Yesterday, Dave and I went on a fun excursion with friends to wine country.
We’d purchased a Travelzoo voucher for a tasting in Sonoma that was going to expire at the end of the year, and this was the last free Saturday we could use it.
Rather than driving all the way there to satisfy a $29 expenditure, we made a full day of it, booked a private SUV and invited some friends.
Last time I went to Sonoma with my visiting Florida girlfriends, we took a guided trip through Terrific Tours. It was a great experience, so when the company sent out an email with a deal for a private ride last week, I took them up on it.
I spoke to someone from the company a few days before our trip to square up the plans, and all we had to do was show up at the meeting spot and be driven around. We got picked up in a black SUV in Union Square and set off for the hour drive.
It was a lovely ride up, that took us over the Golden Gate Bridge and through the rolling hills of wine country. Sometimes it’s nice to get away from the busyness of the City, and we were all happy to see clear skies and greenery for miles.
This was the place Dave and I had the voucher for, which included two wine-tasting flights, two glasses of wine and a cheese plate. A total steal for just $29.
Envolve’s claim to fame is that it was started by Ben Flajnik from The Bachelor and his childhood friends. They create biodynamic (whatever that means) and organic wines under the Envolve and Epilogue labels. I’m not a big fan of The Bachelor, so wasn’t even thinking about whether or not Ben would be at the tasting room. But he was. How about that? He came in through the back and seemed to be doing important things, while not actually pouring the wine to customers. A group of girls came in that were clearly hoping to see him and they giggled their way up to the bar.
The wine was pretty good, but the major hit was the flavorful crackers that went along with the cheese.
You can’t always get a table during wine tastings, so having an area to ourselves was a treat. It was the perfect chill spot to try new wines and sit back with friends.
That’s our driver above, and guess what his name is? Kimya. We called him “Kimye” the whole time, referencing that famous couple who share the same name. He was such a good sport about it.
From there we hopped back in the SUV and went to our second winery, a gorgeous place called Gundlach Bundschu. No, the name is not easy to pronounce, so it’s commonly just called Gun Bun. I selected this winery because we had a bogo tasting certificate and heard it was scenic, providing a different experience than Envolve’s storefront setting. Unfortunately, it was way too cold to sit outside, so we stood at the bar in the tasting room and didn’t get to enjoy the views after all.
That’s okay though, because there was an acoustic guitarist playing inside, and it really added to the charm.
Dave and I are big fans of background music. We always put Pandora on our TV at home while cooking or eating, and we like restaurants and bars to have music that is appropriate to the ambiance. Envolve Winery had Bob Marley playing in the background, which fit into the organic/friendship environment encouraging patrons to stay a while. GunBun was a little more scenic and dark, so the acoustic tunes were right in line with what we wanted to hear there too.
Meet Lexy and Rhodes shown above, some of our favorite San Francisco friends.
During our tasting at GunBun, we were given little biscuits with jelly that paired well with the Pinot Noir on our tasting flight. It was strange to be handed a little breakfast sandwich from a platter at a fine winery, but surprisingly good.
We didn’t stay at GunBun very long, so we could fit in a third and final winery before making the trip back to San Francisco. (That’s the only downfall of taking a private ride, you have to stay within strict time limits or pay overages.)
Our driver, Kimya, selected the final winery on our way out of town called Anaba. The Anaba tasting room sits on the estate in an old, small house. Apparently Kimya knew the sommelier pouring behind the bar, because when we walked in, he whisked us into the back room for a private tasting. That’s when things got fun. By the third winery, we were feeling the Sonoma love, if you will.
What was the best part of visiting Anaba? Our mustached sommelier, Douglas, shown above. He poured our wines, told us about the history and had just enough of a persnickety demeanor to make us unsure if he was enjoying our group or making fun of us. 🙂
There was no background music in Anaba, so trusty Dave pulled out his phone and put on the Frank Sinatra Pandora station to accompany our VIP experience. He propped it up on the spit bucket in the middle of the table, which none of us ever needed to use. I mean seriously, who spits out wine?
We weren’t charged for the VIP tasting, but purchased a couple of bottles of wine each in appreciation. Dave and I selected the Gap’s Crown Vineyard Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The bottles were $37 and $44 respectively, so we’re putting them on the shelf for a special occasion. As previously stated, I usually stick to cheap wine and gravitate to Trader Joe’s two-buck-chuck.
Three wineries, three tastings and approaching our time limit, it was time to head out …
The ride home was hilarious. Lexy and Rhodes know I have a big birthday approaching, so they chose this opportunity for a little pre-birthday celebration.
Lexy pulled out a birthday banner and hung it up in the car. Soooooo sweet!
After trying unsuccessfully to get a seat at a busy sushi restaurant, we stumbled on The Barrel Room in an alley off Post Street. It was a dark, cozy and fun little spot to end our day, where we ordered more wine and more cheese. The perfect finale.
Every wine country trip is different and memorable. And Lexy and Rhodes are great dates for such an adventure, so we decided we’re going to make it a regular thing.
I wonder if Kimya would want to be our driver again? I’m guessing not …