Continued from What I Learned On My Summer Vacation, Part 1
On August 11th we had a very early Air Alaska flight from Portland to San Francisco where we rented a Ford C hybrid with the most sensitive brake I’ve ever used. Chris thought I was purposely trying to get him motion sick. With such an early flight, and not being able to check into our Sonoma hotel until 3pm, what else was there to do but taste wine!
Before leaving Boston we made an appointment to visit with Scribe Winery. (Their tastings are by appointment only.) I’ve been a fan of Scribe’s cabernet sauvignon from sip one, way, way back in 2013 when I started expanding my California palate. Scribe doesn’t focus on trend or points, but on quality of fruit first along with simple wine making. With this focus they create wines with ageability, structure and complexity. Scribe’s tasting room is not a tasting room at all, but just five picnic tables scattered outside the winery on a hill that overlooks their vineyards (simplicity; save the flash for Napa). We tasted several wines beginning with a crisp, zippy dry riesling. From there we moved on to their estate chardonnay and pinot noir, and ended with my favorite cab!
After Scribe we headed north to the Russian River Valley, to the town of Guerneville. We’d heard that Guerneville is the Provincetown of Sonoma. I think the people who told us that have never been to PTown. Guerneville is very small and if you blink, you could drive right through it. This was the part of our vacation that was supposed to be more vacation than “work.” If you plan on visiting Guerneville we recommend staying at Boon, a chic little hotel with a great pool, and it’s dog friendly. For me there’s not much to do in Guerneville since I don’t hike, swim in rivers or raft; that’s why we chose a place with a pool. This part was all about relaxing. We dined at a fantastic, recently opened BBQ joint with a great name: The Juicy Pig. The Juicy Pig is located in a very cool old building where Sinatra and the Rat Pack used to visit and perform. #Nostalgia. BBQ is one of my favorite foods and I can usually house a whole rack of ribs with no problem, but they serve a killer rack and I only made it through two-thirds. That’s OK because I knew I’d be finishing them after a night of bar hopping. Ok, bar hop.
If you do venture to Guerneville, one place that’s a must stop is the taco truck in the parking lot of Safeway, Guerneville Taco Truck. These were some of the best taco’s we’ve had, and I don’t trust food trucks easily.
One of our other favorite places was the Mezcal bar called El Barrio, opened by the owners of Boon hotel. If they had a bigger food menu Chris and I would have eaten here every night. They also have one of the coolest looking bathrooms I’ve ever seen. The design and decor is so well thought out: simple, clean lines and modern, with a Mexican flare. And the bartender was one of the most knowledgeable Mezcal fanatics I’d ever met. He could live in NYC, Boston or LA and be making a lot more money with his knowledge but he’s happy rocking it out in Guerneville. Good for him and us!
One afternoon, after feeling bored at our quiet pool, we decided to check out the pool at the R3 hotel where they were holding a benefit hosted by Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. Ok, now we see the PTown resemblance. We were able to score two poolside lounge chairs for “the entertainment.”
Sidenote: One of my favorite things is frozen drinks by the pool. We used to close our bar in NYC for 3 days and invite the staff out to our share in the Pines, where the blender was not only used for cocktails but was also the morning alarm clock. The grinding whirr of the blender meant it was time to get up and get poolside, and also that margaritas were ready.
The following day we again sat by the pool reading, sunning and chatting with other guests. But there was something missing from our veins… wine! We jumped into our hybrid and took a 15 minute drive to one of our favorite Zinfandel producers, Porter Creek. We thought we were only going to taste some wines but instead got a very cool lesson in winemaking by Alex Davis. They had just harvested a plot of pinot noir grapes and we were told to drive up to the crush pad. Here we were greeted by Alex who gave us a first hand look at the destemming process, and then guided us through the winery and barrel room. One of the best features was the absence of chemicals and artificial fillers. If this was a big commercial winery, we would never have access to where the wine finally comes together because they don't want you to see all the additives they put into their wine. After visiting the barrel room we drove back down to the tasting room where we tasted through some amazing wine, from Chardonnay, Old Vine Carignan to my favorite Zinfandel. Besides the zin being the usual stand out, I just loved the rosé (shocker!) so we contacted our distributor as soon as we got back to Boston and begged him to bring in five cases for us. This wine just arrived two weeks ago and will be the perfect wine for Thanksgiving. We’re so grateful to Alex and the Porter Creek team for being so welcoming and accommodating.
After Porter Creek we took another short 15 minute drive from our hotel to Goat Rock Beach. Another do not miss place! When you arrive at Goat Rock you may think your car won’t make it all the way down to the beach parking lot, but if our Ford C with its hyper brake could do it any car can. Besides the breathtaking views, one of the surprises was the drop in temperature. We left our hotel pool with 80+ degree temperatures, and in 15 minutes we were at Goat Rock where the temperature dropped to 67 degrees. We were warned by several locals not to go in the water because of the severe undertow, and that the floor seems stable but could drop off just a few feet into the ocean. With the drop in temperature we didn’t have to worry about that! If we’d had one more day in Guerneville this would have been a beautiful place for a picnic.
On our final night we drove back to San Francisco with a quick stop at some local little brewery called Russian River Brewing. Maybe you’ve heard of it? Being thirsty we waited in line to grab some Pliny The Elder which had just been released that day. Score! Fresh Pliny is awesome, it’s like fresh Heady.
I absolutely adore San Francisco. It stole my heart when I was 18 years old and I always thought I’d move there someday. Retire? Hmmm. No matter where you turn in that beautiful city there’s an amazing view. You walk up and down and across, and don’t realize you’re up high looking down at the bay. Or you walk around a corner and don’t realize you’re down, looking up a street lined with victorian houses built on a severe angle - as if that’s the way houses were meant to be built.
So what did I learn on my vacation?
Plan ahead. Food trucks aren’t so scary. Relax. Donuts are over-rated? There is absolutely zero cell phone service in Guerneville. Relax. I want to eat my way through Portland again. The drought is real. Wine does taste better on vacation. The small farmer-winemaker is bigger and stronger than the conglomerates, and will continue to make real and exceptional wine that tastes different vintage to vintage. Finally, Social Wines is not going to fall apart if we take time off!