A wine country 30th!

One of my favorite things about living in the Bay Area is that it's such a magnet for people to come visit...especially wine country! I think I've gotten a bit of a reputation for being a wine country fiend (shocking, huh?), and so many friends have reached out to let me know they'll be in town and want to get together. 

A few weeks ago, my friend Carly was out for her 30th birthday with her family and a few close friends, and invited me up for a weekend of wine tasting in Sonoma. Naturally, I couldn't say yes fast enough, so Saturday morning found me unloading an obscene amount of wine and cheese and taking in this amazing view...

I actually met Carly and her husband Carl (I KNOW, dead from the cute) in the weirdest set of circumstances - at the Minnesota Opera Symphony Ball last June through MIchael, who went to law school with both of them! We ended up joining their family for the night, including midnight cocktails at the speakeasy across the street, and Carly and I rapidly struck up a friendship based primarily on our love of champagne. 

Where better to cement that love than at Domaine Chandon?! I'm starting to feel like Chandon is my "backyard winery:" I've been up there half a dozen times in the three months I've lived in California, to the point where I recognize the entire tasting room staff. It's such a fun spot - and the group agreed!

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We enjoyed a fantastic tasting in the private garden area, including the Etoile Brut, their Carneros pinot noir, and a few champagne cocktails courtesy of our tasting host! Several members of our crew joined the wine club, and I left having ordered two more cases of Em's summer bottles for my parents (as well as with my August wine club shipment!). 

Our second stop was Honig in Napa, for an outdoor tasting of sauvignon blanc and cabernet. I loved the adorable signage they had for our group, and we really enjoyed the cab (though our first sauv was not to anyone's liking). 

One of the highlights of being in Napa on the cusp of harvest season is that the grapes are nearly ready to go - and Honig was excited to show that off! They clipped a few grapes for our group to enjoy, and invited us to take a stroll back into the vineyards that ran up against the patio for more samples. It was one of those "what, this is my life?!" moments for sure. 

The hands-down unanimous highlight of the day, however, was stop #3 at Flora Springs, where we had one of the best experiences I've had thus far in wine country. The winery has a fascinating history, and has been family-owned since its founding in the 1970s. 

After starting off with a little chardonnay in the tasting room, we were unleashed into the vineyards to taste their single-vineyard Malbec grapes, alongside their single-vineyard Malbec itself...the circle of life in action, ha! 

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Once we'd finished the vineyard tasting, our guide took us into the 13,000 square feet of underground wine caves...fun fact, there's no property tax on caves in California since they pay tax on the land above! 

While in the caves, we did a barrel tasting - one young Cabernet out of a French oak barrel, and one out of an American oak barrel. The difference was apparent, and fascinating - which spurred a length conversation about the philosophy of barrels affecting taste in wine in general, and how that's viewed in the wine community. 

From the caves, it was back to the tasting room to try some of the best wine I've ever consumed. Flora Springs specializes in cabernet, and we were lucky enough to try a few of their highest-grade bottles. From their "Wild Boar" single vineyard cabernet to their world-renowned "Trilogy" and, best of all, one of the last 50 bottles of their 40th-anniversary cabernet, every bottle was a revelation and the appreciation around the table was universal. I'm pretty sure every one of us joined the wine club that day - well worth it for one of the most personalized, special experiences I've had yet in wine country.

Once our tastings wound down, we headed back to the houses for champagne, cheese and charcuterie on the deck, followed up by an enormous amount of pizza and, you guessed it, more wine. Before I knew it, it was past midnight, we had listened to Keith Urban's "The Fighter" no less than a dozen times, and everyone was ready to crash hard. 

We spent all day Sunday in downtown Sonoma, starting off with a ridiculously yummy brunch at Girl and the Fig. I'm frankly still fantasizing about the chocolate-dipped balsamic figs, thank you very much. 

From brunch, we walked around the corner to Sigh's gorgeous new champagne tasting room. My inner basic bitch lost it over the champagne quotes on the mirrors, the wall of champagne cage caps in the bathroom, and the fact that they had Lelarge Pugeot (one of my favorites from our Champagne trip!) on the menu. Definitely a place I'll be returning to! 

Our final stop before everyone had to head to airports: Pangloss Cellars, where I fell hard for their gorgeous tasting room - as a "Candide" lover, let's be real, there was no way I wasn't going to love the place. 

Though we were all stuffed from brunch, we found room for food and wine pairings...the things we must do to enjoy good wine, ugh! Carly and I split a wine-and-crostini pairing that was presented so beautifully I couldn't help but be that girl taking photos of her food. 

With my stomach full of food and my blood type pretty much just cabernet at that point, we loaded into cars and went our separate ways - but what a wonderful weekend with great friends, new and old! Already looking forward to the Lund-Numrich-Bowman-Camarata crew's next trip out west - they are a blast to travel with!