Virgin's Guide to Burning Man

A Virgin's Guide to Burning Man can be found here.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Vacation or Staycation, Try the Wine Country

For our first wedding anniversary, my husband and I decided to go wine tasting up in the Santa Ynez region, recently made famous by the movie Sideways, and conveniently enough, located in our backyard.

We enjoy wine tasting up in this scenic area, but this time we decided to splurge and hire a driver to take us around. A quick Google search online introduced us to Cloud Climbers Jeep Tours, who do group wine tours, including 4 wineries, more wine than you can taste, tasting glasses, a fabulous lunch, door-to-door service and a driver who will tell you all about the area and its wineries. Best of all, you get to ride around in a jeep - and not haggle over who gets to be the designated driver. How cool is that?

We were joined by a couple up for a mini vacation from LA, and having such a small group, our wine tour talk quickly devolved from the usual local history tidbits, to which everyone politely nods with bemused interest, to the latest news about the pot farm just beyond the ridge and how much tax money we're wasting on suicide barriers on the nearby bridge. Not your mother's wine tour, I must say - but infinitely more entertaining. We also more readily herdable, being a smaller group, which meant we got the added bonus of hitting up a fifth winery since we had time.

The thing I loved most was that the tour did not have preset winery destinations. Our driver asked us what kind of wines we liked, what we were in the mood for, then took us to his recommended spots. We hit up Brander, Lincourt, Gainey, Saarloos, and Artiste. My husband and I had planned to buy one bottle of wine. We took home three.

Of the five, Artiste was the only one we had been to before, and it was the last one on our list. I would like to tell you their wines were amazing, fabulous, and not-to-be-missed. But as it was the fifth winery that day, my wine palate had disintegrated from detecting floral, citrus, or spice and earth tones, to only being able to distinguish between whites and reds. Though, the sweetness of the final port did shine through enough for me to smack my lips on it, find a scrap book and draw a picture of a turtle. My husband added to the drawing: his turtle humped my turtle. You can see what a state we were in.

We ended up buying one bottle from Brander and two from Lincourt - all of them were whites of some kind or another. I think the heat of the day ruined my taste for reds this trip around. But the winery I truly enjoyed visiting was Saarloos & Sons.
Family owned and operated, this winery has quirky-yet-cool staff members who love to talk to you and tell stories. It also has the most AMAZING cupcakes...I might have to say they even beat Crushcakes. They were oh so moist, and flavored with wine. But the part I loved best was the aesthetic: vintage Victorian with a hint of modern, and a twist of grunge.

The day ended with dinner at Via Maestra 42, the top-notch, authentic Italian restaurant who catered our wedding. All in all it was a fabulous day and a magical way to spend an anniversary. For all you Californians out there, or others near a winery, this is a great vacation idea for these tight times when you want to keep it close to home.

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