I have never been a big wine drinker. In fact, I don’t really drink alcohol much at all. But either way, I was excited to check out wine country and get a better understanding of what “wine” was all about. So Luke and I planned a trip up to Sonoma with my parents who were visiting for the weekend. We had been there the weekend earlier to go paddle boarding, which was also amazing and something I would definitely recommend, but we only checked out one winery that time.
Sonoma wine country is beautiful.
That is the first thing you need to know. With lots of greenery, tall trees, and a peaceful river running through the different vineyards, driving along the Russian River Road, or Wine Road, is wonderful simply on its own. But you can’t drive through and not stop at at least one winery–there are only dozens to choose from.
We ended up picking a winery that we had seen the weekend before — Fogline, right at the beginning of the River Road on the right. The modern, simple gray building surrounded by grape vines seemed like a good starting point for my parents, who like me, aren’t the biggest wine drinkers. And it ended up being a great choice, since we were the only ones there when we arrived. Susan, the sole employee that day (it was a Thursday), gave us a short tour, explained the ins and outs of wine making, including the multiple fermentation processes, before letting us try all the wines they had on tap.
It all was pretty tasty. Even though it was only the third time wine tasting, I could already tell that my palate was getting better. Or at least more used to it.
After Fogline, we headed to probably the most famous winery in the area–Korbel.
Standing proudly between massive redwood trees, Korbel is one of the prettiest wineries in the area. We expected it to be a rather expensive stop–no one says wine tasting is cheap (and they are right, it isn’t). But Korbel surprised us. It was free. And even included a fun 40 minute tour of the grounds, including a video discussing the history of the area.
Altogether, Korbel is definitely worth a stop. Even if it is probably the most touristy winery on the road, and in the area, it is worth checking out. Though, I will have to say, Korbel is more famous for their champagne, like really famous (like it is always served at White House Inauguration parties). So that is mainly what we tried. So if you are not into champagne, I would still definitely recommend stopping, if only for the tour and free tasting, but know what you are getting yourself into.
After drinking a bit too much at Korbel, we headed up to Guerneville where we planned on showing off one of California’s true treasures: the Redwoods.
About five minutes north of Guerneville, a fun, artsy town worth checking out, it feels completely lost and far away. You quickly leave buildings behind, before heading into Armstrong Redwoods State Park. Here you drive through the massive redwood groves, the towering giants completely keep the area in full-time shadow. We drove through slowly, my dad and mom each taking turns to stare up at the trees that were almost too high to see the tops.
My father seemed like a little kid again.
He was just completely in awe of the gentle giants. We took a quick tour of the grounds, walking along the flat, dirt trails that take you to all the major stops–including the biggest tree in the grove, Colonel Armstrong.
Eventually, it was time to go. We all climbed back into the car and headed for the grocery store to stock up on food for the weekend. It was getting a bit later, especially since we still had another three hours of driving on Highway 1 before reaching Mendocino.
Wine tasting is a surprisingly fun activity to partake in, even if you are like me and aren’t the biggest alcohol fan. Before moving to California I never drank wine–it just wasn’t something I seeked out. This might have been because I grew up in one of the best microbrewery cities in the world, but I think it was more because wine just wasn’t around. Yes it was in liquor stores but I never would have just picked up a bottle of wine and thought, “yeah this looks good.”
But now I have a better understanding of what goes into the wine making process and even what wines I like (Pinot Noir and Chardonnay). Wine tasting is a great way to spend the day, especially if it means taking a drive down the Russian River Road.