Trip Start Apr 01, 2013
Trip End Jun 28, 2013

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Where I stayed
San Francisco City Center Hostel
What I did
Robledo Family Winery
Larson Family Winery
Sonoma Cheese Factory

Flag of United States  , California
Thursday, June 13, 2013

I slept like a baby right the way through until my alarm went off at 7.00am. It was just as well as I had another full day tour lined up. It wasn't as long as yesterdays marathon effort but there was wine involved so it was likely to be just as gruelling.

My 'Green Dream' tour bus picked me up at 8.10am and our driver and guide, Jake, was a character from the word go. He looked like a fairly interesting chap as he had one of those moustaches with the waxed ends. Might have to grow one myself. Or not.

Jake, whilst being a very experienced tour guide, was new to the company and also to the wine region of Sonoma. Therefore he had another girl, Erin, there to assist him. Erin was extremely experienced and had just completed 5 one-day tours on the trot so she was looking forward to having a few wines with the rest of us.

The tour bus was much smaller than the coach I was on yesterday, leading to a more intimate experience. Most of the other people on the tour were from various states around the US and were of varying ages. I was probably one of the younger ones.

We started the tour with some commentary on some of the history of San Francisco and its neighbourhoods. We crossed the Golden Gate Bridge and stopped on the other side for photos. It was actually one of the places where Dave and I had stopped off at earlier in the week when we went for our bike ride.

45 minutes later we entered the Sonoma Valley wine region. Sonoma Valley runs parallel to its more famous sister region, Napa Valley. I had chosen to go on the Sonoma tour instead of the Napa tour as I wanted to experience a region that didn't have a whole lot of big commercial vineyards.

We arrived at the first of 3 wineries we would be visiting. The Robledo Family Winery was a great start and rich with history.

In 1968 at the age of 16, Reynaldo Robledo, left Mexico to work in the vineyards in Napa Valley. He spent the following three decades working in several vineyards learning about wine making. His experience grew until he was eventually managing vineyards. In 1996, Reynaldo formed his own vineyard management business. He and his family purchased 14 vineyards, totaling approximately 350 acres, in Sonoma, Napa and Lake Counties. Together, the Robledo family opened the first winery established by a former Mexican migrant worker in October 2003. Although they still sell most of their fruit to other wineries, they now produce an impressive portfolio of premium wines.

We were supposed to try 5 different wines here including a Sauvignon Blanc, a petite Syrah, a blend, a Cab Sav and a Late Harvest Riesling (sticky). I enjoyed all of their wines except for the Sauvignon Blanc but that was because we are spoiled with great Savs in New Zealand.

We were in for an unexpected treat however. As well as the 5 we had already tried, we were given a taste of a hundred dollar bottle of their 2006 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. This was without doubt the best wine I tasted all day. Top notch ! We even got a second helping. Erin was telling us that she has only seen them do that one other time on all the tours she had guided.

I ended up buyng a bottle of the Reserve for me and Wendy to polish off when her and Danielle arrive next week.

We jumped back on the bus and headed to our next winery, the Larson Family Winery. The Larson Family Winery is a small winery located in the heart of the Carneros region of Sonoma. It sits on 70 acres and lends to some of the best views in Sonoma County. It also used to be the home of the Sonoma Rodeo so I made sure I wore my cowboy hat to this one.

The wine wasn't as good as the wine we had tasted at Robledo. We tried another 5 wines at this place and got to have our first Chardonnay of the day. I thought it was junk.

Our guide Jake provided us with a detailed explanation of the wine-making process and while we were tasting, he set up lunch outside in their picnic area.

After the tasting we had a beautiful picnic lunch which included deli-sandwiches, nuts, chips, cookies, soft drinks and water. After lunch we played a few games of ladder golf and corn hole. Don't ask - just google it !

After lunch we headed into the Sonoma township where we had an hour of free time to roam. I went to the Sonoma Cheese Factory and did some cheese tasting. They also had 3 wines you could taste for $6.50 so I jumped on that. I needed something to have with the cheese you know.

We headed to our third and final winery, Cline Cellars. Cline Cellars, is another family winery which produces high quality wines. We tried another 5 wines here and by this time I was starting to get a glow on. I got to try a red wine sticky here which was quite nice. The grounds of this winery were beautiful. Lots of flowers and water features.

The return bus ride was a lot nosier as the punters were all now half pissed. Jake put on some tunes and half the bus started singing.

I got dropped off first, just before 5.00pm, and decided I had better do some laundry. I dodged the bums for the half a block walk to the laundromat and managed to get it all sorted in just over an hour. While doing my laundry I made up my mind to do the 'All hostel pub crawl' which was due to start tonight at 8.30pm. A decent crowd from our hostel and 2 other hostels met at our hostel bar and we went to 5 other bars, spending about 45 minutes at each. It was good fun and I got to meet people from Australia, Brazil, France and other states in the US.

I got back to my room just after 1.00am wondering whether that was such a good idea given I had a big drive to do tomorrow. Oh well, shit happens.

Over and out !
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