Tag Archives: sonoma

Sonoma Valley Olive Season

olive season banner

Do you know how hard it was to not title this post something totally cheeseball like “Olive Sonoma <3”? Pretty hard.

This past weekend marked the first of Olive Season here in Sonoma. The Blessing of the Olives took place on the plaza, and there were a couple of refreshment tables with (what else?) olives!

Jacuzzi was there with a table of different olive oils to try. Jacuzzi is one of my favorite wineries to visit. Its a bit on the “touristy” side, but who cares? They have a huge tasting room with good wines to sample, large grounds to stroll about, and an olive press where they make their own olive oils! What I really like about visiting Jacuzzi is that you don’t HAVE to do a wine tasting to have an enjoyable time. I’m such a lightweight, that I often just take over as designated driver. So having a winery where your friends can taste wine while you poke around the gift shop and sample delicious olive oils makes for a good time for everyone involved. And they have olive oil ice cream. Just sayin’.

Wineries are involved with the Olive Season celebrations as well as local restaurants. Here is a schedule of all of the events. The festival events are going on now through Valentine’s Day weekend.

Will you be attending any of these events? I’m thinking of checking out the high tea and garden tour at Cornerstone.

Quarry Hill Botanical Garden

Here’s your soundtrack while reading this post: Eyes by Rogue Wave and These Days by Nico.

I had been meaning to visit Quarry Hill Botanical Gardens for some time now, and I’m so glad I did. The gardens are located off Highway 12 in Glen Ellen, so about a 15 minute drive from the Sonoma Square.

I started my morning off slowly, with some extra time under the covers just soaking in the quiet and stillness. After a sufficient snooze, I roused myself, got dressed (yep, remembered to do that), and headed over to the Barking Dog for a decaf coffee and cinnamon bun the size of my face. I didn’t think there was any way I could finish that bun, but I did. It was pretty tasty, but that was a lot of dough. Good thing there was a good amount of walking in my near future.

Getting to the gardens was easy and there are signs pointing in the right direction so its not difficult to figure out where to park, pay, etc. Once you do all of that good stuff, the entrance is up an incline, and off you go…

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I recommend wearing some sturdy walking shoes, as there are paved sections as well as plenty of trails. I wore a pair of Merrel boots that worked well.

What surprised me the most about QH was the expanse of it! I expected more of a quaint, picturesque sort of garden. But really this was a series of walking/nature trails with plenty of hills to keep you working. You also really choose your own adventure, there’s not a course you have to follow. That makes it really fun, because you can wander off in different directions, down tiny trails, and do your own discovering.

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This little area seemed to be a meditation or area of thoughtfulness… it was beautiful and one of my favorite parts of the gardens. I didn’t see details about this at the entrance (probably because I didn’t grab one of the brochures), but people had written their wishes on these cards and hung them on the beams of the structure.

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I walked for about an hour and a half total, and kept stumbling upon beautiful surprises.

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At the top (or what seemed to be the top) of the trails was a lovely sitting area with Tibetan prayer flags, a stone offering area, and a nice chance for a bit of reflection.

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I headed back and around, and found my way to the exit. Before I left I had to snap a few pictures of the vineyards at the entrance. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that there are vineyards here, this is Sonoma after all. 🙂

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Well Seasoned

Fall is upon us…

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In Sonoma Fall means Harvest. Its really a beautiful time to visit, and a fun one. The season of harvest lends itself easily to celebration.

We’re celebrating the bounty by making apple cider from an enormous box of green apples given to me recently. Its definitely a perk having a winemaker as a husband who can use his skills to craft homemade booze on a whim.

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I would show you pictures of the cider right now, during its fermentation process, but frankly it ain’t pretty. I mean, its pretty in a sense that it will soon be glorious cider for all to enjoy. But appearance-wise it just looks like cloudy, frothy, apple juice. But I promise to post a glowing report once its ready for the enjoyment. (Side note: I will be trying a SIP only since I am with child.)

One downside to harvest: being a Harvest Widow. Cute name, huh? But its kind of true. Hubs is super busy making wine in Texas (Texas? Yep!). Not really complaining, but I would much rather him be around. 

But who is around you may ask? Besides the cutie patootie in my belly? My mom is here! From Texas! I traded a husband for a mom with the Lone Star State. She is in town for her first visit to our new home here in Sonoma. All’s well, and we’re enjoying muchos leisure time. She will be staying until Sunday, which is when the trade will happen again and Husband will be back in town. 

So how are you celebrating fall? Are you making pumpkin flavored everything?

Farmers Market at the Plaza

The Tuesday evening Farmers Market at the Plaza is a must when spending time in Sonoma. Us locals (when we’re organized at least, ahem) bring a blanket or two, a bottle of vino or two, and gather friends to spend the evening perusing local produce purveyors and listening to local bands. Some highly motivated individuals will even get a picnic table set up and have informal parties. 

 

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This past Tuesday was the last big concert night of the season. One Tuesday a month a local band is featured for our musical pleasure. The music definitely adds to an already lively scene. 

I stopped by mostly to check out the local fare and take in one of the last hurrahs of the season. It was a quick visit, but still filled to the brim with fresh fruits and veggies, good music, and lots of happy campers.

Here are some of the sights:

 

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All of this was great and all. But then I found Sweet Peabody’s. Game changer. Locally made dairy-free sorbet! Eeee!! Being a non-dairy person, I don’t know if I can express how happy this made me. Please excuse the lack of details, as I was in a state of pregnant sorbet-induced stupor…

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The lovely gentleman (proprietor? pretty sure) scooping up deliciousness was kind enough to let me hover around taking photos for a few minutes WHILE sampling the wares. I can officially vouch for the pluot and apricot flavors featured… especially the apricot. 

Sorbet can be really tricky. Well, non-dairy frozen treats in general, but especially sorbets. I’ve found that most sorbets rely so heavily on sugar, that I’m left with sticky fingers and a sugar coma. The texture is probably the hardest part to nail, as many sorbets can be grainy and/or icy. I’m not naming any names, but even those fancy sorbets that cost like $9 at Whole Foods are guilty of this! 

Anyways, not so with Sweet Peabody’s! Again, I really liked the apricot flavor. And it was CREAMY. No chunky iciness or overly sweet taste! Well done, SP, well done. I will be back in the very near future with cash in hand and a hefty appetite.

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Cheers, til we meet again.

Pure Barre Sonoma

I am just way too excited about Pure Barre Sonoma. Pure Barre is ballet + cardio and makes your legs shake and your abs tight and omg yes like I said just too excited. Pure Barre Sonoma is expecting to open in late fall (November?) next to the Whole Foods off Napa Street. I’m already planning my post-baby workout routine, with a pit stop for coconut water at Whole Foods afterwards.

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I’m wide awake (thank you pregnancy hormones) and just about to do a Booty Barre class online to prep.

Locals, look out. I’m pretty sure this will rock our worlds.

Oh and here’s the Pure Barre website. And no I’m not getting paid or anything (not that I am above that ahem) I just like these workouts and hope that you’ll check out our local studio when it opens!

UPDATE: Are you in Sonoma? Take your picture underneath the Pure Barre Sonoma sign and post it to their Facebook page for a chance to win a free month of classes! I know I’ll be cheesing it up there shortly.

Brownies and Sailing

This Labor Day weekend I made these. And this is the delicious batter that ensued:

ImageI managed to save some batter for my husband. That’s love, people.

Right after I popped the brownies in the oven, I got the call to sail. So we roused our sleepy Sunday selves and made way to Tiburon Yacht Club.

This sailing trip had more wind than last time, which was FUN. Apparently I, like Ricky Bobby, wanna go fast.

Here are some cute kiddos in a guppy race right outside of the yacht club:

ImageHusband is already excited for our little one to be a sailor.

We sailed to Sausalito and docked (a little haphazardly, admittedly). Lunch was sandwiches, pasta salad, olives, fruit, and BROWNIES. 

After lunch, we took the back way around Angel Island for a change of scenery. An hour or so later we landed back at TYC. 

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So Labor Day was a success! I hope yours was great.

 

 

 

Hanzell Vineyards

Happy Fourth of July! Yesterday I celebrated July 4th-eve with a tour of the immaculate Hanzell Vineyards.

The weather was part of the day’s allure, admittedly. I was dressed in my usual 12-year old style of pink Chucks, cut-off shorts and a tank top, thinking that it was going to be sweltering like the previous couple of days. But I was pleasantly surprised that temps were in the mid-80’s.

So the drive from the Boyes Hot Springs area of Sonoma (near the Fairmont Mission Inn) to Hanzell was just one and a half miles. Super quick and easy, although Siri had a few hiccups. Luckily there was plenty of signs (with arrows!) once near Hanzell to point me in the right direction.

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Visiting Hanzell Vineyards is by appointment only. John, their Director of Sales and Marketing, was kind enough to meet with me and show me around the property. These tours take about 60 to 90 minutes, and are filled with information. I have to admit, most of the facts didn’t stick as I was mostly looking around the property, dumbstruck by the scenery, but John was informative and personable the whole time. And if I was slack-jawed at all, he didn’t give any indication that I was being a dope. Thanks, John!

We started off with a look at the Chardonnay vineyards that are close to the main property. The Chardonnay here are the first plantings in North America.

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Check out that gnarly vine!

Baby Chard grapes.

Baby Chard grapes.

Before we go any further, I’d like to share my connection to Hanzell. When I lived in Houston, I worked at a wine bar in Houston which specialized in wines that were from smaller vineyards, hard to find, etc. That wine bar is where I first met my husband (feeling sappy? read that story here).

One day he came in to drink some wine and chat with me and I walked him around the store, pointing out my favorite wines. I showed Simon a bottle of Hanzell Pinot Noir, telling him about how these were the first Pinot plantings in Sonoma and how it was special stuff, and so on… Simon then told me “Oh, those vineyards are right behind my parents’ house. My dad actually got kicked off their property a few years ago for riding his horse through the estate.” My mind was kind of blown by that, just the proximity of it all. When I first visited Sonoma as Simon’s fiancee about 2 years ago, we toured Hanzell with my infamous Father in Law. Hanzell became a part of the story of Simon and myself.

Ok, nuff fluff. Moving on in the winery tour. We went to the original, gravity-fed winery, which now serves as a library and tasting area. Some of these bottles date back to the 60’s. One really cool thing is that the Hanzell label has barely changed over the years. John told me that he has no intention of changing the label anytime soon. It ain’t broke.

Blurry, I know. My bad.

Blurry, I know. My bad.

Upstairs we went, where the first stainless steel fermentation tanks (ever? I think?) are still hanging out. Then onwards to the Proprietor’s Office. This was the office of the original winemaker. The view is incredible, and it is where wine tastings with small groups are hosted.

View from the entrance of the Proprietor's Office.

View from the entrance of the Proprietor’s Office.

'68 Chardonnay! No big deal.

’68 Chardonnay! No big deal.

Stairway. Not recommended after wine tasting.

Stairway. Not recommended after wine tasting.

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Test tube of the first malolactic fermentation created for Chardonnay.

After the walk around the winery/buildings, off to the vineyards we went!

Vineyard view.

Vineyard view.

This looked like a fluffy green wine blanket.

This looked like a fluffy green wine blanket.

You can see that everything was really green and lush. Summer’s a great time of year to enjoy the colors and scenery in Sonoma.

Below, check out the colors of the grapes. These Pinot grapes are beginning to gain color. This is a bit early (by about 3 weeks), since Sonoma has had a hot spring and past week or so. P.S. both the previous and following photos are untouched, so these colors are the real deal.

Multi-colored grapes.

Multi-colored grapes.

Some of these vineyards are at a 38 degree angle. Yowza! My Chucks didn’t offer much traction. See the hawk the picture below? He’s making sure mice don’t nibble at your future wine.

A hawk keeping critters away.

A hawk keeping critters away.

Did you know Sonoma has a significant Tibetan population? Check out Taste of the Himalayas next time you’re in town and craving some spice and culture. Here are some pretty Tibetan flags hanging in a corner of the vineyards:

Tibetan flags.

Tibetan flags.

After the vineyards, John took me to Hanzell’s caves, which were built in 2003.

Entrance to Hanzell's caves.

Entrance to Hanzell’s caves.

The caves stay pretty much the same temperature and humidity year round.

Lots of barrels, all French.

Lots of barrels, all French.

All the barrels used for Hanzell’s wines are French, and no darker than a medium-toast. Meaning, there’s not too much “oaky” flavor imparted, which could overpower delicate varieties like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Side note: expect a Bordeaux-style blend to make its debut around 2021! Those might take a little more oak, I would expect. 🙂

Overhead light made out of a wine barrel.

Overhead light made out of a wine barrel.

Out of the caves…

Where the magic happens.

Where the magic happens.

Fermentation tanks, where the actual winemaking goes down. Each clone of each variety is fermented in a separate tank.. talk about attention to detail!

That was the tour! Super in-depth, informative without dragging, and just a pleasant experience overall. I highly recommend checking out Hanzell when you visit Sonoma.

Oh, and check out their ride.

My husband's dream car! (maybe mine now, too)

My husband’s dream car! (maybe mine now, too).

Click here for more Hanzell info, or to make an appointment. 

P.S. I was not paid or given free wine to showcase this winery. They were kind enough to take me on a tour, gratis, but other than that I just want to share this fun stuff with you!

And today I will celebrate by finishing this epically long post eating veggie burgers with the fam, taking more pictures to share soon, and being a happy camper. 🙂 Happy Fourth, everyone! Enjoy!