Call time to depart for Sonoma: 8:00am at Union Square.
There was definitely a mandatory Starbucks stop before heading to meet these beautiful ladies. Many of which, I've known since my freshman year at Carondelet High School in Concord, CA. This month, we celebrated another year around the sun for Anjuli, one of my best friends since 2005. Once we got on the bus, we were greeted by cheese plates, fruit, croissants and fresh mimosas to get the morning started. She was so quick to treat us, when it should be the other way around!
First quick stop was the overlook on the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge for some mandatory photo opps.
We stopped by four wineries throughout the day: Cline Family Cellars, Larson Family Winery, Madonna Estate and Kieu Hoang Winery.
The first stop was already a favorite we've visited before, so it was easily a great start to a day in wine country. Cline Cellars is located in Sonoma, California. It has a beautiful historic property, has been family owned since 1982 and all wines are sustainably farmed. I can only imagine how many weddings and gatherings happen here annually, with a property this nice.
During the tasting, I learned that an Estate wine is one that is grown and exclusively distributed on the winery's property. Even if the winery sells products in your local city, it won't be the Estate wine. So if you're hoping to bring yourself a bottle, it may be best to grab the Estate wines while you're there visiting.
When we got off the bus, we were greeted by 3 large, sleepy Labradors who were insanely irresistible. Quickly, they stole the show, and everyone almost forgot why we came there. It wasn't long before Anjuli grabbed me by the hand and reminded me to go to the picnic tables for our tasting. Sorry, I'm a sucker for pups!
Once we managed to walk through the store, we saw the three dogs on the label of the "Three Lab Cab". The dog lover inside me died inside...again.
After we spent time enjoying the winery, accompanied by a few games of corn hole and rubbing the dog bellies, we loaded back on the bus. Before we departed, I bought a delicious truffle honey mustard that is so good with pretzels or crackers. Definitely a tipsy-buy, but it was a good pick! No regrets. Also, you must know that the chocolate wine sauce here is a MUST HAVE. I didn't bring one home, but damn, do I regret it.
We arrived to the third winery, and we're still kickin'. Oh, Madonna Estate! Such a cute little boutique winery. This family-owned winery is known for their tradition for minimal intervention with the wine-making process. Their philosophy states, "...wine should reflect the vineyard, the vintage, and the varietals. Any winemaker influence should be subtle, must enhance and complement, but not overpower the fruit." A personal favorite? The Gewurztraminer.
After the wine tasting, we hobbled outside to the picnic tables and were served lunch in honor of the birthday girl. Some sandwiches and greek bites go a long way after several glasses of wine. Brought back to life in a heartbeat!
Last stop! At this point, one by one, many of us started to nap. Fluffy pillows and throw blankets were also part of the blame. Good thing this winery was perfect for that.
Kieu Hoang has a breathtaking back patio that overlooks the vineyards. You can enjoy the view with the comfortable patio furniture, and iced fruit infused water. Their property was designed with tree trunk tables, and succulent centerpieces. My tree hugger side was at ease.
We hopped back on the bus and headed back to Union Square for drop off. Another belated Happy Birthday to one of the most kind-hearted best friends in my life, Anjuli. If you have the honor of calling her your friend, you know what I'm talking about. Until next time, wine country!