My husband and I just returned to Atlanta from a wonderful trip to California, where we enjoyed a change of scenery and some fantastic wine. As we were packing, we heard reports of fires in Napa Valley and Sonoma. We were planning to visit both of these locations, so we came up with an alternate option and contacted our hotels to give us better guidance. Having never dealt with fires and smoke, we did not know the timeline for the event. All of our hotels and hosts at the wineries told us they would keep us informed of any changes or closures on their part. We were excited to get out and explore once again! We got upgraded to first-class on our way to San Francisco, and usually, that would be a nice perk. But we soon learned that most of the first-class benefits are nonexistent right now. If you like to eat breakfast on an early morning flight, make sure to get your own at the airport. My husband got a small box of food that consisted of crackers, cheese, pepperoni, candy, and cookies at 9 AM. I got coffee once we cleared security, and I was very thankful, as the only drinks offered on the plane were bottles of water, bottles of wine, and cans of beer. So if you need any caffeine in the morning, make sure to bring your own. You need to wear a mask at the airport and on the plane unless you are eating or drinking. I have found that I like a style that does not go around my ears, as that can feel uncomfortable after several hours.
Once we landed in San Francisco, we drove to Paso Robles using California highway 1. It is a beautiful drive, and along the way, we stopped at Bixby Creek Bridge, a redwood circle, and a vista to see sea lions sunning themselves.
Our first wine destination was Paso Robles. If Napa Valley and Sonoma were unsafe, our backup plan was to stay longer in Paso Robles or travel further south in the Central Coast region. We stayed at a new hotel in downtown Paso called the Piccolo. The downtown area has a central square with lots of shops and restaurants all around it. We were able to walk to dinner each evening, and the hotel had a rooftop terrace bar and a wine bar in the lobby. Our most memorable moments in Paso were a beef wine dinner at Cass with one of the owners and the idyllic outdoor setting at Daou winery.
We then ventured to Napa Valley, where we saw blue skies and cooler weather. We were impressed with our tastings at Artesa and Padis wineries. The only winery on our trip that canceled was Hess. It is essential to point out that wineries and restaurants all required reservations in advance. Parties had to be six guests or fewer at all venues. Planning our wine tastings allowed us to enjoy our time at each one, and our hosts and hostesses were so happy to see us traveling again that we felt welcomed and relaxed at every location. We booked all of our visits a month in advance as indoor dining is opening in some California counties, but all wineries must do tastings outdoors.
Our final destination on this trip was Sonoma. We stayed at the Farmhouse Inn outside of the city and once again had blue skies and crisp fall temperatures in the morning and evening. One of the reasons we booked our stay at the Farmhouse Inn was for the bath bar located in the lobby. The hotel partners with a local soap maker, and you can cut your soap and obtain body scrub and bubble bath to use in your large jetted tub in your room. We had dinner at the onestar Michelin restaurant on Monday evening as it is only open certain nights at this time. We also enjoyed the homemade cookies and milk every night in our room. While we have the cookie recipe, the special ingredient is Thomas Keller flour. And if you want to get the authentic fall weather experience, you can make your own s’ mores at the fire pits. The hotel provides all the ingredients as well as the metal sticks to roast your homemade marshmallows.
We spent our favorite day in Sonoma with Randall, who drove us to three excellent wineries, Kosta Brown, Small Vines, and Square Peg. We had private tastings at each and were able to learn more about the regions and harvest. We had lunch at The Barlow, a great area filled with shops and a variety of restaurants for whatever type of food you might be craving.
We found many bottles of wine to bring home with us and enjoy for months to come. With each bottle will come a memory of this trip and all the beautiful people we met along the way. Whether you are in the mood to taste wine, do some outdoor activities, or just be welcomed with open arms by fellow Americans, consider traveling to a new or familiar place in the not too distant future. I am ready to answer your questions about traveling and all the changing requirements right now. You can contact me at [email protected] to start discussing your next experience