Goals · Travel

An Actual Journey to Napa

As my blog name implies, I have long suffered from a condition known as California Envy.

It started with an obsession with pop culture as a teenager and the celebrity feeding ground of Los Angeles. I visited the state a few times after college and decided I was a Southern California girl all the way. I liked San Francisco, but it was a little too “fit” for me. All those steep roads? No thanks. Plus, I studied some enriching nonfiction about the history, economies and people of LA and Orange County that really deepened my understanding and appreciation of the area. (I watched Laguna Beach and The Hills.)

wine country

But it wasn’t until I visited Napa Valley with my husband JB three years ago as an extension of a trip to San Francisco that I decided the Northern California Wine Country was where I belonged. Or at least where I belonged once we retired. In that one visit, I determined if heaven exists, mine is a country road lined with grapes. And somewhere there is a tasting room just ready to welcome me in through its pearly gates when the time comes.

And it’s not even that I like wine that much.

Sure, it’s delicious, soothing and can take the edge off a rough day, but coffee, pizza and ice cream do that for me too. I will nod my head as you tell me a particular bottle is special because of the unique blend of a rare Grenache grape from a region in France usually known for its Merlot. But I probably can’t tell the difference between it and the $9.99 bottle I just bought from Trader Joe’s.

travel wine country

Falling in love with the Wine Country was about more than the wine, and that was reinforced last week when JB and I took a brief escape from parenting and everyday life to visit Sonoma County.

It’s about the aesthetic beauty of Northern California. Mountains, valleys, and the comforting feeling that even the ocean isn’t too far away. It’s about the stories of the winemakers — those who have farming and viticulture in their blood and others who come to this world from radically different walks of life: from an Australian software engineer to a former head of MGM Studios (raised here in Dallas no less!).

It’s learning about the relationships on the vineyard — fathers and sons, brothers, spouses, and college buddies. And meeting one of the few female winemakers in the region.

And it’s about the camaraderie that naturally forms among strangers when you are taking part in a common interest. On our recent trip, it seemed everyone we met had a Texas connection and one group we shared a tasting with included a couple of fellow alums from Northwestern University. Go ‘Cats!

Wine tasting isn’t just about drinking or even enjoying a glass of wine. It’s education. It’s learning about a science — just a little more fun than dissecting a frog or remembering the difference between atoms and particles (at least for me).

For those who are interested in traveling to the region for the first time or because you too dream of retiring there (look me up in 25 years!), I listed below the wineries and restaurants we visited. I am not too hard to please, and I truly thought they were all great. We stayed in the Sonoma County town of Healdsburg, which is considered a hotspot in the area in terms of restaurants and shopping, as well as being convenient to the three main AVA’s (American Viticultural Area) in Sonoma. My husband loves to delve into research when it comes to trip planning, so we had a general schedule each day, but you could also just show up, follow the street signs to the different wineries and go!

healdsburg

Drinking:

Eating (all in Healdsburg except when noted)

I have gone on way too long, but just typing out the wineries and restaurants makes me long to return. If you have never been and enjoy wine, I hope you will add Napa, Sonoma or both to your list. There are no doubt other fantastic wine-making areas in the United States (including in my beloved Texas), but none more beautiful and all-encapsulating of what makes wine tasting so special than here — at least for this wannabe California girl.

Sonoma Stonestreet

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4 thoughts on “An Actual Journey to Napa

  1. Caryn , I had a quick visit to those vine yards that you shared in your story . You have truly captured the essence better than I recall (not being a wine drinker) The description of your encounter brought back vivid memories.It is s great get away It would be a marvelous place to retire.Enjoyed keep writing. Blessings

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    1. I’m so glad the post was able to bring you back to your visit. Like you said, it is a great getaway. I am giddy just thinking about it! Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

      Like

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