For the past few months, Jake and I have been planning a trip out to California wine country with his parents (my in-laws) for spring break. Though we were only in town for a total of 7 days, it felt like far longer, and frankly I’m impressed at how much we were able to do while still taking time to unwind and relax. That, of course, means there’s no way I can fit everything into a single blog post, so I’m breaking this out into probably three chapters. Starting with our first two days primarily in Sonoma:
- From when we flew in on Sunday to Thursday morning, we stayed at Beltane Ranch in Glen Ellen (in Sonoma Valley). It’s a breathtaking property with architecture that somehow felt Southern and a distinctly rural-luxurious vibe. Every morning, we woke up to peaceful vineyard views and were then served a full country breakfast. In the afternoons, there would be fresh-baked cookies up for grabs in the kitchen. I know that my father-in-law particularly enjoyed reading on the balcony while the rest of us were still asleep. I was extremely sad to leave and would definitely return, especially in the warmer months and ideally when they were hosting one of their signature Sunday dinners.
- Dinner at Glen Ellen Star, a Michelin-recommended (though not starred) restaurant only five minutes away from Beltane Ranch, was honestly fucking outstanding. We made this reservation for the first night of our trip, and I think it tied for first as one of the best meals of the whole vacation. Also maybe one of the top 10 meals of my life. It gets rave reviews from media outlets everywhere and I am 100% still dreaming about the roasted carrots we got as an appetizer and the strawberry shortcake dessert — not to mention the wine recommendations from our waitress (Three Sticks and Father’s Watch). If you’re planning a trip to wine country, Glen Ellen Star is a must. Must must must.
- As far as actual vineyards go, we had an educational and beautiful tour at Kendall Jackson on Monday afternoon. I’ll admit, I was skeptical; it felt like we would be better off sticking to smaller businesses instead of industry giants. But, Jake and his parents encouraged me to keep the reservation I had booked for us, and I am so glad we did. The property was stunning, our tour guide was excellent, and I even spotted the Instagram-famous Farmer Tucker.
- After Kendall Jackson and some shopping in downtown Healdsburg, we drove over to Russian River Brewing Company in Santa Rosa. This was basically the only thing Jake had really wanted to cross off the list so we made sure to make it a priority. He ordered a flight of 19 two-oz(?)beers that we didn’t finish, alongside their Nu Deal pizza, and it was a fun experience / pit stop for lunch / opportunity for Jake to purchase some to beer with him to Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Tacoma, WA, where he’s currently doing an internal med rotation.
- We spent most of Tuesday in Sonoma at a close friend’s country house. I cannot possibly overstate how beautiful it was, and their property was extensive enough for a long walk followed by clay-pigeon shooting. Unfortunately, this is not open to the public, but I couldn’t not share.
- Finally, we (and the aforementioned friends) ate dinner at El Molino Central in Sonoma. The San Francisco Chronicle called it “The Bay Area’s best Mexican food,” and it one-hundred percent delivered. Enjoy any of the red mole dishes and order some guac and chips to share. Important side note: consider bringing a blanket or at least a light jacket because the almost-exclusively-outdoor seating can get a little chilly, even with the space heaters. And basically everything there is at least a tiny bit spicy, but in a really delicious way.
Some other honorable mentions I’d like to note but not give their own bullet point: Ad Hoc (Thomas Keller’s “more affordable” restaurant in the area) and Flying Goat Coffee (which was recommended by The Everygirl). Both were, in my opinion, fine, but I probably wouldn’t intentionally go back to either. Ad Hoc’s menu changes daily, which means that you don’t necessarily know that you’re going to love the menu if you make a reservation. And when we went, it was BBQ, which meant I didn’t love anything except the salad and wine pairings. But if you’ve got an adventurous palette and enjoy most Southern food (like my husband father-in-law), you might disagree. Flying Goat was, similarly, good…but definitely nothing to write home about.
And that’s a wrap on (Jesus Christ I’m gonna have to write a lot of posts) days one and two! Let me know if you have questions as I’m happy to help answer. Now off to draft posts for the rest of the trip…
PS: I love organizing these kinds of things, and I’m really pleased at how the itinerary turned out. I think in another life I’d be a travel agent or event planner. If I were to do a post on how to successfully plan a vacation, would anyone read it? Let me know.