Our first stop is in the town of Sonoma for a quick cup of coffee and a brioche and raspberry pastry at the Basque Boulangerie Cafe! Great place - you'll see it.
Then we head first to the Buena Vista Winery which is the oldest winery. It was first owned by a Count from Germany in the 1800's and now by a Frenchman who bought the winery in 2000. The buildings are stone and gorgeous. We tasted 5 wines here and enjoyed the grounds.
We then headed up to Benzinger Family Winery
. As Marianne had told us, the tour was fabulous, and she was right. They take you through the vineyard in a tractor pulling a cart and we learn all about Biodiversity in wine making and growing of the grapes. We even get to taste the purple grapes that were just harvested that morning. We are then shown the process of how they crush the grapes (sorry Lucille Ball, no stomping in bare feet) and then we enter the wine cave that houses from 3,000 to 4,000 barrels (not kegs) and each barrel produces 300 bottles - oh no another bit of math!!! Amazing. Many years ago the Benzinger family sold the name Glen Ellen (the town where this winery sits) for many millions of dollars. After selling the name they began producing a much smaller quantity than before, now only producing their "Select" wines. They decided to put their money in the facility, the cave, and the costs of being a biodiversity business - to pesticides, no chemicals. They have figured out which garden plants to plant in order to control bugs such as attracting lady bugs to take care of aphids which are a death sentence for grapes. They have several owl boxes and bluebird boxes to attract the birds which also help with insects. Ingenious!! As you walk the grounds there are several spots where you can read about what this family is doing and how it is done. Hats off to them!
Another beautiful day here in the Valley and we are off to Sonoma to see what we can find. Thanks to our friend Marianne from Hilton Head (who was just here a week before us) we have a hint on which are the best wineries to see.