Wine Country - and all that Jazz

Trip Start Apr 28, 2007
Trip End Oct 26, 2007

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Flag of United States  , California
Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Next stop Sonoma. We planned to wing our overnight accommodation with no bookings, but what we didn't factor in was the popularity of the wine country north of San Francisco, and when you add in a classic car racing event, and the fact that any sensible San Franciscan would escape the cloud and head out of the city...... we paid a little more than we had planned on, to overnight in Sonoma.
Sunday offered up sun, and we visited vineyards. Sebastiani was close to town; it's a big name and offered nice enough wines. We learned quickly that each tasting costs between $5
 & $10 and choices have to be made about which wines to taste. Later, we learned that our Antipodean origins and the fact that we were always prepared to offer a perspective on the wine, opened some bottles to us that were not on the "to taste" list. After that we always introduced ourselves!

The best tasting that day was at Benziger where they have an organic and biodynamic philosophy which extends to well packaged wine for freighting without the usual styrofoam
etc. Their wines were very good, so we bought just enough to take to David and Branka to celebrate Emma's arrival, but no more than that because we were heading to Healdsburg for the jazz festival and more winetasting over the next couple of days.
We learned that Healdsburg is named after one Mr Heald who started the first store here....... Strange to think that based on the very same logic Bulls could be Bullsburg....
This is our second year at the Healdsburg Jazz Festival. But this year we (Jen) made sure that we (Brian) took very good care of our car keys to avoid another wasted afternoon at the local cop shop. (photo from last year attached for illustrative purposes only, since the local cops were incredibly helpful to us) However, we were committed to driving to wineries and hearing some jazz this year, and didn't want to renew our friendship with the police at their place. So, armed with our car keys this year, we had the luxury of the choice of some out of town tastings! Friendly locals at the corner deli gave us insider tips on which wineries to drive to within a 10 mile radius ,and we were off.
However Dry Creek as the "locale" features every bit as much as Healdsburg - it seems to be just as central to the local attractions and venues.. We visited Dry Creek Winery in Dry Creek Valley, just north of Healdsburg, predictably enough on Dry Creek Rd. At Dry Creek Winery we meet Matthew who loves his job and his wines, and his wife (that's always a plus) who turned out to be maitre 'd that evening at the Dry Creek Kitchen -  v. good restaurant in the Dry Creek Hotel back in Healdsburg itself. It's the same restaurant that we were at a year ago- they offer a night of good jazz  during each jazz festival. This year we had another superb meal with our BYO wine bought from Matthew, a Bordeaux style called Meritage. Our waiter was Richard who had just started at this restaurant when he served us last year. Jenny had admired his fabulous diamond and sapphire rings last year, and this year he proudly explained that he has added some more stones to the sapphire ring.  He promised us he'll be there next year too - probably with more sapphires. But will we?
Someone has to do it so next day it's more vineyards down Dry Creek Rd, but at Ferrari Caranos, they may have beautifully sculptured gardens but picnics are not encouraged.And we had bought a take out lunch from the deli, so we needed a picnic spotl. Fritz has less impressive wines but gives us a complimentary tasting. He said it was because we are from NZ, but we wonder if it was because we drew his attention to the fact that his Zin was corked. We wonder, as did Matthew, why we haven't tried to grow Zinfandel in NZ.
Jazz in the Square last year got the crowd going, but we also had balmy weather. This year there was a cold wind - the jazz was good but not working for a large out door concert and we left early as did many of the other punters.  We dropped in to enjoy a cheap and cheerful paella at the local deli. Still, the occasion was a fun local event with a great village atmosphere and we were welcomed as the interesting outsiders. All ages show up and it appeared that if they own a dog then their best friend is there with them..... we can't get over how many dogs there are "out and about" in Canada and the States.  We even met a breed new to Jen! - a Hagga. (???) Everyone is so friendly and we were introduced to the festival organiser - a vibrant lady who organises the event single-handedly we believe.  We wonder if the village feel will still be there in another 10 years given this is only the 9th year of the festival, and real estate prices tell us the town is moving.
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Re: winter has finally arrived
well it all sounds very productive Michelle! hope you haven't been battling the sort of weather we hear those Ozzies have been suffering, along with the short, cold, dark winter days you are experiencing (oh, sorry - was that being insensitive?)
as for work with you - can't begin to imagine that there ISN'T a lot happening - you are always generating something exciting!
we will look forward to the link, tho we don't plan on going to Japan, but may not need to in order to search out what we need? yes, please do send the link - course we want to learn more about this new phenomenom.
Hope that Merv is feeling good and still not smoking.
take care, J & B

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