We have an exciting 30 days ahead of us. My parents, siblings, in-laws, and niece are headed to Greece to travel on a boat together and bicycle for eight days. Before we meet up with them, Joe and I have planned a far too brief four day trip to Rome with the girls.
My parents planned many family trips when I was a kid/young teen. Two extended motorhome trips with six kids, a Switzerland bike and train trip (with all seven kids and a buddy friend for my disenchanted teen brother), annual winter week-long vacations that centered exclusively around the beach and the pool with zero tourism goals unless you count leaving for the closest fish shack every night.
My dad’s company had reward trips that my parents often advocated to take us on as well. Months in advance, the company would send a guidebook to whatever location had been chosen. I would grab it off my mom’s desk and read through the whole thing–an early sign of my deeply held love of researching beforehand!
As a mom, I know now that travel is testing, expensive, and exhausting, yet manages to change your perspective on everything.
And all of my siblings travel what seems like constantly. The three in California go on stunning weekend road trips in that way that is so easy in California. Another two are “based” in Africa which really means they fly internationally almost every month, and the one in New York City has the flexibility to head off on festive jaunts throughout the year.
I’m really looking forward to this trip with them which has all the activity and adventure built in, but will allow for tons of together time as well.
Anyway, all this planning made me want to post these photos of magical Northern California from back in March!
I went with my mom, my mom’s sister Anne, my brother who lives in Los Angeles, my brother who lives in San Francisco and my sister Joanie. Joe watched the girls at home for three days. It flew by in a whirl of wine tasting, delicious food and absolutely stunning scenery.
The roads were edged with plants that I only see in greenhouses here, enormous versions of something I typically see in miniature. It felt like every square mile—even people’s front yards—were planted with vineyards.
Along the road I noticed a little sign that said Our Moon Still Shines.
Even from Boston (especially if you follow the wonderful (Hither & Thither), one can easily establish that Scribe Winery has an amazing following and is a beautiful place to visit. Joanie knew that they had recently renovated an antique Hacienda on the property and now reserve it for seated tastings with food. The food is served family style in generous bowls, and the tables are far enough apart to allow for easy conversation.
The gardens, house and property glowed with winter desert color: silt, sand, clay, cobbles.
My sister planned the trip, riffing on trips she’d previously taken for ideas, though it sounded very difficult to decide where to go! So many beautiful places. She hired Peter as a driver for the six of us. Of course a driver is very wise to have when tasting wine, but it also makes for an entirely different experience. It was such a luxury to climb back in the car and stare out the window as we went place to place. As a mom I rarely get that tuned-out gazing-out backseat experience that childhood was full of. He was also able to riff on what we wanted, if we needed takeout, a grocery stop, or wanted to grab coffee, he could incorporate it easily on the fly for us.
After Scribe we drove back through the small town of Sonoma and stopped at the lovely wine tasting room of Kamen. We only had about a half an hour, so we split several tastings among ourselves. They were lovely to chat with and the wines were delicious.
Then we headed to Hamel Family Wines, where the tour began with a walk through their gorgeous fields. They have a stunning build-out, clearly one for future generations to enjoy.
On the way home we called ahead and picked up Mexican from El Molino Central. Delicious seasonal tacos and mole with homemade tortillas, served out of a cheerful cafe on the side of the road in Sonoma. We brought our dinner back at the rental home, sharing a bottle we’d bought that day. The time change was finally catching up with me and I went to bed early!
The next morning, first up was Ashes & Diamonds. On a flat stretch of Napa, just off the main road highway 29, they’ve a styled tasting room and a fleet of wines to match. With their sumptuous green velvet, brilliant yellow paint, and an abundance of the Saarinen chairs, it felt like Hollywood flew in for a styling.
Perhaps my favorite trip photo: this yellow, this brother. ^^
At Ashes & Diamonds, we discussed how the land restrictions to qualify as a winery have changed over the years—from 100 acres, to 60, and now to only 10–which I found fascinating. I really enjoyed seeing this place and imagining the possibilities of a younger generation deciding to invest here.
There were many things that seemed repeat thematically no matter where we tasted, so much so that when I left they were still playing in my mind…
For one thing, everyone was using the Coravin method of opening bottles. It looked intense and gadget-y in the otherwise tranquil wine tasting space. It has thin medical grade needle that goes through the cork, allows you to remove a tiny amount of wine, and replaces the space in the bottle with argon gas. I had never seen it before in my life. But the pourers said it could preserve an open bottle of wine for up to a month. I love to have a glass of wine while cooking but am often reluctant to open a new bottle knowing I won’t be finishing it. However, the price tag is $250.
Second, everyone was using Heath ceramics. These ceramic dishes seemed to have their own thermal mass that made the food look delicious, no matter what it was.
Third, biodynamic. I was intrigued to hear many vineyards dropping this as a term as something they pursued. Biodynamic is a theory developed by the same person who came up with the Waldorf method of eduction: Rudolf Steiner. Isn’t that fascinating? Like many of his theories, it’s more of an overarching approach with a few oddly specific things—must have a goat, must let the clipped vines rot alongside the plants, let wild plants grow up among the vines. Funny to think how quirky yet persuasive ideas have staying power.
I brought home bread from the amazing Costeaux bakery, local butter, grape sized dates from the farmer’s market and of course, wine.