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Final Day in Sonoma Valley

October 24, 2014

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St. Francis Winery & Vineyards

St. Francis
Well known for their award winning restaurant (no reservations for us…Rats!), St. Francis Winery has an organic garden – veggies served in their restaurant, delicious, affordable wines & knowledgeable, fun servers behind the bar pouring wines. DH joined their wine club last year & we have not been disappointed.

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The grounds are beautiful, the tasting room – love the ceiling!

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We met a woman from Brentwood, TN who was vacationing with her friends from Michigan. We encouraged her to take them to Arrington Vineyards since they were going home with her after their California trip. (Tennessee grapes making excellent dry red wines!)

Kunde Family Estate

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Five generations of the Kunde Family have been making wine on this estate for over 100 years. We enjoyed our tasting on the patio with a snack to serve as lunch.

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After the cheese & meats they served a Port-style red with a sweet chocolate that smelled like a chocolate Easter bunny. Yum!

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I joined this wine club.

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Inman Family Wines

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Our last stop was Inman, a very small winery & one of our favorites. Kathleen Inman, the wine maker served our tasting – try to get that at any other winery in Napa, Sonoma or middle Tennessee! She’s just a normal person who loves her work, whose work is making excellent wine!

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We shipped a few bottles home, but no wine club this time…yet.

Second Day Sonoma Wineries, part 2

October 23, 2014

Rodney Strong Vineyards

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Rodney Strongis another wine you will find almost anywhere, but their reserve wines – what a lovely surprise!

The server behind the bar was friendly, engaging & wrote a lovely thank-you note to me, me having joined the Symmetry Wine Club. Why did I join this particular wine club – THE SHIPPING IS FREE! Wines only available at the winery & through the wine club are seriously excellent & make it worth joining!

J Winery

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Sharing a parking lot with Rodney Strong, J Winery… oh my goodness, what to say… DH joined this wine club on our last visit. If you want to know what Sonoma Pinot Noir should taste like – open a bottle of J! Judy Jordan, daughter of the famous Jordan Winery family (we couldn’t get a tasting reservation at this ORGANIC winery! Rats!) decided to go it on her own & has had great success producing delicious wines!

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We chose the sparkling wine sampler with a tasting platter of cheeses. Perfect for early afternoon, having been tasting since 10am. A welcome respite & snack.

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Martinelli Winery

The folks at Martinelli are so nice we had to stop in to say, “Hi!” The giant, ancient grapevine around the patio post greets all entering the tasting room.
We bought a bottle to give to our friends who couldn’t join us on our trip.
The Martinelli’s daughter lives in Brentwood, TN, just up the road a bit from us.

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Another long day tasting wonderful wines. Time to join the afternoon rush-hour traffic heading to Whole Foods to grab something from their fresh food bar for dinner, then back to the hotel.

Giant Redwood Trees

October 22, 2014

This California Redwood Tree (Sequoia sempervirens) was in the picnic area of Chateau St. Jean Winery & Vineyard. The trunk was at least 6 feet across – I couldn’t get my arms around it halfway.

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Just so you know, I did not enhance the color of this photo! The sky was so clear, so blue, it took my breath away!

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I am shocked at how tiny the pine cones from the giant redwood are.

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You already know I’m a bird nerd & a nature freak, so to tell you I love the giant redwoods is not a surprise. The fact that I stopped at Ch. Montelena to speak to the redwood tree I had seen years before was a tipoff.

Giant Redwoods are remarkable to view, but one must remember, they are “giant” trees, just like St. Bernard’s, Great Danes & Newfoundland’s are “giant” dogs. They grow big because they are supposed to grow BIG. Saying that, I am wondering if I could grow one in middle Tennessee. It may not be moist enough, though we did get a ton of rain this past summer… I will do some checking, but if I can grow Myrtle, my Live Oak, why couldn’t I grow a giant redwood?

Second Day: Sonoma Wineries, part 1

October 21, 2014

Second Day needs to be shared in 2 parts – too many photos otherwise.

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Chateau St. Jean

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Early morning, DH & I are morning people, sometimes called Larks (I’m an annoying Lark – I’m awake & think everyone is alert & ready to talk/think/exercise/sing; no, I don’t use caffeine in any form, why do you ask?) …we arrived before they were open so there was time to explore the gardens.

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Dwarf citrus fruit trees, giant redwoods, test vineyard with grapes ripe & ready to be tasted.

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The new building has the feel of a giant barn. Lots of things to purchase, but what we wanted was wine…a reserve wine tasting. We were directed to the “house” out the door & across the garden path.

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The moment we entered I knew the building was old – the smell of old wood, the creaking of the floor. Arched windows, old tile floor – we were serve in the solarium of the house built in 1920.

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Chateau St. Jean is an affordable, drinkable wine available in most places wines are sold. We joined the wine club because the reserve wines that are only offered to club members are also affordable & quite delicious.

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not quite ripe

Chalk Hill

Out in the middle of nowhere…uh…Sonoma County, the Chalk Hill estate is enormous. Four flag poles at the entrance of the winery fly the state flag of Texas, the state flag of California, the flag of the USA & the flag of West Point, the US Military Academy. The owner, originally from Texas is a West Point graduate.

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Chalk Hill makes nice wines (DH will not be happy to hear my description – he loves their wines) & the bottles of their reserve wines weigh twice as much as standard bottles of wine. That’s not an issue unless you are paying for the wines to be shipped across the country for your enjoyment.

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The owner wants to be the largest wine estate owner in the world, at least that’s what I’ve heard. He already owns seven wineries, maybe more. That’s fine & congrats on your financial success, did I mention that he’s the Chairman of Fidelity National, but I like smaller wineries, not multi-national corporations. I think that smaller is better & more accountable to the consumer.

No we did not join this wine club. One reason – there is a membership fee! A significantly expensive fee! But shipping is free. No duh! You just charged the shipping up front! No thanks!

Not-So-Mute Monday: Embassy Suites Airport, San Fran Hotel

October 20, 2014

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Big room with separate television room, free breakfast with made-to-order omelets & all the bacon I could eat (that’s a lot of bacon!) & they are part of the Hilton Hotel family, like Hampton Inn – why stay anywhere else!

First Day: Napa Wineries

October 14, 2014

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Oh my goodness, where to begin…

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First tasting of the day: Opus One. I say it again – OH MY GOODNESS!
Unusual grounds, very different architecture for Napa. Beautiful! Round building almost buried underground. Green grass. Olive trees line the driveway in & are all around the garden siting area. A rooftop terrace gave a wonderful view of the rising sun. A 10 am tasting is an early start to the day.

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Plumpjack Winery – we had never heard of this small vineyard/winery, but it was recommended by DH’s friend, Jim. Small, boutique winery making lovely wines.


I met the long-furred calico keeping watch over the tasting room. Bright green eyes – she’s gorgeous & liked having her neck scratched.

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Cakebread Winery next.


The first truly great wine I ever tasted was a Cakebread Fumé Blanc back in 1982. It rocked my world! Up until then, DH & I enjoyed Gallo Red Rosé with our dear friends D & J while playing Bridge. Hey – DH was in medical school! We didn’t have any money! But we started what was to become a lifelong love of wine.

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Hint: use the Gallo for wonderful wine coolers! Half a glass of Gallo over ice, then add sparkling water, Diet Sprite, etc. to fill the glass. A slice of lime finishes it!

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Silver Oak Winery was next. OH MY GOODNESS IN SPADES! This is one of the pre-imminent wineries in Napa, so good, in fact, that they do not have a Wine Club. They don’t need one – they sell every delicious bottle, every single season!

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The Silver Oak building is lovely. I took lots of photos hoping to show our builder – can we make our house look like this? :0)

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My tastebuds were fatiguing, but we were determined to visit St. Supery. Lovely wines from a beautiful winery.

St Supery

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The gardens along the parking lot had large bright blue ceramic pots with dwarf citrus trees. (Envy!) Inside the tasting room, the winemakers Boxer puppy greeted everyone…calmly! That’s remarkable for a puppy!

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Are we there yet? Nope! With only one day scheduled for Napa, we had to visit Chateau Montelena. This is one of the famous wineries that put Napa Valley, California on the map, literally! In 1976, the Chardonnay from Ch. Montelena soundly defeated French wines in a blind taste-test. They repeated the fete in 2006! Woo Hoo! American wines can compete with the best in the world & consistently WIN!

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First I spoke to the little Redwood tree on the property that I first saw 10 years ago on our first visit. My, how it has grown! Then we entered the French-style chateau. This is a beautiful place with dark wood, tapestries & excellent wines. The “bar cat” from years ago was not present, but the wines did not disappoint.

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The second tasting room was quiet, the Chardonnay wonderful – DUH! & exquisite deep red Cabernets. Ahh! So very glad we stopped in!

Tastebuds exhausted, it’s time to head back to the Hampton Inn. Water, rest, supper, wine – are you kidding? No, he wasn’t.

Mute Monday: From Martinelli’s Tasting Room

October 13, 2014

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