Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Napa/Sonoma Part One

This past summer we got a wonderful gift from a friend...a condo rental in Windsor, California. This little town is located just about 7 miles North of Santa Rosa in Sonoma County and is so wonderfully positioned right between Napa and the Sonoma Coast that you just couldn't ask for better! We spent 3 days exploring the area before heading to San Francisco for the day. 
 We live about 2 hours away from Napa and nearly 3 hours from Windsor and our path leads us through Napa to get to 101 North. This means we see the vineyards of Napa on our way. At the end of summer the vines are, literally, bursting with grapes of all types. 
If you have the time then stop off at one of these vineyards and take a wine tasting tour. Some of the vineyards have free tastings but most have a small fee. Some of them will apply that fee to whatever bottle of wine you choose to take with you. If you do some research of the vineyards that are along your route you may even find one that has a tour of the facilities. Wine making is fascinating work and there are several styles that can be used to get that perfect bottle of wine. Some of the wineries will use only old fashioned methods while others are completely high tech. All of them have gorgeous rows of vines and grapes to admire.
 Sometimes you have to have a bit trepidation when you travel. I have loads, my husband has none so when he saw a sign for Homemade Sausages (and really, anything to do with bacon or sausage will catch his eye and make him want to stop) I said, nope, no way, no how! But the scenery was SO beautiful that when it came down to it we stopped. 
 I have to admit we almost didn't go in. Located at 2700 Old Adobe Road in Sonoma, Angelo's Smokehouse looks like an old shack. But the draw of meat drew us in. And, man oh man, was this a good call! This place is incredible. It's SO incredible that we actually drove all the way back to buy MORE sausage and bacon on our way out of town even though it was way off of our route to San Francisco. We got to actually meet Angelo and he's a great guy. But the cold case there may hold my husband's heart as much as I do! Filled with sausages of all type, bacon of many types and other smoked fish and meats, this is a very reasonably priced treasure chest. And they are phenomenal. We were still waxing rhapsodic when we met up with our daughter and after we'd grilled the first set of sausages that night for dinner, she was the one who insisted we go back before heading to the City on our way out! So if you are ANYWHERE near Sonoma, find this place. You won't regret it!
 When we arrived in Windsor what we found was farmlands. We were all very surprised to find a field of sheep and geese right across the road.
 A few blocks further down were the biggest cows we had ever seen. Seriously big. Buick big. And way too friendly for comfort if you are afraid of really large animals! But they did make for a very pretty pastoral scene!
 We did find a surprise we nicknamed Emma. We have no idea if this is her name or not but it was the one that fit in our heads. She was pretty funny.
 We think she may have been even more curious about us than we were about her...either that or she was just hoping we'd get close enough so she could peck us. Emu's are notorious for pecking. I hear it hurts like heck so if you happen to meet up with Emma you may want to stay a few feet away to be safe.
 When we got into our room we found a framed poster for Toad Hollow Vineyards. Being huge Disney freaks we couldn't resist a trip to Healdsburg, about 10 miles North of Windsor, to visit the storefront of this classically named winery!  (click on the link for an idea of just how cute this place really is!)
 Just about next door was our next amazing discovery! Costeaux French Bakery is filled with all sorts of yummy treats. This is just one of their display cases and we had a really, really hard time deciding what to try. 
 In the end we went for the macarons, an oatmeal rolled pastry and a flaky pastry filled with creme cheese filling. AH-mazing! Of course there was coffee as well...and it was delish! We made a half-baked plan to come back but there is just so much to do in this area and we had so little time that we didn't end up back near Healdsburg again this trip.

The little town of Healdsburg is very picturesque so if you are looking for a "base camp" this would be a great place for it. Lots of little shops, cute town square, and even a theater (marked by this Raven) so you can enjoy a live production! The Raven Performing Arts Theater looked like something really fun to do while in the area!

After that it was back to the condo to grill those yummy sausages! I have to say that it was really the way to go when it comes to staying in some place known for it's food and wine. You can go out to restaurants (which we did and I'll share those as we continue our journey) but it's great to take some of these things back to your own place and grill them up for dinner!

Next week we'll head to the Sonoma Coastline and enjoy Bodega Bay and the Armstrong Redwoods Grove in Guerneville.


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