally. We had their Nine Barrel ultra-reserve again. We tried a Gewurztraminer and their rosé. We sampled, at my count, seven different pinot noirs. And I, being a complete fiend (I HAVE A PROBLEM SERIOUSLY), left with half a case of La Crema…bringing my purchase total to a dozen bottles in under four hours. You guys. I need my wine country access revoked. Or restricted. HAAAALP.

We grabbed a bite in Santa Rosa, and on the way home Tyler had the inspired idea to stop at the Marin Headlands at sunset for one of the best views in the Bay Area. I was in heaven.

Jonathan, on the other hand, was COLD. Temps had dropped from over 100 degrees in the Russian River Valley to a brisk 55 on the Headlands, and yiddle brudder was having none of it. We stopped quickly, and hopped back in the car to drop the boys back in Nob Hill. It was so great to see Jonny…and the best part is, he’ll be back with my whole Schwegfam in just two weeks for a full Schwegman Party of 5 reunion!!

Sunday found me going full opera nerd, as my friend/fellow Minnesota native/soprano GODDESS Alex performed in the SF Merola Program’s Schwabacher Concert Series at Stanford’s Bing Concert Hall! As a professional fancy person, I would like to officially confirm that, while I may no longer be dominating the Twin Cities arts scene, I’m already deeply committed to exploring the Bay Area’s.

Bing, while a beautiful space, was not acoustically suited for the format of the Schwabacher concert, which bummed me out. In spite of the technical challenges, Alex, as well as Edina guy Tommy, and all their peers in the Merola program utterly killed it. Opera selections ranging from classics like Thais and Lucrezia Borgia to newer, more avant-garde works like Street Scene and The Ballad of Baby Doe highlighted and showcased each performer’s formidable power and dramatic range. I was spellbound.

We grabbed pitchers of sangria and toasted to the amazing performers in downtown Palo Alto after the show…already looking forward to continuing to check out the opera world’s up-and-coming stars at Merola’s two remaining summer performances!

All in all, a weekend for the record books. I’m loving starting to feel more at home here, and am so grateful to the friends and family who are making it possible for me to show off the west coast, best coast mentality firsthand!