Still Drinking The Wine

California Wine Country Trip – Day 4 – July 24, 2016

Once again, I slept so well that I woke up BEFORE my alarm. When I went outside to have my tea on the deck, Esmerelda was still there, waiting for her us to come out and play.

"Good morning, human."
“Good morning, human.”

But, I found out her name is Blackie and she belongs to the owners of bungalow #1 (we are staying in #4). We had breakfast – I used some of the leftover veg and threw them in a pan with and egg, just like I do at home. Plus, Hubs grilled bacon for us. Blackie sat at my feet while I ate my breakfast on the deck. When I finished, we chatted about our plans for the day. She had some serious napping scheduled.

After breakfast and showers, we headed up to Pride Mountain winery. I had no idea what a harrowing experience it would be just getting there. If you’re local to where I grew up, you’re probably familiar with “The Ravines.” It’s the area where Cameron’s house is in Ferris Bueller. You know – the one where the Ferrari drives out the window and crashes. Well, that’s nothing compared to the drive on Calistoga and St. Helena Roads up to Summit Drive, where Pride Mountain is located.  I never really understood the term “hairpin turn” until this drive. Holy schnikies!

I really earned my t-shirt on this drive. Oy vey!
I really earned my t-shirt on this drive. Oy vey!

On one side of this narrow, two-late road, there is mountain. Complete with warning signs about rocks possibly falling off the cliff face onto passing cars. On the other side are deep, wooded ravines. Heading up there, we were on the ravine side, and I kept envisioning us skidding out on one of the curves and tumbling to our deaths. Did I mention there was no cell service? Not a dot. I told Hubs we were going to find an alternate route back. It wasn’t until we got to Pride Mountain that I realized we didn’t have a choice. That was the only way to get there. I was so tense: hand gripping the door handle, back arched, face scrunched, stomach in my throat… I don’t know that I ever needed a glass of wine more than I did by the time we walked in the door.  The engineers carving out that road must’ve been drunk.

Seemingly against the odds, we finally made it onto the vineyard property for our Cuvée tasting and tour. It’s not a tour option on their website, but it’s something they started doing on the weekends for folks who want to do their private, Summit Experience, but don’t get to do so due to scheduling or booking conflicts. The only difference between the Cuvée and Summit tastings and tours is that Cuvée is semi-private instead of private. Well, we’re not so hoity toity, so the semi-private experience was just fine with us. And, it was $25 less/person. Bargain!

Our company were named Susan and Ron, and they were from Florida. Ron is a wine collector. I don’t really get that, seeing as I’d rather DRINK the wine. He was certainly a fussy sort of fellow, and I thought his inane questions were going to be annoying, but eventually, he had some good ones, and did enlighten us a bit too. Just a bit. Our tour and tasting was led by a lovely lady named Rebecca. Her story is a fun one. She happens to love the wine at Pride, was always buying a lot of it, and so they asked if she’d like to work there. She ended up being offered a part time job there on the weekends – with a 50% discount on all of their wines. HELLO!

Rebecca started us off with a glass of Chardonnay and told us a bit about the Pride vineyards. Then, we moved on to a Viognier and she took us through the caves that the Pride family dug into the mountain for their barrel storage.

It was really cool. Literally and figuratively. The cool humidity felt fabulous on a 99 degree California day. As we walked through and she told us more about their process (and I took photos), she next poured a Syrah that I absolutely fell in love with. Yes, we bought some for home.

Next, she let us in on some barrel tasting. It was really interesting to taste the same wine, same grapes, same juice, harvested one week apart. Of course, it’s not representative of what will go in a bottle, but of what the winemaker looks at (tastes) when she’s determining how to blend the various grapes.

We had the unique opportunity to compare wines directly from the barrel. We drank of the same vines, same grape, harvested 1 week apart. It was amazing how much fruitier the younger wine tasted.
It was amazing how much fruitier the younger wine tasted.

After our barrel tastings in the caves, we headed out to the picturesque patio for some photo ops (the requisite Facebook photo).

Next, we headed to a private room to taste four wines exclusive to the Cuvée Tasting. We had a Cabernet 2013, Merlot 2013, Reserve Claret 2013,  and Reserve Cabernet 2013. And, of course, there were little plates of Dubliner (soooo good with Cab), spiced almonds, and a spring of something or other. By this time, I knew what to do with the food and wine to experience how pairing with certain foods, so I was all gung ho. Except for that sprig. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to eat it or not, so I just left it alone.  

One of the private tasting rooms at Pride Mountain Vineyards. This isn't the room we were in, but we did walk past it. Has a bit of a GOT vibe, doesn't it?
One of the private tasting rooms at Pride Mountain Vineyards. This isn’t the room we were in, but we did walk past it. Has a bit of a GOT vibe, doesn’t it?

We sat around and chatted a bit, and finally made our purchases. Then it was time to brave that drive once more. It wasn’t as bad going downhill. Maybe because all of the wine relaxed me. Maybe because we were on the mountain side of the road and I was less worried about plummeting to our deaths. Either way, we made it back alive. Plus, the car was happy. Our little Prius was getting 99.9 mpg (maybe more, and that was as high as the display could go) as we went down the hill.

We headed back to the VRBO to drop off our bottles (didn’t want them roasting in the car), then went to grab some quick lunch. I mean quick. We hit this little hole in the wall taco joint, El Molina Central, and split an order of fish tacos. Then it was on to the next destination – Paradise Ridge’s tasting room in Kenwood.

This was a fun little place. Completely unpretentious. So much so that the guy pouring for us kept calling the sparking wine “Champagne,” a big no-no unless it’s actually from Champagne, France.  But, those bubbles were soooo good. We were the only ones in the tasting room, so we had nice chat with the guy and the girl who were working. Just normal people who love wine. Like Rebecca at Pride, this guy was also hired on at Paradise Ridge because he bought so much of their wine.

We didn’t do so badly, ourselves. We bought a few bottles, which they held for us because we were going to bring in the rest of our haul to be shipped the next morning. But, we did take one bottle of the bubbly back with us to have with dinner.

After that, we stopped at Sonoma Market to get dinner – lobster tail for the grill. As we sat outside, enjoying the evening’s drop in temperature on the deck, we were also serenaded by the dulcet tones of a domestic disturbance next door. Ah, VRBO living at it’s finest. But, the bubbles made it all ok. And so, we retired for our last night in Sonoma.

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